Navigant Research Blog

Better Late Than Never for Smart Cities in Australia

— December 29, 2016

SmartCityAs noted by my colleague Eric Woods in a previous blog, despite being one of the most urbanized countries in the world (with around 90% of the population living in urban areas), Australian cities have played a relatively small and subdued role in the development of smart city concepts and project demonstrations. While Sydney and Melbourne have been promoting building energy reporting and energy efficiency and a number of cities have sustainability goals (e.g., the Sydney 2030 program), there has been little in the way of significant focus and innovation around the key issues of urban development and sustainability.

Federal Government Taking a Larger Role

However, the focus on smart cities in Australia is now beginning to intensify as the federal government is taking the challenge of updating city infrastructure more seriously. 2017 appears poised to be a significant year for smart city development as the Australian government’s recently announced AUS $50 million ($35.8 million) Smart Cities and Suburbs Program will provide funding to support projects that use innovative technology-based approaches to improve livability and sustainability of cities, building on and supporting the country’s national Smart Cities Plan, which was launched in April 2016. Draft guidelines for the 4-year Smart Cities and Suburbs Program were recently released, and the first round of grant funding is expected to be opened in the first half of 2017.

The draft guidelines include four program priority areas and their key goals:

  • Smart Infrastructure to improve safety, efficiency, reliability, and the delivery of essential services
  • Smart Precincts to make community precincts more livable, productive, sustainable, and safe
  • Smart Services to deliver citizen-centric local government services and improve community engagement
  • Smart Planning to build adaptable and resilient cities through improved land use and strategic planning

These priority areas are indicative of where many global smart city projects and challenges are present today. If successful outcomes and innovative solutions can be achieved from the new plethora of smart city projects to come in Australia, the country could transform from its current follower position into a leadership role as part of the global pursuit of smart cities.

 

Smart Street Lights a Key Platform for Smart City Infrastructure

— December 2, 2016

The city lamppost is increasingly recognized as a valuable asset that can support a range of smart city applications beyond smart street lighting. There are significant benefits to be had from smart lighting deployments, considering that networked LED street lights can offer 65%-75% energy savings for cities. However, the full benefit of the lamppost is reached when it can act as infrastructure for multiple smart city applications. These additional applications can include air quality monitoring, security alerts, parking and traffic management, electronic signage, mesh Wi-Fi services, and more.

New York-based startup Totem Power recently unveiled its Totem platform for smart city projects, which combines communications infrastructure with energy infrastructure. The company’s prototype lamppost platform is powered by solar energy and supplemented by battery storage to provide capabilities such as Wi-Fi, 4G communications, and EV charging, in addition to traditional smart street lighting services. The first Totem street light model is expected to be released in summer 2017.

Totem Power’s Smart City Platform

Smart Lighting

(Source: Totem Power, Inc.)

Established Suppliers Utilizing Street Lights as a Platform

There is also an increasing recognition by more established players in the market that smart street lighting can serve as the foundational infrastructure for a variety of smart city technology deployments. Panasonic recently entered into a partnership with LED streetlight provider Schréder to integrate its sensors, cameras, and software applications into the company’s luminaires in an effort to transform existing lighting infrastructure into an integrated smart city platform.

Siemens is planning a new smart parking system both within existing smart street lighting infrastructure and in combination with traffic management applications. In addition to detecting open parking spots, Siemens’ overhead radar sensors (in development) are expected to measure speed and traffic conditions, detect parking violations, and detect the flow of pedestrians. Sensity (acquired by Verizon in September 2016) is also combining smart street lighting with other applications, namely with its NetSense smart parking solution. This integrated application enables owners and parking operators to increase parking revenue while simultaneously achieving additional cost savings associated with LED lighting. Established smart street lighting provider Silver Spring Networks has also been active in using street lights as a platform.

Benefits Too Large to Ignore

Using smart street lighting as a platform for other smart city applications provides benefits to both cities and suppliers. Cities can save on infrastructure costs through the integration of several applications within existing street light infrastructure, resulting in lower average project costs (per application) and additional valuable services being provided to its citizens. This approach offers the potential for added revenue streams (for both cities and suppliers) related to the lampposts. Suppliers offering the delivery of multiple services through street light infrastructure have the potential to increase revenue through recurring software fees, since services such as advanced analytics will be increasingly important under a multiple service model.

