Shared Electric Car Network

Paris has been wired with a shared electric car network: Autolib’. Modelled after the successful Velib’ bike-sharing program Autolib’ has won over 70.000 clients since its launch in 2011. The program combines a sharing concept with an easy-to-use internet platform, an urban transit strategy and clean fuel technology. It fuses low tech and high tech, people and the city in one system. Although SmartCityStudio is very positive about the distribution and amount of stations implemented in the metropolitan area of Ile-de-France, this new urban ecology has not only been cheered. The criticasters somehow surprisingly come from the green party in Paris according to the Chicago Tribune:

“Conservatives intially attacked Autolib as a vanity project of the Socialists who control the Paris city hall, but have toned down their criticism as the scheme’s popularity has grown. …But Greens fear the 1,800-strong fleet may be drawing Parisians away from public transport rather than from their gas and diesel-powered cars…The Greens, who voted against Autolib while remaining part of Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe’s majority, have asked for an audit on the scheme’s finances and its impact on traffic. “We remain very sceptical on Autolib,” said Denis Baupin, Green MP for Paris and transport councillor until last year.

As opposed to this criticism Autolib’s backers make some bold claims, according to the Chicago Tribune: “The project, they say, is breaking down social and physical barriers between the two million inhabitants of affluent central Paris and the other eight million who live in the “banlieues”, the often neglected high-rise suburbs outside the “peripherique” ring road. “There was a time when Parisians thought the banlieues were where they sent their rubbish and built council blocks or cemeteries,” Paris transport councillor Julien Bargeton said. “That relationship is changing, and Autolib shows that,” he told Reuters, estimating that about a third of all trips in the electric cars take place between Paris and its outskirts.”

Some information on the system itself. It is a public private partnership. The French Bollore Group invested in the fleet of Italian designed cars (Pininfarina) and spends 50 million euro’s annually to keep the fleet running. The City of Paris has invested 35 million in the charging points. As a customer you can choose between a yearly subscription (144 euro’s and 5 euro per half an hour), a monthly subscription (30 euro’s, 6 euro per half an hour), a weekly subscription (15 euro’s, 7 euro’s per half an hour) and a one day subscription (10 euro’s and 7 euro’s per half an hour). A total of 1750 cars has been registered in January 2013 and the Bollore Group’s goal is to deploy 3000 cars by 2013. By February 2013 the fleet had 65.000 subscribers and has driven a total cumulative of 15 million kilometer. There are over 650 charging stations in around 50 municipalities in the area of Ile-the-France with over 4000 charging points. The Bollore Company plans to expand the system on a short notice in Bordeaux and Lyon.

Sources: Wikipedia, Chicago Tribune, Paris, Autolib. Picture: Mairie de Paris

Intelligent Street Lighting

According to the University of Technology in Delft (TU Delft): “TU Delft is testing an intelligent street lighting system on its campus, which uses up to 80% less electricity than the current systems and is also cheaper to maintain. The system consists of street lights with LED lighting, motion sensors and wireless communication. This enables the installation to dim the lights when there are no cars, cyclists or pedestrians in the vicinity. Wireless communication between the street lights and a control room is also possible. The system was developed by alumnus Management of Technology Chintan Shah, who won a competition in 2010 with this concept for improving energy efficiency on the university campus.”

“Shah’s system consists of electronic gear that can be added to any – dimmable – street light. The system comprises street lights with LED lighting, motion sensors and wireless communication. At first glance, it looks a lot like a widely available type of garden light with a motion sensor, but there are significant differences. In Shah’s system, all surrounding street lights light up if anyone approaches. And the lights never go out completely; they are dimmed to approx. 20% of the standard power. Passers-by move in a safe circle of light as it were. An added bonus is the fact that the lights automatically communicate any failures to the control room. This makes maintenance cheaper and more efficient than it is now.” Source: TUDelft, Picture: Bristol Rising 

Responsive Bike

The Copenhagen Wheel, developed by the SENSEable city LAB from MIT: “Smart, responsive and elegant, the Copenhagen Wheel is a new emblem 
for urban mobility. It transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also
function as mobile sensing units. The Copenhagen Wheel allows you to capture
 the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need
a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion,
and road conditions in real-time.

