By Brett Wheatley, TransLoc CEO and Vice President of Mobility Businesses, Autonomous Vehicles LLC, Ford Motor Company
With the growing shift to electrification, we are on the cusp of dramatically altering something that hasn’t changed in decades: The way we move. From personal vehicles to scooters and bikes, electrification is creating new forms of accessible transportation while helping to reduce congestion, reduce pollution and make it even easier to get to work and visit friends and family.
But there are challenges as well. The invention and adoption of vehicles and mass transit changed the way people lived, but also spurred cities themselves to transform. Now we must ask ourselves: Do we have the infrastructure to support all the new services being deployed today — and do people really think electrified transportation can help cities fight pollution, become more livable, more efficient and less stressful to traverse? In a recent Ford survey of city dwellers across the nation, the answer was a resounding “yes.”
So what’s next? On June 29, Ford is bringing together city officials, private businesses and community leaders through the City of Tomorrow Summit to discuss this very question. The pandemic has undoubtedly changed urban life, but as you’ll see below, communities are quite clear about the obstacles and opportunities presented by electrification — and how they want to see their cities adapt.
People see value in electrification. Close to 90 percent of respondents said they would support decisions to dedicate street space to bike lanes and charging stations. Even more notable, though, is that a large majority are ready to modify their cities and streetscapes to accommodate this advanced technology. More than 75 percent of respondents said they’re willing to give up vehicle lanes on their streets if it means creating more room for electric bike, bus, or scooter lanes.
That these feelings are so high may seem surprising, but COVID has really accelerated the conversation around how we use public spaces. People witnessed cities improvise and innovate in real time as they adjusted to pandemic life, adding bike and scooter lanes, creating outdoor dining in former car parks and more. Our streets, curbs and sidewalks are extraordinarily valuable — not to mention finite — resources. If urban communities see value in electric vehicles, buses, e-scooters and ebikes, then now is the time to start making decisions about how to best utilize this space as the pandemic recedes.
It’s not just an East Coast-West Coast thing. Overall, 77 percent of respondents said they think cities of the future will be driven by electric transit, and 80 percent want access to alternative modes of electric transportation beyond personal vehicles and mass transit. In fact, many agreed that having more electric micromobility services such as e-scooters, ebikes, and protected lanes will make cities more liveable (75 percent), reduce commuting stress (62 percent), and improve mental health (58 percent).
Notably, these sentiments are consistent across the country — in all regions of the U.S., including the South and Midwest, at least 80 percent of respondents agreed that their cities should invest in electric infrastructure.
We need infrastructure to support the electric revolution. Time and again, we continue to see that the biggest barrier to electric vehicle adoption is the belief that there simply aren’t enough charging stations. Almost 60 percent of respondents said a lack of charging stations is the primary reason they’re not planning to buy an electric vehicle, yet 70 percent said they would be more likely to if there were as many charging stations as gas stations.
While we know the majority of people who live outside cities will do most of their charging at home, the challenges for charging access are greater in cities, where personal garages aren’t as plentiful and home charging solutions may be trickier to implement. But 84 percent of respondents want their city to invest in this type of infrastructure, including for mobility alternatives like e-scooters and ebikes, and it remains the case that easy access to charging will help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.
It’s clear that electrification is breathing new life into traditional transportation methods, creating many opportunities for cities to improve access to affordable and equitable mobility. The key question is: How do we help ensure it lives up to its potential?
At Ford, we are committed to helping build a better world, one where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams. We’ve been democratizing transportation for 118 years, ever since our cars began rolling off assembly lines, and now we’re continuing to pursue this goal as we move to electric technology.
As with any major transformation, though, we can’t do it alone. I hope you’ll join us at the City of Tomorrow Summit as we hear how cities across the U.S. and beyond are leveraging electric transportation to improve their communities and address the potential societal, infrastructure, and policy-related challenges that can sometimes come with change.