Today, according to data by the World Bank, over 54% of the world’s population live in urban areas and it is predicted that by 2030 the figure will rise to 60%. This has big environmental implications: the WHO calculates that 3 million deaths a year will be related to exposure to atmospheric pollution.
Given this alarming situation, in 2005 the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group was created, made up of 92 cities throughout the world that are committed to combatting climate change. Just to give you an idea of their importance, these cities represent one out of every twelve people on the planet and they account for up to one quarter of the world GDP.
The mayors of Paris, Quito, Auckland, Copenhagen, Mexico City, London, Seattle, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Milan and Barcelona all met at one of the most recent events by the group, held last October in Paris, under the slogan #Together4Climate. The meeting served to decide how cities can continue to play a key role in the fight against climate change and most of the selected measures were aimed at new forms of sustainable mobility, whether through new urban mobility plans or the purchase of new sustainable vehicles.
One of the agreements that drew the most attention was that, from 2025, all new buses purchased by the public authorities of the member cities to renew their public transport fleets must be powered by clean energies.
In this respect, Barcelona has already achieved a great deal. Almost one third of the fleet of buses run by its metropolitan transport company, TMB, currently run on natural gas. The fleet also includes 209 hybrid and two fully electric models.
These two buses, manufactured by Solaris, have been covering the H16 route (Zona Franca zone – Forum) for the past year as an experiment and they have been a hit success.
In fact, in July, TMB reached a decision regarding a tender for the purchase of seven new electric buses as a first step in transforming the H16 bus line into the first fully electric one. This is also partly thanks to the very positive results of Endesa’s ultra-fast charge station for pantographs in Calle Cisell of the Zona Franca zone, where the buses can recharge their batteries to 90% of their capacity in just 5 minutes, the waiting time at the last stop of the H16 bus line in Plaza del Nuevo.
According to TMB, there are still 11 buses to go until this line is fully electrified. These will be purchased over the next few years, together with another ultra-fast charge station powered by energy from Llacuna Underground Station’s electrical sub-station. With this system, the energy from the underground can be used to recharge the batteries of the new e-buses.
Apart from the agreements made by the C40 Group, Barcelona forms part of a European project, together with other European cities like London, Glasgow, Stockholm, Münster, Bonn, Pilsen and Cáller, to promote zero-emission urban transport (the ZeEUS or Zero Emission Urban Bus System project). The project is funded by the EU and the International Association of Public Transport, which aspires to see the electrification of all Europe’s bus lines.
The cities of the future will need to take the lead in these increasingly necessary changes so that urban areas are no longer a focus of pollution and instead become areas powered by green energy systems. To achieve this goal, one of the key steps to be taken is the change-over of public transport fleets to low-emission vehicles, a process which Barcelona is already engaged in.