Sense and Sustainability: 
Controlled through your smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes
a natural extension of your everyday life. You can use your phone to unlock and
lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you.
 As you cycle, the wheel’s sensing unit is also capturing your effort level and
information about your surroundings, including road conditions, carbon monoxide,
 NOx, noise, ambient temperature and relative humidity. Access this data
through your phone or the web and use it to plan healthier bike routes,
to achieve your exercise goals or to meet up with friends on the go. 
You can also share your data with friends, or with your city – anonymously
if you wish – thereby contributing to a fine-grained database of
 environmental information from which we can all benefit.”
Photo above: by Max Tomasinelli
Picture below: screenshot SENSEable city.


Shared Space

Shared space creates safer and more attractive streets. The concept of shared space is based on the idea that less traffic design, like traffic lights, asphalt and curbstones, creates more cautious drivers. The concept of Shared space has been introduced by a Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman. His Shared space concept has put the relation between traffic behavior and the design of public space on the cities’ agenda. Shared space concepts have been materialized successfully in many cities. The Guardian of last year reported on Exhibition Road in London: “The first thing to say about the remaking of Exhibition Road in London is how sane it largely is. Its concept is unimpeachable – to make a thoroughfare lined with famous museums and other institutions into a place more pleasant for the 11 million pedestrians who visit them each year. Its execution is well-judged, apart from the not-small detail that blind people find it alarming. Yet it has taken 18 years since something along these lines was first put forward, plus £29.2m, a court case and endless consultations, to get to this point. How difficult can it be to lay a pavement? Very, it would seem. The road was first developed following the Great Exhibition of 1851 and has the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, Imperial College, the Royal Geographical Society and the Goethe Institute along its length, not to mention the Polish Hearth Club and a curious, spiritual-modernist-ish building that houses the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like many spaces made in the aftermath of expos and world fairs, it has always had an uncertain air: it is wide and straight, which gives it a sense of purpose, but the biggest museums present only their side entrances to it, while strips of what were originally private houses blur its identity. Is it a grand avenue of culture, a convenient side street or residential? If it is the first, it is too variegated; if the last, it is too broad”…….”Its big idea, which originated with Moylan, was to create a “shared space” whereby pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles all occupy the same surface, without kerbs or barriers to separate them. It seems risky, but the theory is that if walkers and drivers can see that they are occupying the same space, they will behave more responsibly.”…..”The overall effect is of generosity and calm. Crowds can flow more happily over the paving and the route from South Kensington tube to the great museums, which was always a tricky one unless you took a long subway, is now a pleasure. The road is a place where you might want to be, rather than just a means of getting someone else. It is not fussy and prescriptive, as public space improvements often are.” Sources: The Guardian, Exhibition Road, Wikipedia. Picture:


Smart car parking

At the 19th Intelligent Transportation Systems Congress in Vienna in October last year Smart Car Parking has been presented as a way to lessen traffic congestion in the city.

According to “Siemens and Streetline, Inc. have launched the first of its kind smart parking project in the city of Braunschweig, Germany to provide parking relief to residents and local businesses.  The project is locally-led by BELLIS, a public-private partnership from Siemens AG and the Braunschweiger Versorgungs AG & Co. KG (BS | ENERGY). The advanced parking technology monitors parking space availability, distributes real time parking information to Streetline’s free “Parker” smartphone app, and tracks parking patterns and habits to help City officials better manage parking throughout the City. This is the first advanced parking project implemented jointly by Siemens and Streetline in Europe. The announcement was made from the Intelligent Transportation World Congress being held this week in Vienna, Austria.”

“The City of Braunschweig has approved installation of parking sensors and networking equipment to monitor real time data in designated parking locations throughout Kurst-Schumacher-Str, Nimes-Str and Tauben-Str. “Parker” by Streetline provides drivers with the location and general availability of parking spaces, shows the amount of parking time remaining, and allows users to pay for parking via their mobile phone where available. The advanced parking project will also provide a platform for DLR (German Aerospace Center) to do ongoing research on parking infrastructure and services, as part of their Transportation and Mobility portfolio.”
“One major factor contributing to city traffic congestion is motorists searching for parking,” said Hauke Juergensen, CEO Intelligent Traffic Systems, Siemens. “This modern technology from Streetline provides motorists an easier, more efficient way to find an available parking spot and provides the City of Braunschweig a cost-effective way to improve quality of life in their town in a time when city budgets have never been tighter.”

