The vision of urban sustainability is to build dense city environments with abundant green spaces, walking paths, and bicycle routes. While reducing vehicle traffic is critical, advances in renewable energy and transportation technologies—such as zero-emission electric vehicles, micro-mobility, and microgrids—give green urban planners new tools to consider in their environmental sustainability planning process. Integrating commercial electric vehicle charging stations into a sustainable city design has become an essential consideration for urban planners.
With silent engines and no tailpipes clouding the street with CO2, suddenly cities are a boon for peaceful living and clean air. On one hand, the more EVs on the road with long-range batteries, the more sustainable urban planning is. However, traditional green guidelines strive to have home, work, and shopping located within a short distance of one another for walkability, which is the green city dream.
Moreover, green urban planners typically favor buses and commuter trains, which use 10 to 25 percent less energy per mile than a standard personal vehicle. The fault in this comparison is that it’s using internal-combustion vehicles and doesn’t consider the dramatic energy efficiency gains from EVs.According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, driving the average EV produces global warming pollution equal to an internal-combustion vehicle that gets 88 miles per gallon fuel economy. That makes electric cars three to four times less polluting than today’s average gas-powered vehicle.
Integrating EVs into sustainable urban planning
Savvy urban planners and developers realize that shifting to EVs can become a core element in creating green communities. An excellent example is the Community Mobility Hub, launched in Austin, Texas in 2018. Worsening traffic congestion has become a growing concern for Austin residents so the Rocky Mountain Institute deployed the Community Mobility Hub pilot program, which maintains green urban principals like walkability, bike-friendliness, and proximity to housing and businesses.
In addition, the program included new forms of mobility, such as carsharing parking spots, a charging hub for shared electric bikes and scooters, and discounted ridesharing. These mobility hubs also feature shade from nearby trees, gardens, and local food trucks.
With or without green urban developments, city planners are still ensuring drivers have access to public and workplace charging stations. The California Air Resources Board has budgeted more than $1 billion in electric vehicle initiatives, with a large share going to building charging stations. The poster child for endless highways and car culture in Los Angeles. The current mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti, realizes that major shifts to the built environment will take time. His Green New Deal for the city calls for 80% of vehicles sold in Los Angeles to be electric by 2028.
By that time, nearly one-third of the cars on the road would be zero-emissions. The city’s bus fleet will go all-electric by 2030. The city’s garbage trucks will be all-electric five years later. The city recently bought its first electric fire engine, with more to come. The city also has plans to require all Ubers and Lyfts in Los Angeles to be electric.