Sustainable living in the Cities of Tomorrow – Part 3

Mobility in the City of Tomorrow

Short distances between home, work and leisure activities not only save valuable time but also are an expression of freedom and quality of life. As part of our series “Sustainable Living in the Cities of Tomorrow”, after addressing “energy” we are focusing on the topic of “mobility”. We talked about concepts for future-oriented mobility with mobility expert Dr Florian Herrmann from the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO.

Urban traffic in transition

Current trends and development tendencies

Megatrends such as urbanisation affect life in cities in particular: Cities are growing and people are constantly on the move, using mobility to shape their day-to-day life as required. But the ever-growing volume of traffic compromises quality of life through dust, noise and lack of parking. Scarcity of fossil fuels, climate policy objectives and an increased environmental awareness in society have led to wide-ranging rethinking of mobility: Sustainable solutions that are environmentally friendly, attractive and inexpensive, and which are based on the principle of “use instead of ownership”, are in demand. In the following, selected examples document current trends.

More mobility – less traffic

This change is particularly noticeable in urban traffic: With the expansion of public transport and bicycle paths, many cities have already laid the foundation for sustainable mobility development. Cities including Copenhagen and Münster have an exemplary infrastructure for bicycles. The latter is known as the bicycle capital of Germany. Here the bike is already among the most used means of transport.

High quality of life through car-free city centres

Through closure of city centres to car traffic, cities are hoping for space for movement, safety and better air for pedestrians. This is a trend that has caught on in Scandinavia in a lasting manner and been taken up by other European cities.
The Norwegian city of Oslo is a pioneer in this area: It is striving for a completely car-free city centre by 2019. Car traffic in the entire city is also to be reduced by 30 per cent by 2030. Restrictions on city centre traffic are common in other European cities as well: London relies on a congestion charge for greater use of public transport, Florence designates the entire city centre as a limited traffic zone, and Paris would like to completely ban diesel vehicles from the inner city by 2020.
The city of Munich has launched a similar pilot project: Since 01 July 2016, Sendlinger Strasse in the historic district has belonged only to pedestrians – initially for just one year. Then the city council will decide whether the popular shopping street will receive its final transformation into a pure strolling promenade.

New mobility strategies through electric drive systems

Sweeping technological developments such as electromobility are paving the way for new strategies in urban traffic. For example, more and more people are using electrically driven rental vehicles rather than private cars for short distances in urban areas.
An exemplary e-car-sharing project was launched in 2012 under the name “car2go”, when in the greater Stuttgart area the Daimler Group put the largest electric car fleet in Germany on the streets with 300 electric Smart cars. Shared use of electric cars has proven itself in practice. Today, “car2go” has more than 1,320 electrically powered rental vehicles in Stuttgart, Madrid and Amsterdam.
The location search and hiring – 29 cents per minute in Stuttgart, for example – takes place conveniently via app. After the trip, the car can be parked for free on any public parking space in the connected cities.

Mobility as a field of research – Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO
conducts research for practical applications

Application-ready solutions for emission-free, connected and electric mobility

As a central component of a liveable city of tomorrow, daily mobility plays an important role, especially for future-oriented urban development. Changing lifestyles, new technologies and not least the need to make your own life more sustainable require new mobility solutions.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO in Stuttgart explores how sustainable mobility concepts for the future may look in the business area “Mobility and City System Design”. Together with cities and industry, an interdisciplinary team of 40 researchers develops strategies and system solutions for market-driven implementation of emission-free, connected and electric mobility.
Current projects include the "Fraunhofer IAO Micro Smart Grid". The focus of the project is the investigation of various operating scenarios for optimal interplay of power generators, storage systems and consumers based on a smart energy management system (Micro Smart Grid).

Fraunhofer IAO Micro Smart Grid

With the Fraunhofer IAO Micro Smart Grid, a “living laboratory” was built in the car park at the Institute Centre Stuttgart with the aim of supplying electric vehicles with local green power and testing specifically developed energy management strategies under real conditions. 
With more than 30 charging stations and Europe’s fastest high-performance quick-charging station, the facility has one of the largest charging infrastructure installations for electric vehicles in a car park.

The first European LOHC hydrogen storage system in use

All driving electricity is produced by a photovoltaic system on the roof of the car park. In this way production and consumption can be optimally coordinated using a lithium-ion battery storage device.
With the first European LOHC hydrogen storage system in routine operation, hydrogen can be molecularly bonded to a carrier oil. Elaborate pressure accumulators or cooling systems for liquid hydrogen can thus be dispensed with. With a storage capacity of 2,000 kWh, it provides long-term storage for the electricity not immediately needed for charging in the Micro Smart Grid. The LOHC hydrogen storage system is connected to the power supply through a fuel cell.
The individual components are connected energetically through an innovative DC intermediate circuit and monitored and operated using self-developed smart controllers. Thanks to this intelligent networking, load peaks can be smoothed, ensuring efficient charging processes.

Expert-Interview

We spoke about important factors of sustainable mobility with Dr Florian Herrmann, Head of Competence Centre Mobility Innovation at Fraunhofer IAO.

1. Dr Herrmann, the research field mobility is your métier. What does mobility include and what is its significance in everyday life? 