Clean fuel strategy

According to a European press release at the 24th of January: “The European Commission announced an ambitious package of measures to ensure the build-up of alternative fuel stations across Europe with common standards for their design and use. Policy initiatives so far have mostly addressed the actual fuels and vehicles, without considering fuels distribution. Efforts to provide incentives have been un-co-ordinated and insufficient.

Clean fuel is being held back by three main barriers: the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance, and the lack of recharging and refuelling stations. It is a vicious circle. Refuelling stations are not being built because there are not enough vehicles. Vehicles are not sold at competitive prices because there is not enough demand. Consumers do not buy the vehicles because they are expensive and the stations are not there. The Commission is therefore proposing a package of binding targets on Member States for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU wide standards for equipment needed.

EC Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport said. “Developing innovative and alternative fuels is an obvious way to make Europe’s economy more resource efficient, to reduce our overdependence on oil and develop a transport industry which is ready to respond to the demands of the 21st century. Between them, China and the US plan to have more than 6 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020. This is major opportunity for Europe to establish a strong position in a fast growing global market.”

The clean fuel strategy is committed to various clean fuels ranging from electricity to hydrogen. This post focuses only on the ambition for electric vehicles.

……”Electricity: the situation for electric charging points varies greatly across the EU. The leading countries are Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. Under this proposal a minimum number of recharging points, using a common plug will be required for each Member State (see table attached). The aim is to put in place a critical mass of charging points so that companies will mass produce the cars at reasonable prices. A common EU wide plug is an essential element for the roll out of this fuel. To end uncertainty in the market, today the Commission has announced the use of the “Type 2” plug as the common standard for the whole of Europe.

Street plinth strategy

Friday January 11th the book ‘City at eye level, lessons for street plinths’ has been launched in Rotterdam. According to the website

“The plinths of the city are the ground floors that negotiate between the inside and the outside, between the public and the private: this is the city at eye level. Plinths are extremely important for the urban experience, which in turn is an important driver for the urban economy. The plinths might cover only 10% of the building, but determine 90% of the experience. While walking, you consciously and subconsciously examine the immediate eye-level surroundings and absorb any details.

Our book shows you how a good plinth “works” for a better street at eye level. It contains concrete and inspiring examples of strategies for design, land use/programme, the relation to the street, passenger flows and the collaboration of partners. The book is a collection of stories from over 25 experts all over the world: a collective product with lessons from planners, owners, managers and designers. In addition to many international examples and case studies, the book contains several interviews and research articles. It concludes with practical lessons for the reader to put into practice in their own cities.”

The city at eye level promotes a plinth strategy for the city in order to give an impulse to the urban experience and the urban economy.

Pavement lighting









According to Organic Green Roots: ‘photoluminescent Core Glow pebbles provide an interesting, almost ethereal feature to outdoor design. When the eco-friendly pebbles are exposed to light sources, (solar or otherwise) the special light capturing pigment within them becomes chemically excited and will ‘glow’ once that light source is removed. The luminescent material is a multi-activated, highly efficient powder cultivated from the earth, that enables light-storing with a long afterglow.

When added to a concrete driveway and exposed to the sun, the pebbles will store enough energy to illuminate a dark pathway all night long, initially very radiant, then slowly dissipating as dawn arrives. With only 10-20 minutes of exposure to daylight or lamplight, the pebbles can maintain their afterglow for about 10-12 hours.

The CORE Glow pebbles are non-radioactive, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. They can be implemented in a variety of  landscaping,  custom concrete or masonry needs. The material is a inert long lasting recyclable plastic but are also available in a recycled glass.  Both last an average of 20 years.

So what makes them glow? A chemical element called Strontium aluminate; and an activator, Europium is added – this causes a chemical reaction, creating the glow. The material is biologically and chemically inert, so completely safe for home use.

These pebbles are primarily an esthetic element that can add a new layer to hardscape designs but certain applications will help to greatly reduce pathway lighting costs. Since the CORE Glow products require no electricity, no power supply and no batteries they saves natural resources and offer an alternative to traditional pathway lighting.’

