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22 May 2024

E-Mobility, Charging Infrastructure and Smart Cities

charging station in Pantelleria

Author: Gadi Lenz, Chief Scientist at the Urban Software Institute GmbH


E-mobility is no longer an exotic topic – no news here. Electric vehicle (EV) sales have been picking up at an accelerated pace with China establishing itself as a global leader. Even though some of the governmental incentives have been stopped in various countries, the auto industry and governments (local, regional, and national) have set some ambitious goals for the transition to EVs within the next decade or so. This transition is one of the key components of climate change – the removal of a large number of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) will reduce local emissions/pollution. It should be noted that the energy charged may originate in a fossil fuel-based generation plant and that the energy used to produce EVs (especially the batteries) can similarly be produced by a non-renewable energy source. So, while local emissions have been reduced globally (somewhere) there is a potential plant contributing to emissions as part of the EV ecosystem. Some of these aspects are also starting to be addressed. EVs, it seems, are here to stay, and the fraction of electrified vehicles (including trucks, buses, etc.) is growing – we have turned a corner. Other alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) are a topic for another newsletter.

Many concerns and issues that were hurdle to wide adoption of EVs are no longer a problem. The dread of “range anxiety” is not a problem for most trips (e.g., daily commutes, local shopping, etc.); battery prices have dropped dramatically over the last few years, leading to a corresponding drop in EV price; total cost of ownership (TCO) is in many cases lower relative to ICEVs. Only for longer trips and in regions of sparse charging infrastructure, one needs to plan a trip accordingly. All of these factors are accelerating the sale of EVs, and the automotive industry is offering a growing selection of EVs to meet aggressive goals for the phasing out of ICEVs. In parallel, EV chargers are being installed, breaking out of the “chicken and egg” cycle of “no chargers leading to no EVs and conversely, if there are not enough EVs, there is no need for chargers”.

Charging Infrastructure

EVs require charging infrastructure – stations connected to the electric grid that can charge EV batteries. People owning parking space at home will charge mainly at home (typically overnight) and, if available, at work. For EV owners who do not have access to a wall box at home (e.g., residents of apartment buildings), new solutions are made available (see, for example, It is crucial to understand that long-range travel and charging at a fast charger on the highway accounts for about 10% or less of all charging sessions – most people drive primarily locally, commuting to work and shopping all within a limited range. In addition to private charging (at home and work) and charging at semi-public chargers (e.g., at shopping malls), cities are providing public charging (curbside and public parking lots and parking garages) for residents and visitors/tourists. Typically, one or more charging point operators (CPOs) operate the network of EV chargers. These CPOs are either private outfits or, in some cases entities such as a municipal utility (in Germany, for example, the “Stadtwerke”) that operate them. CPOs are also offering additional services such as e-roaming (i.e., being able to use out-of-network chargers when travelling, for example), multiple payment options, ad hoc charging (being able to charge with credit or debit card even with no existing contract), etc.

These are welcome developments driving the transition to ubiquitous e-mobility. While private and semi-public chargers are handled by individuals or commercial entities, public charging in urban areas is handled by cities. The cities are responsible for making public charging infrastructure available and ensuring it is well-maintained and convenient/attractive for the citizens. In Germany, for example, a Master Plan for Charging Infrastructure was published – the goal is that each city or town develops their charging infrastructure plan, which should then be implemented. Once a plan is in place, CPOs can apply (through a municipal tender process, for example) to operate and maintain these public chargers. The city has, therefore, a responsibility to develop a charging infrastructure strategy and corresponding plan but needs to also be able to monitor this infrastructure once it is in place and operational. Planning and monitoring charging infrastructure require data-driven tools and know-how.


The sort of questions that need to be addressed as part of planning include:

  • How many public charge points should we install?
  • What type of chargers (AC vs. DC, how many connectors, how much power, etc.)?
  • Where should the chargers be located (e.g., to get the best utilisation)?
  • Who should operate the charge points? 
  • How much CO2 will it save?
  • How do we plan for diversity/accessibility/social justice?
  • What is the impact on the local power grid?
  • What are local regulations/laws that need to be considered?

Answering these questions requires data both historical (e.g. if there already are charging points where they are, what is their utilisation, where do people park, etc.) as well as based forecasts (e.g., how many new EVs are expected in the next few years, is there a local grid expansion plan, etc.). To produce a good plan requires diverse, high-quality data sources that are both “technical” (e.g., location with required available power) and “social” (e.g., demographic, socio-economic, etc.). Additional open data sources can also be valuable – for example, in Germany, forecasted public charge point demand until 2030 can be accessed at (in German). 

This data needs to be analysed by subject matter or domain experts using a planning tool that provides the answers to the above questions. The resulting plan can then be budgeted, tendered and implemented. The planning phase is not completed after the initial rollout. As the number of EVs increases, charging infrastructure will need to increase as well and will require expansion planning (i.e., planning is an ongoing process).

Monitoring (of Operations)

Once public charging infrastructure is deployed and operational in the city, operated by one or more CPOs, some (smart) cities have shown interest in being able to monitor these operations. This is not surprising – as many smart cities have undergone digital transformation and have, for example, deployed an urban data platform (UDP), the addition of such a new use case (charging infrastructure monitoring) is an obvious step. New data sources can be integrated, and new analytics can be developed and used to facilitate the monitoring function.

The sort of questions that need to be addressed as part of monitoring include:

  • Can I monitor and compare different operators (if there is more than one CPO)?
  • Can I monitor semi-public infrastructure (e.g., shopping malls, supermarkets)?
  • How many charge points are there? What type (AC, DC, power)?
  • How often are the charge points used, and for how long (utilisation)?
  • How much energy is charged?
  • Where are the charge points (geographic dependence)?
  • How much CO2 has been saved?
  • What is the availability of the EV charge points (average uptime)?

The monitoring is not only for improving efficiency and reliability but also provides transparency and adherence to national and international sustainability targets. Here, the data needs to be analysed by subject matter or domain experts using a monitoring tool that provides the answers to the above questions. While planning relies more on static data (i.e., data that changes slowly over time), monitoring can also include more dynamic data sources such as floating car data (FCD).

An example of the sort of analysis that can be used for ongoing monitoring, is the project Clever, which was done in the German city of Rüsselsheim (see, German only). A substantial part of the data came from the city’s municipal utility and enabled the sort of comprehensive analysis that can answer the questions above. The city is unique in that it already is meeting the public charge point density (i.e., number of people per charge point) that is targeted by Germany for the year 2030 (85 million people per 1 million chargers). Such collaboration between the city and the local CPOs is crucial for the successful implementation and deployment of monitoring.


E-Mobility sits at the intersection of smart energy (or smart grid) and smart mobility and is a critical part of sustainable urban mobility. Sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs) and sustainable urban mobility indicators (SUMI) driven by the European Commission, are becoming a key part of smart city strategies. Data-driven planning and monitoring of charging infrastructure will be part of these strategies. 

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