Entrevista a Antoni Martínez, Director General de l’Institut d’Investigació d’Energia de Catalunya (IREC)

How do electric vehicles contribute to the sustainable development of society?

Transport accounts for approximately 40% of all primary energy consumption in Catalonia, and is the main source of contaminant emissions in large cities. Electric vehicles provide an opportunity to significantly reduce pollution levels in cities and the dependence on fossil fuels, by integrating renewable energies into the transport sector. This will bring about a considerable reduction in our energy dependence and increase safety in supply, protect the environment and improve our trade balance.

Which areas of the e-mobility sector does IREC cover? Which projects related to this sector are you working on at present?

Over the past four years IREC has been working on e-mobility by participating in many projects that cover the entire value chain of this sector: from the technology in the vehicles to the integration of renewable energy for charging electric vehicles, and including intelligent charging systems and regulatory and legal aspects.

For example, we are now working on the VERDE project in the consortium led by SEAT

for the development of an electric car, the European project Green emotion for the study and demonstration of the interoperability of the e-mobility system in Europe or the project for drafting the White Paper on E-mobility in Catalonia led by the Catalan Energy Efficiency Cluster (CEEC).

Could you tell us something about one of these projects?

Based on its scope and volume, our most important project is Green eMotion. It is financed by the European Commission, as part of the seventh framework programme (FP7) and is focused on resolving one of the major technological challenges for electric vehicles: interoperability. The objective of this project, which involves automobile manufacturers, charging station manufacturers, electrical companies, local government authorities and research institutions, is to be able to drive an electric vehicle from Barcelona to any other place in the European Union without any problems in charging it. This means overcoming a series of goals that include the standardisation of charging systems and interoperability between charge station operators, which is better known as “roaming”.

What future do you envisage for sustainability mobility?

In today’s society, sustainable mobility is an obligation and e-mobility can play an important role in this setting. At the present time, important work has already been done in the research sector to create a technological offering that is sufficient for testing the acceptance of electric vehicles by the market. From now on, consumer satisfaction, the evolution of the European energy context (as regards energy prices) and the energy and environmental regulatory framework will be key factors in deciding whether there will now be a general transition to e-mobility or whether other technological options will prevail.

In your opinion, how will the research conducted by the IREC and in the scientific/university sector in general help to consolidate this new technology?

Through listening to the demands of the market, public energy efficiency promotion policies and protecting the environment. In this respect, the IREC is in a privileged position, as the institution was set up as a result of cooperation between the business sector, local government authorities and universities. We will therefore continue to apply these principles in defining the path to be taken after this first effort in research into e-mobility.

A study conducted by Lux Research foresees an annual growth of 18% in electric vehicles. What is your opinion about this?

It is true that certain market segments related to light vehicles (quads and motorcycles) are growing fast and the same can be said for vehicles that provide urban services (maintenance, waste management and collective transport). Nonetheless, market prospects for other relevant market gaps such as passenger cars are far from meeting the forecasts that were made two or three years ago. This could be due to different factors, for instance, the economic crisis, insufficient knowledge by citizens about the products available or difficulties in charging the vehicles at a domestic level (despite the fact that important improvements have been in this respect during recent years). The evolution of these factors will set the real trend, which we hope will be positive, for the sake of energy and the environment and for the benefit of Catalan industry as a whole.[:]

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