It is an unavoidable commitment. The European Commission's plan to put an end to the sale of combustion vehicles in 2035 requires stepping on the accelerator in the transformation of a sector that in Spain accounts for 11% of GDP and generates two million jobs. During the first '2035, Time to Move' forum organized by XL Semanal, experts and managers from the sector discussed the development of the electric vehicle as a strategic pillar for economic recovery.
Jesús Alonso, president and CEO of Ford Spain, participated in the meeting, sponsored by Bridgestone, Ford and Iberdrola, at a time when the company has placed Spain at the European epicenter of sustainable mobility by choosing the Almufasses factory ( Valencia) for its two new models. "All the investment will be a boost for the Valencian economy and as a result for all of Spain." "The automobile industry generates long-term and indefinite employment, it is committed to integrating the digital component into new jobs," he assured during his speech.
The manager was satisfied with Ford's commitment to the Valencia factory. “It is difficult to compete with a country like Germany, but in this case it has worked out well,” he said.
The event was opened by the General Secretary for Transport and Mobility, María José Rallo, who recalled that the European Commission's plan is to have 130 million electric vehicles circulating on our roads by 2035. "We are in uncertain times in terms of energy , but decarbonization is an unavoidable goal. The electric vehicle is the great lever of decarbonization in the mobility of light transport », she assured. However, she indicated that there are three brakes that can stop the objective: the price, the autonomy and the charging points.
The price gap
The experts gathered at the forum agreed with this vision, recalling that in Spain only one in ten vehicles is electric. In Norway, nine out of ten. For José López-Tafall, director general of ANFAC, "they are still more expensive than combustion vehicles."
Considers that tax aid and incentives for purchase are scarce in Spain, as well as recharging infrastructure. López-Tafalla also pointed to the need to retire the vehicle fleet in Spain. «The emissions do not go down what they should because we have not renovated the park; we must remove the fear of people to buy an electrified vehicle », he assured.
In the same sense, Jesús Alonso from Ford, which currently has three models of electrified vehicles with 68 kilometers of real autonomy, manifested itself. "The administration should be the first to move towards the electric car very quickly," he assured during the meeting. Ford's commitment, in this sense, is that the prices between combustion and electric vehicles "will soon be equal".
At this point, María José Rallo recalled that the Government will allocate 12,000 million euros in thirteen tractor projects associated with the PERTE of the electric vehicle, with 2,000 million euros in incentives for the acquisition of electric vehicles and recharging points. "We cannot miss the opportunity, we have to invest quickly, well, all working together, in public-private partnership," she added.
Ford is moving full speed ahead in this regard. As Alonso recalled, the company has brought forward the objectives of the EC for 2035 to 2030. "You have to move quickly, not only from the point of view of the automobile industry, but also to protect the environment," he warned. The manager indicated that, for his target date, “all the vehicles we sell in the passenger car segment will be electric. And by 2035 all commercials. To do this, Ford will promote that by 2026 all its vehicles for sale are capable of achieving zero emissions.
For his part, Rafael del Río. Technical director of AEDIVE, was more optimistic when indicating that the difference between combustion and electric is getting smaller "because the manufacturers are making a very big effort in research and in compressing the margins".
Impact on employment
From Ford, Jesús Alonso acknowledged that "the move to the electric and connected vehicle will bring about changes in manufacturing", so he did not rule out "undertaking restructuring processes to respond to these challenges".
The experts gathered at the meeting agreed that this transition process will bring "job losses" in the sector, which will add to the pressure exerted at this point by the robotization of the industry that already requires less labor. For this reason, the experts advocated "investing money in training to facilitate the transfer of jobs" towards electromobility and recharging infrastructure, battery manufacturing or digitization in mobility.
The deployment of the recharging infrastructure was the focus of a good part of the event. As Del Río recalled, before the end of the year "there is an obligation that in any car park that is not residential, one of every 40 spaces is electrified and one of every 20 in the case of public administration."
The expert indicated that, currently, the autonomy of the electric car is 377 kilometers. In other words, this type of vehicle is a solution for short journeys, "but the deployment of recharging points for longer journeys must be accelerated."
During the second roundtable discussion, where the upcoming urban challenge was analyzed, the expert Carlos Rico, Policy Officer at Transport & Environment, explained the regulations that Brussels will impose on member states so that, as electrification progresses in the country, , the recharging infrastructure advances at par. "Not all countries can follow the same pace, so flexibility needs to be provided so that very strict deployment targets are not set for all countries equally."
