Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Future Urban Transport Enabled Through E-Mobility

The future of urban transport and E-Mobility trends.
Four electric rickshaws with their corresponding drivers parked in the streets of India.
© Unsplash

The future of urban transport is rapidly evolving with the advent of E-Mobility. As cities grow and become more congested, the need for sustainable and efficient transport solutions becomes more pressing.

Electric vehicles offer a promising alternative with significant environmental benefits and potential cost savings for individuals and cities.

This article will primarily:

  • explore sustainable battery technologies
  • explain energy flow and integration.

The introduction of E-Mobility is on the global agenda of public authorities, the automotive industry, academia and civil society. Global efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from the transport sector and surface transport are reflected in the increase in the number of electric vehicles in recent years, the growing number of new BEV models on the market, and the lines of research aimed at making E-Mobility more efficient for mass use. As a result, several trends are expected to be implemented in the coming years.

Sustainable Battery Technology An image of a battery, including the Sodium symbol (Na) in the front.
Energy flow control and integration A diagram showcasing how the energy is obtained through the grid.
Urban Hubs Animated render of how a urban hub could look like in the future, including EV parking spaces, charging points and people using it frequently.
   

Ingenieur (2022); Solar Energy Technologies (n.d.); TransportXtra (2020)

As the demand for efficient and sustainable energy storage continues to grow, researchers are exploring alternative technologies to overcome the limitations of lithium-ion batteries.

Sodium-ion batteries (SIBs) are a disruptive energy storage solution that holds great promise for revolutionising the future of battery technology. With the potential to provide low cost, high performance and environmentally friendly energy storage, SIBs are attracting the attention of scientists, engineers and industry worldwide.

Some features of SIBs are:

  • these batteries replace lithium with sodium.
  • unlike lithium, sodium is non-toxic, readily available, cheap, easy to recycle and non-critical to mine.
  • perfect alternative to lithium in vehicles without high performance requirements
  • ideal battery for future urban mobility solutions
  • predicted to be in production by 2023 and in vehicles by 2025.

Course Mascot, saying "Make sure to watch the development of Na+ batteries for cheap and sustainable urban E-Mobility" Course Mascot. PEM Motion (2023)

How is a sodium-ion battery different from a lithium-ion battery?

In the following diagram, we can observe the components of a sodium-ion battery and note its operation, which is very similar to that of other battery cells. In these cells, sodium moves to the anode during charging and to the cathode during discharging.

Scheme of how a sodium-ion battery functionsClick to expand

Sodium-Ion Battery scheme. PEM Motion (2022)

  • The operating principle is similar to that of lithium-ion batteries.
  • The mass of sodium is greater than that of lithium.
  • Electrode materials need to be adapted.
  • Low energy density compared to existing alternatives due to lower cell voltage.

Examples of potential applications for sodium-ion batteries include:

E-Bus with a Sodium-Ion Battery technology being charged at a bus depot or station. E-Bus with a Sodium-Ion Battery charged. Bus2Bus (n.d.)

Last-mile delivery electric motorcycle which uses a Sodium-Ion Battery Electric motorcycle for last-mile delivery with a Sodium-Ion Battery. Govecs Group (n.d.)

Sodium-Ion Batteries can also be found in Tuk-Tuks Man driving an electric three-wheeler. Unsplash (2018)

Energy flow control and integration:

The development of electronics is making the use of available electrical energy more efficient. Think of EVs as mobile batteries that, when integrated into the electricity grid, allow electricity to be fed into a distribution system (known as vehicle-to-grid or V2G) under smart grid logic.

It also includes the development of advanced electronics (controllers, sensors, etc.). Research and development (R&D) on charging infrastructure systems and integration with renewable energy is also being carried out in this area.

The relationship between E-Mobility and renewable energies

The shift to E-Mobility is an important step in reducing emissions, but it is not the end of the story. The source of energy is equally important. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power can significantly reduce CO2 emissions from transport. By combining E-Mobility with renewable energy, we not only reduce vehicle emissions, but also move towards a greener energy future.

Course mascot saying "The relationship of e-mobility and renewable energy is of great importance. We will come back to this later in the course" Course Mascot. PEM Motion (2023)

Vehicle-to-grid systems (V2G)

The convergence of EVs and smart grid technologies has paved the way for a disruptive innovation known as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) systems. V2G establishes a two-way flow of energy between EVs and the grid, enabling EVs to not only consume electricity but also act as valuable energy resources. This symbiotic relationship between EVs and the grid has immense potential to create a more efficient, resilient and sustainable energy ecosystem.

Here are some facts about V2G:

  • electricity grids without baseload power plants are difficult to balance.
  • grids with a high share of renewables need stabilization in the form of electrical energy storage.
  • the combination of battery electric vehicles offers great potential for additional storage capacity.
  • vehicle-to-Grid enables grid stabilization via EVs
  • only a minimal amount of energy is taken from each vehicle

Urban Hubs – Multimodal Vehicle Approach:

There is still considerable political and social resistance to freeing up space. One strategy to overcome this resistance can be to enhance public space that can be used for different social, leisure and recreational activities.

Mobility hubs are a new street design tool. Not only do they help to provide convenient and integrated access to a range of sustainable transport modes alongside public transport, walking and cycling, but they can also re-programme space away from private car parking and towards the benefit of the local community.

Traffic levels and air quality can be improved by providing high quality, high profile, cleaner and greener modes of transport. In addition, improving the public realm can provide much needed green social space, safe streets and even the bonus of increased footfall for local businesses. Mobility hubs are being built across Europe in different shapes and sizes to suit the local context, and are often organized in a ‘spoke hub’ distribution. This concept has revolutionized transport logistics and is widely used in the aviation industry, for example. In this form of optimization, all outlying points are connected to a central ‘hub’, allowing good reach and excellent distribution in urban areas.

An animated image of an example of how a mobility hub could look like, including charging points, parking spaces for EVs, recreational spaces, etc. Mobility Hub. Eltis (2020)

Some of the characteristics of urban mobility hubs are:

  • co-location of public transport and shared mobility modes
  • redesign of the space to reduce private car parking and improve the surrounding public realm
  • a pillar or sign identifying the space as a mobility hub, part of a wider network and ideally providing travel information.

Conclusion:

E-Mobility will to revolutionize the way we move around our cities. With the increasing availability of electric vehicles, cities can reduce emissions, improve air quality and create more liveable spaces for their residents.

However, challenges remain to realize the full potential of E-Mobility, such as the need for more charging infrastructure and the affordability of electric vehicles.

With the right policies and investments, E-Mobility can help create a more sustainable and equitable future for urban transport.

This article is from the free online

Exploring the World of Electric Mobility: Key Concepts and Strategies

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now