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28 October 2020

IMET project Mobility Areas revolutionizes shared and low carbon mobility

Valerio Siniscalco, member of the IMET initiative and founder and CEO of NHP ESCo Srl in an interview about IMET Flagship Project Mobility Areas.

Mobility Areas is one of the 10 IMET Flagship projects. The solution was developed within the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities & Communities lighthouse project Sharing Cities and funded by Horizon 2020. The Sharing Cities project has developed innovative solutions to improve the common approach and make smart cities a reality and has run itself 10 smart city projects in each lighthouse city, London, Lisbon and Milan. Currently, after testing and validating successful business models, the project partnership is working towards market scale-up and replication and has already engaged several cities across Europe.

Valerio Siniscalco


Let’s talk about the Mobility Areas.

Our focus area within the Sharing Cities project is shared e-mobility. Our goal is to design and install a network of public EV charging points in Milan and integrate them with overall place-based measures to support the transition to shared electric mobility.

Mobility Areas work as intermodal crossroads for urban mobility and gather in the same area several innovative and digital services; we also developed a shared integrated digital platform, in accordance with the “digital first” approach of Sharing Cities, that will offer a wide range of digital mobility services: EV charging services, smart parking (reservation and dynamic pricing), station based, free floating and community car sharing, zero emission energy production, IoT sensors, V2G and many more.

What are the expected outcomes and the potential benefits of Mobility Areas?

The project is still in progress and we are now in the monitoring phase. Perhaps, our expected outcomes must be considered on a long-term period, as our approach aims to revolutionize the way of moving, especially in the urban context. Mobility Areas support the transition to a shared and low carbon mobility, and the synergy among the different services offered represents an economic (low-cost), ecologic, social (health & safety) and efficient smart city solution. The benefits for citizens and cities will be numerous: reduction of ownership of private fuel powered vehicles with consequent decrease of traffic and traffic-related air pollution; remove range anxiety of EVs; encourage integration of mobility transition to electric sharing mobility services, public transportation and last mile light mobility, in order to create positive to near zero emissions districts.

The benefits for eCar Sharing operators will be a strong cost reduction of logistics operations, which represent 70% of sharing services costs. In this way, sharing mobility services will be cost-effective and more sustainable, helping cities through the carbon neutrality transition.

A very important feature of the project is the engagement of citizens in the co-design process, stimulating their habits to become more sustainable through the platform that includes a reward system to stimulate “prosumer behavior”.

What is the Scale up and replication potential of the Mobility Areas?

One of the Sharing Cities’ strategic objective is replication, and along with the lighthouse cities London, Lisbon and Milan, three fellow cities (Bordeaux, Burgas and Warsaw) have been actively involved since the beginning of the project in adopting and exploiting specific solutions.

The Sharing Cities’ programme has a strong commitment on scale-up and replication and we are already working on several new cities to improve our scale-up target.

We are currently working on “standardizing” the Mobility Areas according to the “component-based approach”. Like a Lego structure, the measure is broken down in several basic technical components that can be assembled in different ways and tailored to suit specific city contexts, and different business models to exploit the solution’s full scalability potential. Following this flexible approach, the solution can be adapted to the context depending on several variables like regulation & smart city strategy, community needs & citizen engagement, cultural conditions, climate and geography, infrastructure and assets, just to mention a few.

We also believe that a Business Model is the key for replication, as no public fund should be taken in account for scaling up sustainable projects.

The innovative business model developed aims to enable MaaS (mobility as a service) from the integration of different income opportunities through the implementation of shared and digital mobility-related services. The combination of different technical options, such as EV charging stations with bidirectional technology (for smart grid connectiononce regulation will be ready) dedicated to sharing mobility operators, smart parking sensors, photovoltaic shelter for clean energy production, IoT sensors, energy storage and other related smart services, all managed by an integrated ICT platform, represent different income opportunities. This approach is investment-attractive as the integration of different services will ensure the use of charging stations and at the same time guarantee other revenues to support the ROI.

According to your experience, what would you recommend to policy makers?

The role of policy makers in convening and influencing the transition towards a shared electric mobility is crucial, as this transition cannot depend solely on and await for a change of citizen’s habits.

The Municipality of Milan has a “Smart City” department with a clear and long-term strategy for the urban transformation, and this should be the commitment of every local entity.

For the Mobility Areas we worked shoulder to shoulder with the Mobility department of the Municipality of Milan during the whole planning phase, for the infrastructure to meet the local regulations and at the same time to develop an ad hoc legislation for new smart services. At the moment we still lack of EVs sharing operators. Cities and Public Administrations should work on subsidies for EVs diffusion.

Furthermore, regulation has to be in line with new business models and technologies, to effectively support the implementation of smart city measures.

Another recommendation is to engage the citizens in the co-design process of urban transformation, understand in depth the requirements of each area, district and community. In this way, each transformation is the result of a real demand, according to the “bottom-up” approach, and where communities are not ready yet for this transition, policy makers can support the spread of the sharing economy and sustainability culture.