At the moment, the objective of the EC is to create a minimum recharging park of 1,400 kilowatts (kw) in rail every 60 km by 2025 and 3,500 kW by 2030 in the trans-European transport network. In the Spanish case, for example, the Mediterranean corridor would be included, which should be given priority in infrastructure development.
"We see the electric car as the clear option for decarbonization," Rico said. A vision with which Nacho Rabadán, general director of CEEES, did not agree. "No one has been able to explain to me why the ideal and perfect solution is the electric vehicle," he criticized. In his opinion, for electric mobility to work, «we depend on all the gear parts working ideally and we don't take into account that setbacks can happen. Let's remember that the best-selling car last year was a diesel from more than ten years ago.
The representative of the gas stations acknowledged that "for service stations the electric car is the ideal solution", but warned that "we must analyze the situation we have as a country, if families have the resources to buy an electric vehicle at a time crisis like the current one. "People drive coffee machines, a third of the best-selling vehicles last year were over 15 years old," he insisted. He also warns that "recharging point deployments do not work", criticizing the difficulties for partners to start up their recharging points. "I'm sorry to say, but the market is not mature." "Each link in the chain has to be profitable, and that includes top-up services."
Mobility and city of the future
The electric vehicle will not be the only means of transport that will change the cities of the future. There are currently many companies developing projects that will completely transform mobility. Among them, Iberdrola, Miriam Gil from the company's Smart Cities business, who ensures that "the city of the future is going to be digital and connected, with the citizen as the center of everything."
The same vision is shared by Luis Vidal, founder of the Luis Vidal + Architects Studio, but this time for airspace, another of the great challenges for sustainable mobility. The expert is working on a project to develop airports for space aircraft, whose objective is to connect two points in the hemisphere in approximately two and a half hours.
A project as ambitious as the Hyperloop developed by, among others, the company Zeleros Hyperloop. Ingrid de Keijser, the company's director of press and public relations, explained the model that aspires to create a train that travels through a tube with goals as ambitious as transporting citizens from Barcelona to Paris in just 90 minutes. "In Europe there is already a Hyperloop regulation committee so that in 2030 it focuses on cargo transport and, later, on passengers," Keijser said. "The ideal range per journey is between 400 and 1,500 kilometers, with which it is very likely that we will leave Spain."
At this point, the idea of the Hyperloop is that it is complementary to other means of transport such as the AVE. "It will be an affordable medium, with prices similar to those of high speed," he assured during his speech.
Shared mobility is also a future trend that was analyzed during the event by Florent Bannwarh, director of operations at BlaBlaCar Iberia. "76% of trips in Europe are made by car, which will continue to be a very important player in long-distance mobility," he assured during his speech. The manager considers that "what does not make sense now will not make sense in the future, with average occupancies per car that barely exceed 1.7 people per long-distance vehicle." "Optimizing our mobility resources is key," he assured, recalling that the company is already testing shared car models for shorter distances than those currently offered with its service.
Regarding the electric vehicle, Iberdrola recalled that the company maintains an investment of 150 million euros to deploy 150,000 charging points over the next few years in homes and businesses. Miriam Gil explained that the entity also has two electrification projects in the Mediterranean corridor, with the construction of higher power recharging points for trucks.
Within its strategy, it has also created one of the most competitive top-up rates on the market for its customers. Under the Electric Vehicle Plan, they can recharge for 3 cents per kW if they do so at night. "To travel 100 km would cost them just 48 cents," the directive indicates.
On this point, Gil agreed with other speakers that the main barriers to the penetration of electric vehicles are prices and the lack of support for users at the time of purchase. "Only 30% of the population has the capacity to have a recharging point at home and the deadlines for permits for these facilities can reach 20 months," he criticized.
The expert Carlo Ratti, architect of Carlo Ratti Associati and promoter of the MIT Senseable City Lab, was in charge of putting the finishing touch to the meeting that brought together directors and main managers of the sector at the Vocento headquarters in Madrid.
In his vision of the mobility of the future, he advocated taking advantage of roads to 'collect' energy through the use of solar panels. And he called for thinking beyond cars to encourage this sustainable mobility. “We must think about bicycles and other projects like the one we have been developing for four years in the Netherlands, with autonomous zero-emission robots to transport passengers on demand, like a taxi, through the canals,” he explains. The company also uses its prototypes in other segments such as garbage collection.