Italian author Italo Calvino envisioned what invisible cities might look like in his writings. The “Republic of Ideas” Festival, which took place in Bologna (Italy), talked about the most intelligent ones. It's all thanks to the guests of the panel dedicated to sustainable mobility (on 16 June) who offered up a scenario that is much closer, and shared, than one might think. In the future cities will be less polluted and vehicles will become a new item to be shared and connected with other services on the web.
The city of Bologna buzzed with various ideas. The national government has just launched the roadmap on sustainable mobility, and Antonio Decaro, chairman of ANCI (the National Association of Italian Cities), has welcomed it for setting urban centres free, focusing on their inhabitants, and promoting a form of mobility that supports the most vulnerable people (like pedestrians and cyclists) where registered vehicles will no longer be the rule.
“In Berlin very few people purchase new cars now. The idea that our cities must be more oriented towards the human scale is therefore already on everybody’s minds,” stated Minister of Transport Graziano Delrio, who also confirmed the government’s commitment to electrification.
And not only that. In fact, the Salerno-Reggio Calabria expressway, up until now the biggest unfinished public project in Italy-will become the first Italian smart road to test a car without a driver thanks to both smart sensors and cameras. It will extend over 400 kilometers with a last-generation wireless service allowing interaction between the road, the vehicle, and users’ smartphones so as to collect and spread real-time weather information and viability news.
Cities of the future will certainly be sustainable, and therefore cleaner as well as less congested. The CEO of Toyota Italia, Andrea Carlucci, told the story of a bet made on the hydrogen-vehicles spread. Whereas the Chairman of the Italian Vehicles Association (ACI), Angelo Sticchi Damiani, called for government incentives for the transition towards hybrid and electric cars (“the Italian car fleet is, on average, over 10 years old, and thus one of the oldest in Europe”), Francesco Venturini, Head of Global e-Solutions at Enel, asked people to look to the horizon instead as the car of tomorrow will no longer be a mere means of transportation but a package service sold together with the vehicle. One need only think of the Vehicle to Grid technology launched by Enel in Denmark last year, which then moved on to the UK, France, Germany, and now Italy thanks to the electric car sharing company pilot project in partnership with Nissan Italy.
Thanks to V2G, the e-car becomes a mobile battery device that interacts with the electric grid in a smart way and allows the stabilization of power fluxes: the car can stock energy during peak-off hours of consumption and return any excess quantities. “An electrified system where the vehicle consumes and stores energy by promoting service exchanges with the grid,” Venturini explained.
“The car of the future will be part of the smart grid,” according to the CEO of Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian State Railways) Renato Mazzoncini. “The moment citizens arrive at the station they will park their electric car to recharge it, thus allowing the energy to be transferred.” At the same time, the railway will not only connect cities but continue to get more involved in urban areas themselves, as it has with the over-ground light rail train (see Milan’s line M5). The tale of the future of mobility no longer encompasses the environmental issue only. As Venturini explained, the price of renewable energy has been cut in half in only 10 years and is gradually collapsing. Renewables have become affordable and will become more and more convenient, so we have to look at a system that will be increasingly electrified and this represents a great opportunity for Italy.
“Enel, the first electric utility Group in the world as per stock exchange capitalization, has decided to launch a national plan for the installation of rechargeable infrastructures not only in Italy but in all those countries where the Group operates, since the future will arrive there as well.”
A future which, however, has already happened: on 14 April 2018, the Formula E World Championship for single-seater electric cars will sneak silently through the streets of Rome, the city that dreamed of hosting the Formula 1 Grand Prix just a few years ago.
The car’s future is no longer what it used to be.