Using greener and more sustainable transport options is crucial if we’re to meet climate targets and reduce air pollution in cities around the world. Fume-free, more sustainable and developing rapidly, electric vehicles could offer an effective alternative to traditional gas guzzlers. Here’s our round up of some of the simplest and most effective ways that you too can join the electric revolution.
Check Out Apps for Electric Cars
If you already own an electric car, you’re probably aware of the huge amount of apps out there specifically designed to make your life easier: from finding a compatible charging station, to mapping a journey so that you can charge up en route, here is our pick of the most practical apps to help you get the most out of your EV experience.
- Plugshare is a free app for iOS, Android and web that helps users find and review charging points around the world – from Azerbaijan to Taiwan. Maps help locate over 96,000 both public and private charge stations, while the user reviews allow you to pick the best-rated. Filter by your vehicle type to be shown only compatible charge points, and message other drivers through the app in order to share public stations.
- If you’re a TESLA owner, then EV Trip Planner could prove handy. A website built by a precocious 19 year old, it lets you enter your starting point and destination, and then maps out a route for you that ensures you will have access to TESLA’S Supercharger free-of-charge fast-charging stations along the way.
- When it comes to paying for your car’s charge, in Europe Plugsurfing is here to help. It’s free to sign up for the service, which allows you to charge at various different operators using their app. You receive just one bill at the end of the month and can pay automatically by linking up your bank account.
- Interested in investing in an electric car, but still unsure about whether and how you should take the plunge? The iEV app lets you take one for a virtual test drive. Just switch on the app while you’re driving in your regular vehicle and iEV will generate a list of electric vehicles that can cover your usual driving ranges, and are the best fit for where and when and how you tend to drive.
Sign up to an EV Sharing Scheme
Don’t want to commit to buying an electric vehicle, want to take one on a real test drive, or just prefer the convenience and extra environmental benefits of a car sharing scheme? More and more car sharing companies are offering electric options – maybe there’s already one in your city.
- Probably the most successful electric car-sharing system in the world, Autolib launched in 2011 and has done huge work in bringing electric vehicles to the masses. Based in Paris – where they currently have a huge half a million subscribers – the self-service full-electric car sharing project has made it to the US too, launching as a pilot project called BlueIndy in Indiana in 2016, and to the UK where it operates under the name BlueCity.
- If you don’t happen to be in Paris, London or Indiana, then maybe there’s another car-sharing scheme for you – DriveNow was born in Denmark but has since spread to several cities in Germany as well as Milan, Vienna, Brussels and London. While not all of the cars on offer are electric, the fleet features BMW’s most popular electric car, the BMW 3i, an all-electric vehicle. Register online, find a car via app, take it to wherever you need to go, and drop it any location. It couldn’t get much simpler.
- Berlin has another option too, in the shape of multicity, the city’s first car sharing service that is entirely made up of electric vehicles. The fleet is made up of CITROËN C-Zeros, and – in what might be a first – charged with green electricity from 100% renewable energy sources.
- And if the idea of an electric mopeds is more your style, then you’re in luck. From France, Germany, Italy and Spain, to San Francisco, Vancouver and Taiwan – they’re slowly taking over urban markets worldwide.
Upgrade Your Existing Bicycle to an Electric Bike
E-bikes and pedelecs are currently the best-selling electric vehicles in the world. Just as fun and convenient as a normal bicycle, they have the added benefit of extra speed with a lot less effort. And for many people, they can even be used to replace a car for short, inner-city trips. But why buy a new one when you have a trusty bike at home? Retrofitting your existing bike is a logical option and there’s a whole host of different options.
- First of all, the laws around the use of e-bikes and pedelecs on public roads are very confusing – in some states of the US for example, users aren’t allowed to use bike lanes, or must wear a helmet if under a certain age. In the EU the rules are much more flexible. Avoid running afoul of the law and do a quick internet search to find the most up-to-date legislation for your particular location.
- And not all bikes are suitable for converting – it’s usually best to use one with a strong steel frame. Check out an online guide to find out whether you have a suitable model.
One of the fastest ways of making your bike electric is to fit a power wheel – swapping either the front or rear wheel for one that contains a motor, battery and gearing. This adds extra weight to the bike, but is usually one of the simplest options.
- Claiming to convert your bike in less than 60 seconds is Geo Orbital, a universally-compatible wheel with a solid foam tyre and lithium-ion battery which can boost your bike up to 30km/h for up to 80km.
- EVELO’s Omni Wheel claims to have a slightly longer, but still impressive, installation time of 30 minutes. A wireless display shows you speed and distance information and lets you adjust the amount of assist, while the press-and-go-throttle is there to give you a boost.
- One of the lightest options is the almost-invisible FlyKly Smart Wheel. Weighing only 3kg, it’s operated via smartphone app, can go up to 25km/h and comes in different sizes for a range of different kinds of bikes.
The second main option is to bolt on a rubber flywheel, an electric drive attachment that helps spin the rear wheel.
- Suitable for almost any bike, one solid option is Rubbee, a simple flywheel attachment which has a range of 40km and a top speed of 25km/h. Once the initial installation is done, it takes just a few seconds to click on and off.
- And it might be worth keeping your eye on Swedish company Semcon too, who claim to have invented the simplest and cheapest option out there – a low-tech, lightweight portable convertor which works in the same way as the Rubbee but at a fraction of the price: under 100 EUR. The invention is just a prototype at this stage, however, and they’re yet to find an investor to take the idea further.
Use an Electric Cargo Bike for Deliveries
In some European cities cargo bikes are already a common site, often used by parents to ferry around their kids, pets and groceries too. But now electric versions are becoming ever more common as a delivery solution for companies both big and small – not only are they greener and cheaper than using delivery trucks, but thanks to the fact they can weave in and out of traffic jams, they’re usually quicker too.
There are a huge number of different businesses already using electric cargo bikes, so it’s impossible to list them all here, but it’s an interesting option to bear in mind next time you need a bike courier, want to order a take-away or even when moving house. Maybe instead of a car or van, an electric bike service would be a better option?
- Bike mad Holland is home to Deliver EBike, a company which is busy delivering pizza throughout Europe.
- Berlin has Velogista, an electric cargo bike service that run exclusively on green energy.
- Delivery giant UPS just expanded its fleet to include delivery by e-bike in the US.
- Even Brazil now offers an environmentally-friendly alternative to the country’s ubiquitous motorbike couriers, an e-bike courier service called ECO Bike.
- Sweden’s Move By Bike even lets you move house on two wheels and Déménagement Myette offers a similar service in Montreal.