Areas for further research and collaboration were identified at the Electric Mobility Challenge, a forum event for industry professionals, policy makers and researchers in April. It’s powered by the Erasmus Centre for Future Energy Business (ECFEB) at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne (EWI). Both institutions contributed to thematic workshops to tackle the challenges facing the energy transition towards smart, electrical mobility.

The first Living Energy Conference focused on the Electric Mobility Challenge and is the result of a collaboration between the ECFEB and EWI. Participants were collectively optimistic about the outlook of e-mobility and were inspired to form their own collaborations for the energy transition.

The event began on the evening of 19 April with a networking dinner. It was followed by conference day to explore the thematic areas of electric mobility. Two inspiring keynote speeches, given by industry leaders in the automobile and renewable energy sectors; Torsten Günter, Head of E-mobility Operations at innogy SE and Dr Joachim Damasky, the Managing Director of the Association of the Automobile Industry (VDA). Four workshops, each moderated by a researcher and an industry professional, addressed smart mobility governance, distribution grid challenges, new business models, and smart charging and matching local renewable energy supply.

The need for cross-sector partnerships

Experts from various sectors contributed to a wide-ranging debate about accelerating the energy transition in the Netherlands, Germany, and the surrounding region. As this migration rests on a multitude of urban and social facets, cross-sector participation is a necessary first step towards partnership. “The quest for high value solutions to smart charging is on and will require a joint effort from research, business, and policy makers,” was one statement during the smart charging workshop moderated by Professor Wolf Ketter and ECFEB chair Volker Beckers. Data sovereignty, consumer behaviours, and policy intervention were some of the most revisited topics throughout the event.

Protecting data integrity and assuring efficient system integration

“Electric vehicles may help integrate more renewables into the system,” said moderator Dr Joachim Bertsch from EWI in the new business models workshop, “but at the same time also pose challenges for grid infrastructure: its hardware and software.” Innovative mobility business models prompted the discussion of how data derived from mobility is to be managed between the user and their stakeholders. Moreover, moderator Prof. Marc Oliver Bettzüge from the University of Cologne reports that significant shortcomings of current electricity market regulation were exposed during the workshop. “Electricity prices are heavily distorted by state-administered taxes and levies, impeding an efficient deployment of flexibility options such as BEVs.” On top, squaring smart mobility with the European rules on the unbundling of grid activities has been identified as a major challenge for governance in this workshop. With the ongoing climate of massive data breaches, the issues of data ownership, privacy, and access were impassioned topics. “Currently there is little actionable and consistent European legislation governing this space, including electric charging,” was a point brought up in the smart mobility governance workshop. Smart mobility relies on connected mobility and as more people are enticed to use new mobility services, the responsibility to protect data integrity is heightened.

Smart charging must beat ‘range anxiety’

Accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) calls for the expansion of charging infrastructure and confronting the obstacle of ‘range anxiety’. “While the power grids in Germany and the Netherlands belong to the best in the world, the quality in supply security comes with large infrastructure investments,” was a comment that came from the distribution grid challenge workshop. The smart charging model tackles this issue and was looked on favourably. With a structure based on existing grid constraints, renewable energy supply, and energy pricing, smart charging not only addresses the need for charging expansion but also allows energy markets to balance the supply with its demands. It was widely discussed that consumer behavioural studies will be necessary in order to determine charging trends and overall immediate trajectory of e-mobility in cities.

Informants to light the path

More than once, participants found themselves distinguishing between long-term goals and more immediate objectives that directly assist the energy transition. “The migration strategy [towards smart mobility] has to be affordable and accessible,” stressed both keynote speakers. But when it came to discussing policy-building to regulate the multitude of mobility related markets, it prompted a ‘chicken or egg debate about who will draw the blueprint for smart mobility. At the reflective plenary session, participants were reminded that strict regulations early in a transition can stifle innovation, but that the lack of regulation can produce collateral risks. In this case, it was argued that while the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement urges governments to lead the migration towards renewable energy supplies, industry innovators and researchers are the informants and will light the path.

The start of a living, breathing network

Concluding the Electric Mobility Challenge, Prof. Wolf Ketter encouraged participants to retain the optimistic momentum of the event by actually creating their collaborative networks. He referred to the day’s closing address not as a statement of conclusion, but the start of a living, breathing energy network.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

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