- Start date: 1 June 2021
- End date: 31 May 2025
- Funder: EPSRC
- Value: £1,707,997
- Partners and collaborators: University of Brighton, University of Oxford, University of Brighton, Technical University of Eindhoven
- Primary investigator: Dr Eva Heinen
- Co-investigators: Professor Jillian Anable
- External co-investigators: Christian Brand, Maria Sourbati, Jillian Anable, Sally Cairns, Frauke Behrendt
The UK transport sector lags behind all other sectors in its achievement of energy diversification and carbon emission reductions to date, with emissions from transport essentially unchanged since the benchmark year of 1990. The Committee on Climate Change has been very critical of this failure and identified electrically-assisted scooters and bikes as part of solutions that need to be urgently accelerated.
Indeed, the UK lags behind other countries in the uptake of a range of innovative light vehicles for both passenger and freight applications. Examples include electrically-assisted: bicycles, cargo bicycles, push scooters, skateboards, trikes, quadricycles, hoverboards etc. These involve some electrical assistance, as well as some energy expenditure by the user. Hence, we class these vehicles as light electric vehicles for active travel (LEVATs). They enable people to cycle, scoot, skate or otherwise travel more easily or enjoyably than conventional walking or cycling. Their power source provides the opportunity to link to a variety of digital technologies - from unlocking shared vehicles to 'track-and-trace' systems for delivery companies, to map systems or health feedback tools for users - what ELEVATE refers to as 'digital' travel.
Innovation at the interface of e-mobility and digital technologies plays a key role in the uptake of these novel modes, with energy, IT and transport industries as key players. Increased uptake of these vehicles has significant potential for reducing mobility-related energy demand and carbon emissions, especially when users switch from non-active modes such as cars or vans.
The aim of this project is to better understand these opportunities - the technological and business options and specifications, where and who they might appeal to, what trips they could be used for, how far they could replace conventional motor vehicle trips - and some of the challenges that accompany them - such as overall energy usage, safety and regulatory issues, digital integration, physical environment design, battery standardisation and behavioural inertia.
After developing typologies and technology assessments based on multiple criteria, the empirical end user research will consist of surveys (aiming for 1,200 responses), demonstration days (aiming to engage at least 300 people) and longer trials with at least 60 private individuals in 3 cities in England throughout 2020 and 2021. Quantitative surveys and in-depth interviews will be undertaken with participants before and after usage to understand changes in user perceptions and experience, triangulated with GPS tracking of the trial vehicles and contextual data (e.g. weather, hilliness).
As part of the work, we will develop new safety training resources for each mode, drawing on, and adapting, existing UK initiatives and international experience and working towards certified schemes. Freight applications in the logistics industry will be analysed through expert interviews and case studies. A number of technology and demand scenarios will assess the whole lifecycle health and environmental impacts. This will include work with the World Health Organization expert group to extend the HEAT tool (which enables users without expertise in impact assessment to conduct economic assessments of the health impacts of walking or cycling) to include these types of vehicles.
This project, ELEVATE, which stands for electric light electric vehicles for active travel, is supported by a range of partners - including the three local authorities, Sustrans and the World Health Organization - and will be guided by an advisory panel. We will also engage with a range of industry stakeholders, through the Transport Systems Catapult, Clean Growth UK and other means. We also envisage international engagement in the work, given the rapidly evolving and growing nature of the topic, and the lack of substantial academic literature on the implications of these innovative light vehicles for energy demand, mobility and climate change.