Today I am pleased to welcome a guest blogger on my blog, Sir David King, The Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative on Climate Change. He recently visited Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo and shares his experiences of sustainable urban transport:
Sustainable Transport: A Tale of Three Cities. It was the worst of times for the climate; it was the best of times for low-carbon solutions.
I recently visited the three Scandinavia capitals and in every one was really impressed with the innovation underway to provide the cities with technology for more sustainable transport. It was interesting to see where there are common challenges but different solutions and how policy is delivering the low-carbon mobility shift.
In Stockholm we were proudly taken on the first test drive of a new plug in electric hybrid bus. The project is part of the EU Zero Emission Urban Bus System, which includes trials in London and Glasgow. We’re use to seeing hybrid buses in the UK, but the Stockholm project aims to take the technology further to eliminate the need to use combustion engines by charging the bus on route. The Stockholm project are using overhead chargers, whilst other projects such as Glasgow are using inductive chargers places under the road. Each type of charger has its own issues with planning and longevity. Whilst the overhead structures take up space and may receive local objections, in-road chargers may be subject to interruption from road and pipe repairs.
In Copenhagen I got to try out their new daily hire bikes. Copenhagen already has a huge bike community, with over 220 miles of cycle lanes as well as dedicated signs and lights. 36 % of Copenhageners commute by bike daily, travelling more than 600,000 miles in total. The hire bikes make this even easier with built in dynamo electric engines and a GPS-enabled tablet on the handlebar. It took a bit of getting use to, but once you start pedalling the motor kicks in and assists you. You also have to get used to back pedalling for brakes. This stumped a couple of colleagues who regularly cycle to work in London with two handlebar brakes! Copenhagen aims to become the cycling capital of the world, making it even faster and easier to get around town on two wheels, as a key part of the strategy to become the first CO2-neutral capital by 2025.
A highlight for me was the world’s first Tesla taxi in Oslo. Based on charging at home, these 100% electric taxis can give you a 300 mile capacity from an overnight 10 hour charge. When superchargers are rolled out to public charging stations they will provide a 170 mile capacity in a 30 minute charge. With Norway’s renewable electricity supply, the Tesla taxis in Oslo are truly sustainable and a symbol of a successful policy to stimulate consumer demand for low-carbon vehicles. These cars have even impacted on the lives of the drivers. One driver told us how, since having his Tesla, he’s looked at his own home heating. He has now stopped used oil and wood and installed a heat pump.
These are excellent examples of how cities and policymakers are delivering more sustainable urban transport solutions. The green technology shift is well under way in the three Scandinavian capitals. But these successes cannot be looked at in isolation. City planning needs to take a holistic approach and look at low carbon solutions across the spectrum, from lighting to rubbish to water management, and implement each in a coordinated way, ensuring minimum disruption.