Car-Free Zones: EVs, Ride Sharing, and Autonomous Charging

Written by: Eli Doron, CTO, Carteav

We are witnessing the rise of two new trends in transportation today. The first is the increasing interest and adoption of vehicles that run on electric power instead of fossil fuel.  And the second is the push to bring smaller, low speed cars into urban environments.  The reasons are clear – electric vehicles are eco-friendly with no requirement to expel carbon monoxide into the environment, and are helping us move away from carbon-based fuels. Combine that with the fact that urban areas are typically congested and roads and parking lots have taken away valuable space once used for green areas and pedestrians. Now, we see that car-free zones in city centers are getting momentum. Cities like Barcelona, Paris, Milan, and many others are embracing the trend. 

Today, planning for car-free zones in urban areas is an idea that is becoming an imperative. Car-free zones are most successful in a city with efficient public transportation and room for the use of micromobility vehicles, such as bikes and scooters, that people can access at a public transportation station and use to go to/from their homes or businesses. This is good solution for many but still leaves out a significant portion of any city’s population; those that cannot easily walk or use these vehicles. The elderly, children, the disabled and those with several items to transport and even those that have a fear of riding bikes/scooters all need a different options.

For these people, small, four-wheel cars offer a solution. While this type of vehicle is still considered a car, it is both small in size and electrical and is a good compromise for those who require a car. Vendors such as GEM, Wink, Renault TwizyToyota iRoadNissan Land Gliderand many others offer this type of vehicle. 

Another way to reduce the number of vehicles on the road is to encourage people to share one. This type of ride sharing is very popular with bikes and scooters and is now gaining traction with cars. Adoption of ride sharing services will further reduce the total number of vehicles in any given area. The vehicles are shared only within a well-defined area and are not intended to drive long routes.

Yet, one of the big issues with electric bikes and scooters is the matter of conveniently recharging them. For bikes that have docking stations, it is typically quite simple, they are recharged there. Scooters service providers use many techniques to recharge including encouraging users to recharge for a fee or requiring a special operation that collects scooters, bringing them to a recharging station and then send them back to the streets. 

However, in case of the shared cars there is an alternative. They may require a return to recharging station with additional space and electricity supply. However, if the cars are autonomous, low speed vehicles, they can drive themselves back to a charging station and upon when recharged, drive back to a service starting point. 

The entire service depends on the effectiveness of the recharging. If it is efficient, fewer vehicles will be required, reducing cost and congestion associated with storing vehicles. Special attention will be required to ensure that adequate battery capacity is provided for the vehicles. Higher battery capacity costs more and requires longer charging times. Finding the optimal capacity is a function of the average ride length, the number of passengers, with the number of vehicles in the fleet. Before operating at a new site a survey should be conducted where a proper tool calculates the type of required vehicles, their capacity, their location for standby ready for service and the location of the recharging station.  

Site Management software can monitor the status of the battery for each vehicle while understanding the needs of each of the users of the service. Who wants to go where and when? With this data collected throughout the year, a pattern will emerge, and an algorithm will indicate the specific needs for each vehicle: when they require charging, for how long and where to autonomously drive the vehicle after charging.  Additionally, to improve the charging, a wireless station will reduce any need for man in the loop. Wireless charging is a relatively new concept but with time it will be more common, providing higher charging efficiency and lower cost. Selecting the appropriate level of battery capacity as well as taking into consideration the actual technology of the battery (Li-Ion, Lead-Acid or new like sodium-metal anodes) are the two keys to good service. 

Eli Doron, CTO, Carteav
Highly experienced high-tech entrepreneur with over 40 years in the industry. Co-founder of RADVISION (RVSN) and Connesta.

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