Generally speaking, mobility is understood as mobility of persons and things. Mobility ensures reliable transport of people and goods but is also responsible for the associated emissions – in the form of pollutants or noise. If you also consider that our cities are getting bigger and bigger and that mobility services need to keep pace with this development, then there is a great need for efficient and sustainable concepts. Those of us in research have a clear focus on technical innovations in urban areas, which allow modern, climate-friendly and future-oriented mobility.

2. The “City of Tomorrow” initiative of the Fraunhofer Society understands mobility
as a key component for the liveable city of tomorrow. What is your vision of sustainable mobility? 

In our view, mobility must meet the requirements and values of today’s society. Specifically, this means: It should correspond to the climate objectives set by the federal government, be attractive and economical, and be accepted by users and residents. Given the digital transformation, mobility must also be in keeping with the times. This means that the technological possibilities must be utilised and translated into attractive solutions. We see mobility as a complex overall system. We therefore consider ecological, economic, social and technological factors in equal measure in our research. 

3. Long-term developments such as urbanisation and diminishing resources make mobility a major challenge. What effect does that have on mobility in cities?

The fact is that, in the future, people will have at least the same need for mobility as today. The mobility requirements are intensifying; thus mobility must be more intensively organised and planned.
Digital tools such as smartphones and related apps are one example. They are becoming more and more important particularly for individual mobility planning by enabling mobile bookings, by making real-time data of public transportation such as buses or trains accessible to users and by providing them with high added value in the process. For questions such as “What’s the quickest route to work?” or “What’s the best way to get home?”, various apps quickly and reliably identify the most convenient connections. It is important to offer the user an interface and thereby provide him with easy access to these new tools.

4. What changed requirements for mobility result from this?

The mobility of the future is automated, connected, emission-free and electrified.
These are high standards which, in part, have yet to be fulfilled. In the future, mobility offers must to be tailored much more to the individual, feature a variety of options for use across various means of transportation and fulfil criteria such as convenience, flexibility and willingness to pay on the part of users.
An important contribution to this is made by electrical mobility as well as automated and connected travel. More and more electric vehicles are already on the go in many cities today. E-car and e-bike sharing models are becoming attractive and affordable alternatives compared to private motorised transport of individuals.
Through the combination of electromobility with vehicle automation and networking, many scenarios , which can be realised in the coming years, are also possible – such as the creation of intelligent charging infrastructures which enable automatic parking and charging of electric cars, for example.

5. Using smartphone apps, traffic information is already conveyed to road users in real time. What role does the linking of transport and communication play in the city of tomorrow?

A huge role. For example, it is an effective lever for preventing congestion in the city and making it easier to find a parking space. We now know that searching for parking spaces accounts for up to 30 per cent of traffic in cities. Useful solutions in these areas can be generated through networking. Seamless function of this linkage is important.
Currently, various ideas are being developed, individual components, so to speak, which are to lead to increased use of intermodal offerings – meaning the combination of different means of transport such as car, bus, tram and train on a single route.
Since each city has different traffic requirements, the solutions must always be adapted individually to the respective city system – a master plan for linking transport and communications which could also be transferred to other cities on a one-to-one basis does not yet exist.

6. Intelligent transport planning and traffic control is already a topic for many cities. How do you assess the status quo and future development in these areas? 

For finding parking and disseminating reports of traffic jams, intelligent traffic management is already successfully put into practice.
A new approach in this sector is “gamification”. The idea is to use playful means to promote acceptance and use of intelligent transport networks. In specific terms, traffic control is designed so that users can retrieve information about the current traffic situation on the individual route using an app or software program before taking off on the trip.
In addition, alternatives can be proposed to the user. The decisions are in turn integrated into a bonus/penalty system. In this way the user can actively influence “traffic control” in real time. Information about whether waiting times will occur due to congestion, whether an alternative route is more suitable for getting to work or even whether leaving at a later point in time makes more sense are only a selection of possible options.

7. For the mobility of tomorrow, the necessary lighting infrastructure can play an important role. What potential do you see? 

It is indeed the case that the subject of lighting technology in urban areas plays a key role for mobility. One practical use of intelligent lighting control mechanisms is indicating unoccupied parking spaces, for example. A charging infrastructure in combination with intelligent lighting, allowing the user to immediately see, in the dark, the location of an available charging station, is also conceivable. The characteristics of the lighting technology and light intensity on the charging station must be selected accordingly.
In addition, ongoing digitisation will cause the existing lighting infrastructure to be more multifunctional in the future. Light poles will no longer just give off light but also offer many additional features, such as Wi-Fi, emergency call functions, and charging technology for e-bikes and e-cars. For cities and municipalities, this opens up a variety of possibilities to respond to the needs of citizens and create conditions for better quality of life.

8. What viable solutions can put cities and municipalities on the path to optimising mobility while simultaneously contributing to climate protection and better quality of life?

In principle, the needs of each urban system must be determined depending on context in order to develop tailor-made mobility concepts. The cooperation between different stakeholders from local government, politics, academia and industry is crucial for success. Only through the cooperation of all partners involved can viable and forward-looking solutions emerge. The City of Tomorrow initiative provides the ideal platform for this.
Thank you for the interview, Mr. Herrmann.

Further information

Further information about the business area “Mobility and City System Design” at Fraunhofer IAO and the project Micro Smart Grid are available under:
http://www.muse.iao.fraunhofer.de/
Link to Fraunhofer IAO Micro Smart Grid video:
http://www.3sat.de/mediathek/?mode=play&obj=61612