Facchin: "We drive the future of sustainable transport with electric mobility"

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Electric mobility is not just an issue for car owners. On the contrary, the global numbers for local public transport users are seeing the biggest increases, according to a report published by the Brussels-based UITP (Union Internationale des Transports Publics).

The study, called ZeEUSeBus Report, states that, by 2030, electric buses could represent 50 percent of the urban market in Europe, a goal that, for the moment, looks more challenging than what is expected for cars.
The transition from diesel to electric in Europe, according to the report, can be said to be completed in the space of about ten years. As of today, 19 local public transport companies active in 25 European cities, have formalized one or more e-mobility development programs, to be completed within the next two years, as did 18 other urban centers. On the production side, by 2020, the main European manufacturers will have already reached full maturity. Outside of Europe, China has seen even more widespread adoption. At the beginning of 2017, 173,000 electric buses were circulating on the streets around The Great Wall, and there are ambitious plans to expand the fleet by 2030 with a budget of 22.5 billion dollar.
Nuova Energia met Claudio Facchin - president of ABB Power Grids division - to investigate these issues.

What are the implications of electric mobility on the power infrastructure?
Electric mobility is changing the urban landscape. More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and the number is expected to grow by another 2.5 billion. About 90 percent of this growth will be in developing economies as people are drawn to urban areas for economic reasons. Cities are the future and will need new and intelligent infrastructure to meet the needs of their citizens and businesses.
One issue though is that cities are responsible for high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and so rethinking how we get around is one of the best ways we can make cities more resilient while also mitigating climate change. The ideal recipe would be to use renewable energy to power electric vehicles - that way we gain twice.

In terms of infrastructure, integrating the additional electricity demand will pose some challenges...
Of course. A household that charges an EV typically doubles its electricity demand, and, across communities where there is large-scale EV usage, the existing distribution grid may need to be adapted to accommodate the extra load. When the penetration of EVs in an area climbs above 10 to 20 percent, local grid reinforcement may be necessary.The adaptation required would be both in the distribution network and the transmission grid as well.

What, in your opinion, can facilitate the promotion of sustainable electric mobility?
It is important that the transportation and energy sectors work together, and that policy and investment decisions across both sectors are closely integrated. As e-mobility becomes more widely adopted as a primary support technology, it will be increasingly necessary to invest in infrastructure to support and enable this transition.
New solutions involving smart-charging and variable pricing could limit the need for grid reinforcement and help with the integration of renewables. A variety of smart-charging strategies already exist that can economically accommodate the rapid adoption of e-mobility, but it will take cooperation and possibly incentivization to make these a reality.

What is the contribution that sustainable electric mobility can make in the development of smart cities?

Planners of smart cities have begun to embrace sustainable transportation as another way to make their cities more efficient, better places to live and, in the process, more environmentally friendly. An effective way to support smart city initiatives and goals is by using digital technology to monitor, optimize and control key systems and infrastructure in a more integrated, more intelligent way.

And what types of technologies does ABB offer for sustainable electric mobility?
ABB is uniquely positioned when it comes to offering the entire range of technologies to enable electric mobility - all the way from the charging point to the grid infrastructure and power source, and the common ABB AbilityTM digital platform across the value chain to enable automation and control.
As the world leader in electric vehicle infrastructure, ABB offers the full range of charging solutions for electric cars, electric and hybrid buses as well as electrification solutions for ships and railways.

Let’s start from public transport
Some of the smart mobility infrastructure we offer includes TOSA, ABB’s new large-capacity battery-powered electric bus system. ABB has years of experience in creating, installing and maintaining charging infrastructure, including several nationwide charger networks, so this was a natural evolution for us. TOSA buses are silent, flexible and have zero emissions.
They are enabled for ultrafast charging at selected bus stops, and it currently only takes 20 seconds at each stop. This solution reduces the power drawn from the grid at that moment by one-tenth of what would otherwise be required. ABB’s portfolio in long distance rail and mass transit includes technology that facilitates and smooths grid connections as well as energy storage and recuperation systems which allow energy to be recovered from braking trains.

Smart mobility also means smart ports...
To minimize the environmental impact of increasing boat traffic and to meet strict emissions regulations, ABB offers port electrification technology as well as and grid integration solutions which are compliant with worldwide-accepted technical specifications and standards.

At the World Economic Forum 2018, residents of the Swiss town of Davos and guests of the 33° WEF were able to board the pioneering TOSA bus. What were the reactions?
Yes, this was very popular in Davos. ABB developed the core technology for the TOSA e-bus system that runs in Geneva and will soon run in Nantes. This includes the onboard traction equipment and fully automated 20-second world record flash-charging technology. Davos was the first time TOSA technology was used in an alpine environment – and it was truly tested under the harshest winter conditions.
It was very well received, especially among the residents. Students, who were delighted and commended the idea of using sustainable transport. A senior citizen also said how glad he was that companies like ABB were working to keep scenic towns beautiful so that future generations could benefit. Politicians and other delegates to the forum also got to see the innovative technology in action.

ABB Formula E. Why did you decide to sponsor the FIA World Championship reserved for electric cars?
Formula E is one of the most exciting developments in sustainable transport and sport today, and it was really a natural fit between two technology and electrification pioneers. For us, it lines up perfectly with ABB’s commitment to running the world without consuming the earth. It also fits well with our pioneering spirit and commitment to innovation.
Formula E also serves as a competitive platform to develop and test e-mobility-relevant electrification technologies, helping to refine the design and functionality of electric vehicles and infrastructure as well as the associated digital platforms. By joining forces, ABB and Formula E are ideally positioned to push the boundaries of e-mobility.