Creative spaces for safety

In the summer of 2007 the ‘Coalition Project 1012’ started. This collaborative project initiated by the municipality, intends to reduce crime and to contribute to the economic upgrading of the postcode area 1012, the Red Light District in Amsterdam. 1012 is located in the heart of historic Amsterdam and is a major attraction for visitors from home and abroad. In order to maintain and improve this condition the Red Light District should be diversified. One of the applied strategies is a street-oriented one. Quite some red light windows and coffeeshops will dissappear after negotiation with the owners. To upgrade the street, ‘streetteams’ will be established who together with the inhabitants and entrepreneurs will make a vision for the street or a cluster of streets. Together with parties who already have position in the area a strategy to buy property has been set up. This property gets another function. Successful is to attract the creative industry. This sector feels at home within urban and ‘rawer’ conditions and are not scared off by the dubious industry which is just around the corner. The 1012 project already added several interesting creative spaces to the Red Light District like Ultra de La Rue Creative Space on the picture below. In the Rua General Jardim in São Paulo a similar strategy upgraded a  prostitution street with the addition of a school for architecture, the Escola de Cidade and the Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil. This resulted in a weird mix of functions and people on the street, but above all it established a safer and more attractive street in downtown São Paulo.

Light, color and sound for safety

A recent Dutch study researched the impact of atmosperic variables on the experience of safety among others. Safety in cities is regarded often from the ‘objective’ point of perspective. The subjective side of the matter is just as important. Many ‘objective’ safe neighbourhoods are being experienced as ‘unsafe’. Light, color and sound can add to the feeling of safety. Since many years underground parking is often well-lit and plays music at night. Although lightdesign will not prevent you from being robbed, it could make underground cityscapes much more attractive during day- and nighttime. Furthermore dedicated well-lit bikepaths could offer attractive ‘safe’ nightlanes in the city.

lightdesign: Herman Kuier

Bus Rapid Transit system

Although old news,  Bogota’s Transmilenio Bussystem is a concept which should be added to this Smart City Studio Blog. According to Camilo Santamaría presenting at the UN-habitat Expert Group Meeting in Nairobi, february 18th 2011:

“Transmilenio bus system shows how public transport-oriented city planning can stimulate urban renewal whilst improving the use of space and energy resources. The city is located between a river and a mountain range, and contains a number of heritage buildings in the central business district. It has a population of roughly 6 million people, and is likely to grow an additional 2 million in the next 15 years. Constrained by natural boundaries and a historical urban core, planning for a growing population with a significant number of living below poverty lines is a challenge.The bulk of employment opportunities are located in the CBD, which is situated at the Northernmost edge of the city alongside the mountain and is surrounded by a number of smaller towns to the South. Faced with the challenge of moving people between residential areas and places of work, the city realised that a bus system would be the most cost-effective means of providing public transport, and would require significantly less land than a car-centred approach. Curitiba’s BRT model was adapted to include passing lanes for buses, as observed in Quito. The implementation of the Transmilenio and inclusion of sidewalks, cycle lanes and public transport routes into city design has created numerous opportunities for urban renewal. Areas once designated for roads are now used by cyclists and pedestrians, and a number of tree-lined avenues and public parks have been created around the stations and commuter routes. These green spaces attract members of the public, and the streets are once again busy with people instead of cars. To cater for growing demand for public transport, the city is now considering a metro system to service major routes”.

This article is extracted from the report: “What does the green economy mean for sustainable urban development”, by UN-habitiat, Expert Group Meeting, Nairobi, 17-18 February 2011

Waste collection on the water

According to the Dutch newspaper NRC innercity cargo transport by boats is the future. In the historic towncentres of the Randstad congestion is an everlasting problem. These historic centres have once been designed for transport by foot, horse and… on the water. Small scale cargotransport on the finegrain network of historic canals in the innercities is a Smart alternative for regular distribution with too big trucks in the congested towncentres. The city of Utrecht sets the example. In 1996 it already started with a municipal ‘beerboat’ to deliver drinks at restaurants and bars along the ‘Oude Gracht’. Now there is also a boat for waste collection and a new beerboat on electric power. So no innercity noise anymore. The waste collection boat has a crane to transport waste bins from the quai to the boat. The industrial design for the waste bins on wheels should actually be improved, because the small wheels cause difficulties on the cobbled innercity roads. The advantage of the wasteboat is the reduction of congestion, CO2 and fine dust. The boat seems to be slow, but is much quicker than transport by truck. Utrecht aims on the expansion of the fleet. The city is working on a full electric powered city distribution system. Their ‘cargohoppers’, small electric vehicles which with a tail of ‘wagons’, are the alternative for the truck. These heavy trucks demolish the pavement in the historic city centres. The political support of the whole project is there, because it combines clean, silent and energy efficient alternatives.