Cities are increasingly demanding services and products that can be shared across departments, not in siloes. Suppliers offering a variety of services that can be delivered cost-effectively through existing street light infrastructure are likely to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

 

Costs of Fossil Fuel Use on Society Much Higher Than Expected

— November 11, 2016

Electric Vehicle 2According to a new report from the American Lung Association (ALA), if the climate and health costs of gasoline-powered vehicles were accounted for, the average 16-gallon gasoline tank fill-up would cost an additional $18.42 for consumers (that’s on top of the average price of $35.68, raising the total price to around $54). The ALA estimates that these health expenses account for $11.82 per tank and $6.55 for climate costs. Because these costs are not being accounted for, the public is essentially subsidizing the use of gasoline-powered vehicles through higher healthcare costs and an increased need for climate adaptation efforts.

Carbon Tax and Transport Technology Solutions

While the possibility of a carbon tax being instituted in the United States is highly unlikely in the near term, several other countries around the world have begun to mandate these programs in order to assign a dollar value cost to fossil fuel use that affects public health. Canada announced last month that a national carbon price will be implemented in 2018. The Canadian government has proposed a minimum price of C$10 ($7.50) per ton of carbon pollution in 2018, rising by C$10 each year to a maximum of C$50 ($37) per ton by 2022.

Advanced transportation technologies also offer an opportunity to reduce the health and climate impacts of personal vehicles. While EV adoption continues to be a modest portion of overall vehicle sales, there are some encouraging signs for growth when considering studies on consumer behavior and the enormous interest. According to PlugInsights Research, once drivers have bought or leased an EV, 97% do not go back to gasoline-powered vehicles.

The survey indicates that once drivers have experienced the benefits of EVs, such as reduced operation and maintenance costs, they are extremely unlikely to return to combustion engines. There are also currently over 400,000 reservations for the Tesla Model 3, which looks to be the first mass-market EV designed to drastically increase the number of EV adopters. As suggested by the survey, high Model 3 sales could play a significant role in getting more consumers engaged and committed to the electric driving experience. Additionally, new transport solutions such as Hyperloop One’s high-speed tubes could drastically reduce the need for personal vehicles and help cut down on the health and climate impacts of cars.

 

New E-Bike with Unlimited Electric Range Shakes Up EV Industry as a Whole

— October 26, 2016

Electric range is a key factor for consumers when determining whether an EV can satisfy their transportation needs. In the car industry, perhaps the most significant development within the plug-in EV space is the imminent availability of 200-mile range EVs offered at reasonable prices ($35,000 to $40,000). In the power two-wheeler (PTW) market, similar electric range capabilities are now being offered by electric motorcycle manufacturers such as Zero Motorcycles.

Similar, But Different

For electric bicycles (e-bikes), range has not been as much of an issue compared to other EVs since e-bikes can be pedaled and are thus still operational even with a fully drained battery. However, range anxiety is still a significant concern for some riders since e-bikes are generally much heavier than traditional bicycles, making them undesirable to ride without electric assistance. The recently released VELLO BIKE+ is a self-charging electric folding bike that can be fully recharged while riding through an integrated kinetic energy recovery system (KERS). When in this self-charging mode, energy is collected through braking and pedaling downhill as mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy via the KERS.

The VELLO BIKE+ also appears to be the lightest e-bike on the market, weighing just 26 lbs., which also helps the e-bike use electricity more efficiently than heavier models. While the power of electric assistance under the self-charging mode is likely to be somewhat minimal in order to provide unlimited range, the low weight of the e-bike makes the VELLO BIKE+ practical for this application. Having such a low weight allows the e-bike to be easily pedaled under low levels of power electric assistance and reportedly manageable to pedal with no electric assistance at all. The Vienna, Austria-based company VELLO has raised over $230,000 on Kickstarter for the BIKE+.

Beyond E-Bikes

Creating an e-bike with unlimited range is a profound development for not only the e-bike industry, but also for the EV industry at large. E-bikes have now demonstrated that it is indeed possible to eliminate range anxiety, and new initiatives in the automotive industry offer the potential to do the same for EVs—such as the UK testing of roads that wirelessly charge EVs as they drive. At a time when an increasing number of jurisdictions are planning to ban internal combustion engine vehicles, electric range capabilities will become a crucial factor in the adoption of electric transportation of all kinds—whether on two wheels or four.

 

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