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Barcelona: An E-Mobility Living Lab

18 minutos

When it comes to smart mobility, a key smart city vertical, Barcelona has long held a global reputation as a leader in this area. With pioneering initiatives like the visionary Superblocks project, the Sentilo IoT traffic management platform, and plans to make all public buses electric by 2040, the city has attracted much praise for its innovative transport thinking. Barcelona’s long-held status as a startup hub – part of its smart city shine – has helped it to become a living lab for the development of e-mobility alternatives. The city’s micro e-mobility scene – think e-scooters and bikes – is flourishing, with a number of home-grown startups competing with international brands to make Barcelona a hotspot for testing new mobility ideas. With several encouraging e-mobility policies and the start-up scene adding fuel to the innovation fire, Barcelona looks set to maintain its status as an e-mobility leader in the years to come. Read on for a brief overview of e-mobility in Barcelona today:

Barcelona: A Living Lab for E-Mobility Innovation?

Electric Micro-mobility – Shared and Owned

Barcelona is a top global performer when it comes to shared and owned electric micro-mobility. Its public bike-sharing scheme, Bicing, has 6000 traditional bikes and 800 electric bikes – with more electric ones possibly on the way. A popular micro-mobility option, Bicing is used by around 15% of city-dwellers.

Barcelona is also a hotspot for electric scooters. Spain, in general, has more than 20,000 electric scooters, owned and shared, in circulation already, most of which are in Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia. Barcelona, in particular, is a veritable breeding ground for them, for a number of reasons. As a very dense city, Barcelona is the ideal compact size for whizzing across on an electric scooter. It is also one of the first European cities to regulate the use conditions for these types of vehicles, legalizing but restricting their use to improve user and public safety. Moreover, it hosts many of the Spanish startups and retailers working in this field, either as homegrown talent or newbie operators in the Catalonian territory. These include:

Retailers, such as SoloRueda and ePTV, which offer a variety of different international scooter brands
Home-grown electric scooter sharing apps, such as Reby, the main electric kick-scooter sharing app operating in Barcelona, and YEGO, a Vespa-style scooter sharing app
International electric scooter sharing apps, such as eCooltra, a scooter-sharing app now available in 6 different European cities, and Scoot, a truly international scooter-sharing startup already operating in both the Americas and Europe

  • Retailers, such as SoloRueda and ePTV, which offer a variety of different international scooter brands
  • Home-grown electric scooter sharing apps, such as Reby, the main electric kick-scooter sharing app operating in Barcelona, and YEGO, a Vespa-style scooter sharing app
  • International electric scooter sharing apps, such as eCooltra, a scooter-sharing app now available in 6 different European cities, and Scoot, a truly international scooter-sharing startup already operating in both the Americas and Europe

EV Car-sharing

While EV-sharing is not fully a thing yet in Barcelona, there are a couple of car-sharing services offering both pure and hybrid EVs alongside conventional vehicles:

  • Cabify, a hybrid service somewhere between a taxi company and car-sharing app
  • Bluemove, a car-sharing app started in 2010 and already in Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville

As the customer, you have the choice of selecting an EV or hybrid within both of these apps.

Rethinking Urban Mobility

Barcelona is also home to multiple programs and startups that seek to rethink urban mobility completely. One prominent example is the Barcelona-based blockchain smart mobility startup, Iomob, founded by smart city global thought leader, Boyd Cohen. Iomob promises to bring together all mobility options in a city under one application via blockchain protocols. What this actually means is that users can both book any form of transport in the city through one app and protect their own data all at once. Iomob calls this MaaS, mobility as a service, a pioneering new way of “doing” urban mobility – for transport providers and users alike.

Another example is SEAT. The company has not only opened an innovation lab – Metropolis: Lab Barcelona – dedicated to developing software and algorithms for future mobility services. They also run an accelerator program – SEAT Accelerator by Conector – for automobile startups shaping the future of the industry. On top of this, SEAT also launched its first EV car-sharing project last year, featuring 10 of its eMii electric cars.

Barcelona’s city congestion under the current scenario (pink) and under a new scenario that would include 16 distribution hubs with a zero-emission fleet (green) (Source: 300.000Km/s)

Finally, another prominent e-mobility project recently tested in the city was DataCity Lab’s “Last Mile” Project. This was a cross-sector collaborative project between DataCity Lab, the Municipality of Barcelona, Ferrovial Servicios and two local startups 300.000Km/s and Immense Simulations, which aimed to reduce the impact of urban goods distribution (UDG) within the city. Through research, the group discovered that UDG was responsible for 20% of the city’s congestion and 40% of its emissions. Their congestion and emissions-cutting solution involved a network of 16 distribution hubs being set up across the city, which would absorb the 15 million e-commerce deliveries entering the city every year and be aided by a fleet of zero-emission vehicles, such as EVs and bikes, who would carry out last-mile deliveries. This solution has not yet been fully implemented, but the group’s partners estimated that it could reduce at least 55% of the trips done by polluting vehicles inside the city (as can be seen in the graphic above) and up to 70% of last-mile commercial delivery emissions. Talk about thinking outside the (delivery) box!

Favorable Policies and Programs

Pro-Electric Government Policies

Alongside its thriving e-mobility ecosystem, Barcelona also has a number of favorable government-led policies and programs that are working towards fully electrifying the city over the next 10-20 years. The Municipality’s comprehensive Electric Mobility Strategy 2018-2024 tackles almost all aspects of urban mobility. It aims to make public transport and the municipal fleet totally electric by 2040; it includes a number of local incentives for EV owners, such as free charging and parking in certain areas of the city; and it tackles the electrification of the taxi and commercial vehicles sectors. As part of the strategy, the municipality is also investigating other measures it could implement to encourage e-mobility growth in the city, such as exploring how to better use excess power from the tram and subway network to power other transport sources.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

One particularly innovative government-led initiative is the cross-sector LIVE Platforma (Logistics for the Implementation of Electric Vehicles), a publicly and privately funded mobility platform that unites different bodies and organizations under one central electrifying mission: to make Barcelona a world-leading city for e-mobility and, through this, to improve urban quality of life. Some of LIVE’s initiatives include: overseeing a selection of subsidies and incentives for the purchase of electric or new-generation natural gas-powered vehicles and charging infrastructure; and offering support to private and public organizations for investing in eco-friendly fleets of vehicles (taxis, vans, lorries, etc.).

Supporting Innovation

The startup ecosystem in Barcelona is heavily supported by several local and regional government bodies. Among them, Catalunya EmprènXarxa Emprèn and Barcelona Activa, especially it’s i.lab program, stand out: both are organizations run by either the municipality or the Gencat (regional government) that offer important support, guidance and resources to entrepreneurs and startups.

Barcelona: E-Mobility on the Rise

Barcelona is in a very good position when it comes to expanding and normalizing e-mobility in the coming future, especially when you consider the combined potential impact of positive local, regional and national government e-mobility policies and its continued status as a living lab for the development of e-mobility alternatives. Additionally, the conditions are ripe for a further roll-out of all types of e-vehicle over the next decade, as the municipality pushes towards their ideal zero-emissions future. By continuing to campaign against the stigma around EVs and their battery life, developing and implementing on-the-ground innovation and investing more in EV incentives and other policies, Barcelona will be able to accelerate EV adoption even further. Of course, we can only speculate about what the future of e-mobility might look like in Barcelona – but our investigation suggests that it appears pretty bright!

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