“Being ‘Smart’ means doing more with less”

In today’s interview we are lucky to have Jaime Ruiz in Connected Mobility’s blog. Jaime is Coordinator of Energy Group in the Spanish Network of Smart Cities (RECI) wich reunites 81 cities in Spain in order to work toguether and share innovative experiences and initiatives. He has also coordinated European projects related to sustainable mobility and electric vehicles from the Murcia Energy ans Climate Change Agency. His passion for smart cities and electric mobility is contagious and he has deep knowledgde from inside the sector.

Jaime Ruiz Huescar- mobility expert

Hello Jaime, briefly, tell us a little about yourself, about your professional career, what has brought you here …

First of all I want to congratulate you for the work you are doing for facilitating opportunities in the new urban mobility sector and for your career. I have been following you for a long time!

For my own part, I can tell you I started working on sustainable mobility since I joined the Murcia Energy and Climate Change Agency. I soon started coordinating European projects related to sustainable mobility and electric vehicle, which allowed me to get to know and make contacts with other European cities, organizations and networks. That was great for my career, I learnt some valuable lessons and I got involved in initiatives to which I could not have access in any other way.

Progressively I have put my hands and time in projects related to new urban mobility services such as car/bike sharing, fleet management and Smart mobility in general terms and always from the city perspective due to my position of e-mobility and sustainable mobility project manager.

Moreover, I also try to combine my role as city manager with participating in international events, conferences or congresses where to meet other professionals, companies and keep up to date to the new trends, services and business models around the smart mobility sector, You know better than anyone that this sector is evolving very fast and if you do not follow its pace you fall behind.

‘Smart city ‘is a relatively new term and, depending on who you ask, you can focus in one way or another. How would you define it?

Jaime Ruiz Huescar- mobility expert

When someone asks me that I always explain the same thing, something that I have been able to meditate during the years that I have been coordinating Smart city projects. Being “Smart” means doing more with less, undertaking projects or initiatives strategically, with a plan and objectives that are perfectly aligned with the particular needs of your city and your citizens, finally, it consists of making the best possible use of your resources (financial, manpower, etc), it has nothing to do with introducing more technology or digitizing everything.

Logically, ICTs (information and communication technologies) are a perfect ally to improve public services in cities and can boost paperless processing within the city council or strengthen the communication channels between the city and its citizens, all of these type of projects have a certain implementation cost but maintenance and scalability costs are lower than other types of projects or services, this is essential to ensure sustainability in the projects undertaken by the cities. It is not possible to think only about new projects, it is also necessary to assume the maintenance cost of those that are already being offered.

Tell us about your participation as Coordinator of Energy Group in the Spanish Network of Smart Cities (RECI), what is it? What is the group’s function?

It is something that gives me great personal satisfaction. RECI is composed of the 81 most important cities in Spain, I humbly think that put all these cities to work together deserves much credit because they have very different circumstances, needs and goals and make them sharing knowledge and collaborate seamlessly require a lot of effort.

Murcia and Rivas Vaciamadrid coordinate the energy group, and we share innovative experiences or initiatives from which we can learn from each other, encouraging other cities to replicate what worked well and avoid making the same mistakes of others.

Periodically we hold technical committees meetings where I present the advances and the work done in the energy group during that period. As you can imagine I also follow closely the mobility group because I am interested in everything that other cities of Spain do in sustainable mobility and electric vehicle mainly. In October we will held a meeting of the technical committee in Murcia so we are already arranging that event.

During the first half of the year, hybrid and electric registrations have increased more than 40% in Spain, but the numbers are still very small. How do you think this market will evolve in the coming years?

recarga vehiculos electricos

The evolution is important but not spectacular. The electric vehicle will dominate the streets of our cities in the coming years, no one doubts that, but we must still being awareness of the barriers that e-mobility must overcome yet. For instance, people don’t consider buying an electric car in case they don’t know how to charge it or where to charge it. Therefore it is crucial to inform and provide support to neighborhood communities so they can adapt the infrastructure of their shared garage facilities in order to make electric charging possible and feasible.

People usually tend to think it is complicated, expensive and that might trigger problems with neighbors that is not like that. Secondly, there is little options and available models of electric cars in car dealerships and on top of that in many cases the seller is not willing to make an effort and try to persuade you to buy an electric car because it is more complicated for them and they know better conventional combustion models.

The turning point will arrive at the end of 2019 when there is a greater offer, fair and lower prices and many cars with 60 kwh batteries (or above) that will provide 400 km of actual range. By the way I am one of those who think that it is not necessary to cover cities with EV charging points, I think it is necessary that large fuel companies and electrical utilities take the lead in installing fast chargers and be capable to build a proper EV charging stations network useful to connect interurban territories.

The electric vehicle is more like a smartphone than like the old car concept of the 20th century. Those who have driven a TESLA will understand that statement. When you leave the house with your mobile phone, are you looking to recharge it at each corner? You charge it at home during the night or at your work place, the same must happen with your electric car.

And in Europe? The increase in sales has also been 43% in the first half but we are far behind in terms of the number of electric vehicles compared to China. We’ll arrive on time? How will China and other similar countries influence this market?

Europe cannot compete against China in this market. China has an aggressive policy towards foster the development of e-mobility, they have stablished cuotes for electric vehicles sales in the country, that’s something any EU country has done yet.

In 2014 there were only 50,000 electric vehicles sold, but in 2018 that number has increased 10 times. Each of the next few years will see the sector’s market share grow by 40 percent,

Two days ago, Theresa May announced that the U.K has plans for providing £1.5 billion for ultra-low-emission vehicles by 2020, and creating a £400 million fund to invest in the roll-out of charging point infrastructure. This is a clear and strong political commitment that many other countries in Europe would have to follow, however it is almost nothing compared with the plans of China where the “Development and Reform Commission” announced a new $47 billion fund that’s designed to support the development of EV technologies. In addition, many regional governments have announced similar initiatives in the last year, boosting the electric car market in the world’s second-largest national economy.

Another eye-opening fact is that China currently has 487 electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers, most of which were founded just few months ago mostly due to numerous subsidies available through the Chinese government’s “Made in China 2025” plan.

Make 3 forecasts about electric mobility and smart cities 10 years from now. How will we move? How will our cities have changed?

  1. There will be more and more new personal mobility devices. Urban mobility is evolving towards bespoke personal mobility. Some years ago nobody knew what a hooverboard was, today you can see them in our streets and parks, something similar is happening with e-scooters there is clearly room for this type of personal and clean means of transport. The only issue is that cities can’t adapt to the needs of society that fast.
  2. In 10 years time, the electric vehicles will be used largely in cities of developed countries. It won’t be possible to get access to the city centres of many cities around the world with a combustion car.
  3. There will be less private vehicles, car ownership is proven to decrease sharply in developed countries and more shared mobility systems will arise. The concept or the business models related to mobility as a service will domain the market and auto makers will provide different services where “pay as you use” will define how we are going to interact with vehicles.

What do you think about the role of mobility startups in this process of transformation so big that we are living?

mobility startups

They have a role on this industry undoubtedly. As smart mobility is a new industry, young people are better prepared and ready to set the rules of many new mobility business. Fortunately Spain has a lot of talented and brilliant young entrepreneurs and “HUB mobility conectada” is the perfect scenario to point them out and provide them visibility in this already competitive sector.

I am fascinated of how the talent and good ideas can become a fruitful business these days in urban mobility, we must take advantage of that, more than ever being successful has to do nothing with money and resources but brilliant people. I also think that all who are in this sector must be proud of how their work is impacting in the quality of life of people across many cities in the world. That feeling drives me forward every day.

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