The Great Electrification
Text: Steffan Heuer / Readingtime: approx. 20 minutesLA Goes ElectricIn 2028, the megacity of Los Angeles will host the Olympic Games. By then, it hopes to have opened a new chapter in the history of mobility by electrifying a majority of its passenger and freight transportation systems. The city plans to meet this ambitious „zero-emissions“ target through the efforts of a diverse public-private partnership.
Chapter 2 - A Vision of a Different Future
Chapter 3 - This is What Electrification Looks Like
Chapter 4 - Small Partners with Big Ideas
Chapter 5 - What the World Can Learn from LA – and What LA Can Learn from the World
Chapter 1The Great Electrification
But the city has a plan – one that involves radically transforming its urban mobility systems and making them more sustainable. The ambitious project is called the „Zero Emissions Roadmap,“ and is intended to turn LA into a global flagship for electric mobility by the time it hosts the 2028 Olympic Games.
Their shared goal? To ensure that the people who arrive from all over the world in 2028 (as well as those who live there permanently) are greeted by a city that is almost totally electrified, and where passengers and freight are transported using smart networks and electric vehicles, sharing rides wherever possible. They want 100 per cent of buses and up to 45 per cent of all private cars to be powered electrically, with as many as 130,000 charging stations keeping them moving. According to their vision, freight vehicles will travel along special corridors, with electric trucks (accounting for 40 per cent of the total) having access to dedicated charging columns at container ports and along key freeways. They also intend to establish and expand a smart power grid that can reliably handle the increased demand using renewable sources such as wind and solar power.
Although California has already enshrined ambitious climate goals in state law, LA wants to exceed these targets by a further 25 per cent overall. As Eric Garcetti, the city’s mayor, puts it: „We will make Los Angeles the most sustainable city in the world.“
A Vision of a Different Future
Chapter 2A Vision of a Different Future
„Our vision is not just about environmental sustainability, it’s also about issues of economic viability and social equity, ensuring that everyone who lives in this city benefits,“ says Petersen, explaining his ambitious goal. The municipality responds to current developments by publishing an update every four years, the latest of which – the Green New Deal – was published in April 2019. „One of the biggest challenges facing this region is zero-emissions transport, particularly to and from our two large container ports. We can only make rapid progress if we all work together.“
„We’ve already done what the experts said was impossible once by reducing the city’s water consumption. With so many people working together, all of them sharing their best ideas, we can unleash tremendous innovation potential. What´s at stake here is the future of humanity, after all. We need to act because we can already see what happens when we don’t – just take air pollution as an example. It makes people sick and reduces productivity.“
Michelle Kinman’s job is to work out the practical details of this transformation. She directs the alliance’s operations in the three core areas of passenger transport, freight transport, and power supply.In each of these segments, the partners (more than 20 at present) set themselves targets and then come up with ways of achieving them in the real world.
When it comes to moving people, the primary goal is to convince people to get out of their cars and start using shared mobility and public transport solutions. According to Kinman, „All the different means of transport – buses, taxis, and private cars – need to be rapidly electrified. Our roadmap needs to indicate clearly how many charging stations we need to achieve this goal: 60,000, 100,000, or more? How can we expedite the process for permitting their installation, and how can we ensure that the infrastructure is interconnected and works seamlessly, regardless of where you are in the region?“
„We’re already working on the details and coordinating funding for pilot projects so that we can turn this freeway into a zero-emissions corridor.“ This means getting down to the nitty-gritty of which manufacturers can supply electric truck trailers, where charging stations need to be installed, and how many are needed to allow goods to flow at the speeds expected. For example, Volvo is working with the LACI Group on a project that will involve testing around two dozen electric semis in the region from 2020 onwards. The first pilot projects involving semis and container lifts powered by electricity or fuel cells have already been launched at the two port terminals.
Operators such as UPS, FedEx, and Amazon are already experimenting with all of these solutions in one-off projects. But Los Angeles plans to take these projects to a whole new level: at least a quarter, and ideally half of local delivery traffic is to be electric within a decade, despite the fact that the volume of online orders is expected to continue to rise. An easily manageable site such as a college campus might be the perfect location for establishing the first „Zero Emissions Zone“ to test the feasibility of deliveries of this kind.
This is What Electrification Looks Like
Chapter 3This is What Electrification Looks Like
Small Partners with Big Ideas
Chapter 4Small Partners with Big Ideas
What the World Can Learn from LA – and What LA Can Learn from the World
Chapter 5What the World Can Learn from LA – and What LA Can Learn from the World
So what can the world learn from LA? First, that it’s never too late to change, even if you’re a megaregion where there are almost as many vehicles as residents, and where driving down a freeway is not just a way of getting somewhere, but a part of the lifestyle that is enshrined in popular culture. And second, that such an ambitious project, with so many moving parts that are dependent on each other, can only be a success if as many public and private stakeholders as possible sit down together to find and come up with solutions.
At the same time, however, he believes that we should not expect too much too soon. „Let’s take autonomous driving as an example; there’s been a lot of hype about it, but a sober assessment of the situation shows that we still have a long way to go.“ And so he is skeptical about the likelihood of all the targets being achieved with a decade or so, as planned. „I think it’s more likely to be 20 years out. But the rest of the world will be watching carefully. Cities have long been aware of the need to transform their transport and infrastructure systems. What they need is a master plan that sets clear goals and gives key metrics that all the parties involved can use as a guide.“
Michelle Kinman, too, also believes that LA’s electrification roadmap will serve as inspiration for other communities. “I can only encourage other cities to assemble a group of proactive partners that can sit down together and come up with practical solutions.”
In her opinion, an alliance of this kind is the only realistic way for a megaregion like LA to transform itself in under a decade. A transformation that involves replacilacingng the smog and the long lines of trucks belching out exhaust fumes on permanently chronically congested freeways with quiet buses, zero-emission vans, and educating residents to who choose electric bikes or electric taxis over their own cars. “We have a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re not going to waste it!”
Sordoni does not believe that it will be possible to electrify the entire supply chain in the near future. But he is quite sure that electric propulsion makes a lot of sense in economic and ecological terms for medium and short distances.
The company’s collaboration with LACI goes further than pilot projects involving deliveries. It has also proposed using its vans as mobile charging stations. By transporting powerful batteries around the city, the electric vans could fill gaps in the charging infrastructure for passenger cars and other commercial vehicles, or cover peaks in demand until the work needed to expand the network in and around LA work has been completed.
Buses are not a major means of transport in Los Angeles,” explains Steve Schupak, Electric Vehicle Program Manager at LA Metro,„but we act as a catalyst for action elsewhere. People are watching what we do and copying it.“
The software developed by MOEV can be used to manage charging stations so that they are all utilized equally. Its charging columns also function as smart multi-plug chargers, allowing four electric vehicles to share a single column
„Everyone benefits from smart charging,“ says Michael Boehm, the cofounder of MOEV.
„Scooters are really popular in LA, and vitally important for a zero-emissions future. But it’s not very green if people have to collect the scooters that have been used and then drive half-way across the city to recharge them at home.“