The above is a summary of an article in the Dutch newspaper NRC: “Afval- en bierboten tegen de files”, October 20th, 2012.

Street revitalization

On the 13th of October the Nieuwe Binnenweg in Rotterdam, one of the longest shoppingstreets in the Netherlands, reopened. After a period of refurbishment of public space, renovation of facades and attracting new entrepreneurs an impoverished street becomes an attractive city street again. What has been done to succesfully revitalize a run down street in the city?

Renovating shops and attracting entrepreneurs                                                         As part of the revitalization of the Nieuwe Binnenweg in Delfshaven entrepreneurs who want to invest in the quality, appearance, safetymeasures or location of their store on the Nieuwe Binnenweg have the opportunity to apply for a subsidy. Entrepreneurs can apply for a subsidy for 55% of their renovationcosts up to a maximum of € 15.000, – (excluding VAT) per application. As entrepreneurs want to move along the Nieuwe Binnenweg for being part of one of the ‘branded themes’ like fashion, food or adventure they can apply for up to 55% of their relocationcosts to a maximum of € 7.000, – (excluding VAT).

An active campaign, branding the street and a phonenumber                                 An active campaign and the branding which positions the run down street in the niche of creatives which live in the neighbourhoods around the street gained recognition which encouraged entrepreneurs to add to the concept. The type of shops which opened since the project started in 2008 are for example: a vintage tableware shop, an organic supermarket, an halal butcher, a furniture shop, an energy saving shop and LED advice, an eco design shop, south american fashion shop, an ice cream shop, a hip coffee shop and many more. Besides the campaign there is a phonenumber to call for if you are interested. That helps excited entrepreneurs to avoid bureaucracy.

Refurbishment of public space                                                                                   The refurbishment of public space add to the comprehensive concept which has been the objective. It consists out of the replacement of paving, pavement, street furniture and lighting. The paving was for example tarmac, but has been changed into clay brickwork. Also the tram tracks are updated, a little further apart, placed in such a way that the new trams of Rotterdam easily can pass eachother. The tramstops are raised and slightly expanded. The amount of electricitypoles for the tram has been reduced from 70 to 38 pieces


Climate Street

According to Amsterdam Smart City: “Together with entrepreneurs … the Utrechtsestraat, is transformed into a sustainable shopping street where innovative technologies are tested. …A group of 40 enthusiastic entrepreneurs have been selected as the frontrunners group. They all actively want to participate in making the Utrechtsestraat area more sustainable. The frontrunner group is closely involved in the project and act as test team and soundboard of the various sustainable initiatives. Also, a base measurement has been carried out, mapping out the current situation in the street concerning CO2 and NO2. This base measurement serves as a starting point for the introduction of the various solutions.  Sustainable initiatives in the Climatestreet:

1. Entrepreneurs:
– Carrying out of energy scans, mapping out the saving potential of the entrepreneur in the areas of lighting, heating and cooling inside the shop/restaurant
– Implementation of Smart meters that measure energy consumption and can be connected to energy-saving appliances
– Energy display providing feedback on energy consumption and giving personal energy-saving tips based on the information provided by the smart meter
– Smart Plugs that automatically dim or shut down un-used appliances and lights

2. Public space:
– Integrated sustainable street lighting using energy saving lamps that can be dimmed during quiet times at night
– Tram stops that are provided with energy saving lighting with minimal environmental impact from production to recycling. The lights installed at tram stops are solar powered
– Solar-powered BigBelly waste bins with built-in garbage compacters, allowing the bins to be emptied five times less frequently
– Reverse Osmosis water column on a central location that limits the miles that cleaning vehicles have to drive to refill

3. Logistics:
– Waste is collected using electric vehicles from a single provider, minimizing CO2 emissions
– Optimization of logistical processes through clustering