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Article based on exclusive interview with Jorge Suárez, Commercial Manager of Electromobility and Urban Transportation at Volvo Group México.
Q: Which cities have you identified as optimum locations for electromobility technology?
A: London was Volvo’s first major market, and due to the success achieved there, we were awarded a contract to supply 400 hybrid buses toward the authorities’ goal of having 1,600 hybrid units on London’s streets by 2016. Other cities with similar mobility and environmental concerns will undoubtedly follow suit, and Latin American cities have the biggest need for our solutions, as they have higher population rates. Cities such as Bogota have hydro-powered energy matrixes, which becomes a major driver in energy shifts, allowing cities to adapt and transition to electric-based vehicles much faster. In contrast, Mexico’s energy base is currently 75% powered by fossil fuels, pinpointing a need for a major energy transition. There are over 2,000 Volvo hybrid buses operating globally, 400 of which are located in London and another 500 in Bogota.
Mexico’s environmental agenda pushed state governments to implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems in Leon, followed by the capital city’s Metrobús project in 2005. However, rather than advancing new technology, the government’s initial premise was to minimize the presence of privately owned buses, namely Mexico City’s microbuses. Five Mexican cities now run operational BRT systems, namely Mexico City, Leon, Guadalajara, Puebla, and the State of Mexico. In addition, Bus with High Levels of Service (BHLS) systems were implemented in cities including Tijuana, Cancun, and Tampico, to name a few.
Q: How do you suggest cities overcome barriers to technology introduction and mobility solutions?
A: Problems arise when governments that have invested in these solutions do not know how to move forward with innovative processes. In Mexican cities, sustainability has become a major motor for innovation. So much so that state governments have begun an unspoken competition to be the most advanced in sustainable mobility. Globally, cities participating in the C40 City Awards are involved in the sustainability race, pushing the market toward new technology like ours. The Clean Bus Declaration commits 40 city mayors to integrate low-emission buses in their fleets by 2020, provided financial support is granted. The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) surveyed 70 public transport authorities regarding their future environmental agenda, and most of them stressed the importance of increasing electric vehicles in their cities.
There is a common misconception that sustainable transport is only equal to reducing emissions, whereas energy efficiency and noise minimization are equally important in the equation. There is still a lot of work to do to properly educate the public about sustainable mobility.
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