On October 272021, the Smart Mobility Embassy organized a webinar on the status of enforcement regarding plug-in hybrid vehicles in zero-emission zones. 

This webinar is part of a series of webinars, organized by the Smart Mobility Embassy, focusing on challenges in mobility around the world.   

Today’s poignant question is:  How can we prove that plug-in hybrid vehicles drive electric in Zero Emission Zones?  
Our three speakers are: Herman Wagter of Connekt, Janneke Nijssing – independent consultant, involved in several logistics projects as a project manager, and Erik Regterschot of Royal HaskoningDHV, an international engineering and project management consultancy. They are also involved in the PoC for the PHEV in the Netherlands. 

Currently, in the Netherlands over 123.000 PHEV are on the roads. From 2025, zero emission zones will be introduced in 30 to 40 of the largest municipalities. In some cities we already have environmental zones and road authorities enforce their use based on automatic number plate recognition. The challenge for PHEV is to verify the current fuel (fossil or electric) when entering a ZEZ. What technologies can contribute to allowing PHEV into zero emission zones? How do you share information from the vehicle with the authorities? Can you make PHEV switch automatically to electric when entering a ZEZ? Who is responsible for malfunctions in sensoring? And how to prove you did or did not comply to the regulations? 

Intelligent Access  
The reason for city zero emission zones is (partly) sustainability, because the total emission is quite large. But even more important is the quality of life in cities. The combustion engine is not compatible with the high standards of the young and ambitious urban careerists. To maintain the level of service is a big logistic challenge. The use of PHEV is a potential outcome. The problem is: you cannot see if it the vehicle is using its combustion engine or plug-in hybrid. 

Possible solution
This challenge resembles a problem that many cities are facing regarding the accession of heavy trucks and their weight, so the city can allow them specific routes that e.g., do/ do not cross old bridges. Technology is utilised to simplify access restrictions, monitoring and enforcement. Crucial for its successful application = data. How can it be shared in a safe and neutral way? 
Through a (neutral) service provider, certified by the government, as an intermediate between the government and the industry. Australia (Melbourne) has been working with this concept (Intelligent Access) for the past decade. In NL, we are working on a pilot that researches the viability of the concept and how to realize fraud protection. The results are expected later this year, so it can be discussed in the Dutch parliament. 

The role of the serviceprovider; is it safe? 
The regulation of access to the cities could be used for many other applications. Essentially, the private companies that are certified by the government to deliver the solution help the industry comply with the regulations. They have a double role: they help the transporter, and they help government.  There could be double checks, yet very little data is sent to the government. This is a very good balance. There is more potential in allowing specific routes/times, specific for a case, than ‘only’ the enforcement of limitations. 

In the Netherlands, cities are responsible for city rights and the enforcement of the low emission zones. Enforcement is one of the key tasks of the local government. Cities use ANPR (Automatic number plate recognition), and there is a level playing field for the transport sector. ANPR works with cameras that recognise number plates, it is more efficient to use ANPR than enforcement on the streets.  

We talk about logistics – is there a chance for personal mobility using the technique of logistics?
Absolutely. The climate is very important, quality of life too. So, we see ANPR as the first step. In the city of Amsterdam, vans and trucks are the first to become zero emission 2025. Next step is passenger cars, in 2030. We need far more intelligent ways of enforcement and regulation. The only way we have now is to use number plates, which tell you about the vehicle and its owner. But there’s a lot more to be known: is it using the electric or diesel motor? Which routes can be used for trucks? What is the actual weight of trucks? Is a taxi booked or not? So that you could use it to e.g. allow only taxis booked entrance into the city. We need parties who can ‘look into’ the car and tell us what is happening there. 

Proof of concept
We are working on the concept of service providers that can play the certifying role. This is the only that can share the information needed. Take for instance traffic lights and truck priority. As a truck company, you share your data with the cloud service provider, which does the communication with the traffic lights. You need the same for PHEV’s. You will not be sharing all your data. This concept is interesting for digital authorities who provide access to a city. Logistic IT solutions have a lot of data already, they only must certify it. We are therefore working on a proof of concept in a living lab, to develop a business model. We will facilitate the private sector to learn and which decisions we must make.  

How does the road user get informed, and whose responsibility is that?
Should the road user have to get informed? Information is for the authorities. They should inform the driver that they are entering a zero-emission zone. If one party facilitates; do you have to know it all? I don’t know. We should discuss that in living lab. 

Development in other countries? 
Technolution is involved in Swedish projects, but in short, such enforcement doesn’t exist in Europe. We are discovering how to deal with the situation. The example that has been running in Australia successfully for over 10 years is a steppingstone. Intelligent Access is for exceptional loads and heavy loads; we can learn how to apply that. There is  a potential role for the OEM’s as compliant serviceproviders. The concept doesn’t specify who must do it. The rest is a market decision.  

Bottle necks?
Main bottleneck: we have a lot of agreements to make. Do we have rules for zero emission? Enforcement based on data: how do we handle this? What do we have to change within the government? If the OEM is not the compliant SP, how can we share data? How to facilitate? And the what if cameras fail?  

Is the in-car technique ready for the next step, to make enforcement technique possible?
There is a lot of knowledge available. Batteries are good enough. Things happening in real life: what’s the difference between a mishap and a technical failure and deliberate failure in the system, how to detect? When anxious about potential accidents? What if you are running out of battery, how prove that you had to take a detour? These come from daily life events, we will have to make it practical. And there is a fantastic amount of knowledge in OEM’s to do so. 

For how long a period will we invest in PHEV’s?
The current research is based on practical use. General expectation > 5 to 7 years or more for PHEV’s. But if we only focus on PHEV’s, we miss other possibilities. So don’t look only at PHEV’s, but at intelligent access. Allow exceptions. 

Thanks to all for participating!

The Smart Mobility Embassy welcomes any news about developments abroad.