CoMotion LA Live! streamed from 17-19 November. There were tracks for sustainability, ecosystems, venture capital and equity in urban mobility. There were also heated discussions about the future of electrification.
“Our goal is to connect public and private leaders in the mobility space to accelerate the adoption of new ideas,” says Jonah Bliss, Vice President of New Media & Marketing at CoMotion LA.
The intention of the event is to cover mobility from across the globe from Europe, Asia and South America to broaden people’s horizons. Due to the pandemic, CoMotion LA Live was designed from the ground up as a virtual event, says Bliss, who hopes the quality comes through.
“Transportation is a problem for all cities. We need to create good solutions and have them broadly deployed,” says Bliss, “The electrification trend is an important DNA to accelerate sustainable mobility.”
CoMotion LA Live started up with praise from Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti.
“We are proud that CoMotion LA started in Los Angeles,” says Garcetti.
“There is no question we need to innovate our transportation nationally globally and locally. We need to reimagine our future and address climate change,” proclaimed Garcetti.
Last year at CoMotion LA, Garcetti says the Urban Movement Labs was launched. It plans to knit together the fabric of the transportation system as a low-noise all-electric accessible and affordable option for getting around.
In a panel titled ‘Electric Frenzy’ panellists discussed, transportation solutions, economics, electrification problems and solutions.
“The climate crisis is sooner than we imagined,” says Matt Petersen, President and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). LACI has been advocating for a cleaner future in Los Angeles.
LACI has been working on strong goals for 2028 when the LA Olympics comes to town. It requested, along with the Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP), a $150 Billion transportation federal stimulus package.
“Los Angeles and California can lead the way. It’s not just for EVs but for fleets,” says Peterson, “However there is an enormous amount of work to do.”
Stefan Knupfer, Senior Partner, McKinsey, talked about the importance of cities in electrification. He noted that 60% of the population lives in cities that produce 70% of the greenhouse gases.
“Every city is focusing on the same issues if you find an integrated solution it will make it better for all the population,” says Knupfer
Juan Pablo Soulier, Infrastructure Strategy Lead, Waymo says that Waymo is creating the most experienced driver and is transitioning more electric vehicles into its fleet.
“There are two roadblocks to electrification – battery technology and charging infrastructure. If we want to keep our vehicles on the road for a very long time then we need faster charging,” says Soulier. He noted Waymo, now part of Alphabet which was formerly part of Google, has been on the road since 2009 and travelled 20 million miles.
Los Angeles – in Need of Support
Electrification can help the economy in the Los Angeles basin. Including the surrounding counties, Los Angeles has the GDP of a major country, says Stephen Cheung, Chief Operation Officer, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.
“Through electrification, we can create great economic opportunities for Los Angeles,” says Cheung.
Electric cars and trucks will need charging and can break. An entrepreneur from LACI’s incubator projects, Kameale Terry, CEO & Co-Founder, ChargerHelp!, Inc. has created a solution.
Terry says that one of the major issues in charging infrastructure is that sometimes it can be days or even months for an EV charger to be fixed. The company trains people with critical skills from under-served communities to provide on-demand charger repair.
LACI helped to support black-owned, family-owned and community-owned South LA Café by providing free electric Circuit rides to the café and also launching an e-bike station there, says Petersen. The transportation allows the community to pick up groceries at the café.
Investors should change how they view people from disadvantaged communities, Terry commented.
“Investors need to understand the framework of the communities and skills they create. We have to invest more in our communities. We can look at people’s skills and train them. It’s our chance to do better right now. We have to support underserved communities because it’s the climate and it’s killing us,” says Terry.
One of the problems has been that electric vehicles are not very attractive however in the next one to two years there will be many attractive electric vehicles, comments Stefan Knupfer.
Another problem is that there needs to be more fast-charging infrastructure. However it can take one and a half to two years to install a fast charger, says Soulier. He sees that it is possible to help with the grid through vehicle-to-grid and battery energy storage.
Cheung is hopeful about the recent presidential elections. He notes that Mayor Garcetti was on the election committee for Joe Biden and that Kamala Harris is from the state of California. Previously, Biden and President Obama supported TIGER grants for transportation. Since the presidential election, Cheung is seeing renewed interest from foreign companies who want to return to Los Angeles.
“We still need to have federal tax incentives for EVs. We need to get more creative about EV car sharing for families and e-bikes for the public transportation,” says Peterson.
Package delivery should be consolidated and streamlined, says Knupfer. He reports that, at his home, he receives five or six different deliveries a day.
Due to Covid-19, Los Angeles lost over 400,000 jobs. “Los Angeles needs support from state, local and private industry to collaborate. We need to cut the red tape to create win-win situations. Joe Biden, please invest in us. Invest in us soon,” pleads Cheung.
We are in a sea change in the way that people get around in their cities, states and countries.
Other forms of electrification are e-scooters and e-bikes. Wayne Ting, CEO of Lime, offered insight to first and last mile micro-mobility. First, he had to explain what everyone wanted to know—“What happened with the dumping in a landfill of the Jump bikes when Lime acquired Jump from Uber?”
Ting says he takes full responsibility for the destroyed scooters. When the deal was made with Uber’s assets it wasn’t clear what the assets were. When he saw the photos he contacted Uber and said he would take any scooter or bike in any condition. Now the plan for all end-of-life of Lime vehicles is that they will be recycled.
“I share the anger of the people who saw the Jump bikes in the landfill. It will never happen again,” assured Ting.
At the beginning of the micro-mobility movement, the e-scooters only lasted about a month and now the scooters last two years and are repairable. Lime saw a decline in ridership due to the Covid-19 lockdown until riders realized that e-scooters and e-bikes are safe single occupancy transportation. Lime was offering free rides for essential workers and some cities have subsidized use. Ting says Lime has greater acceptance in Europe than the U.S.
“We’ve opened up our platform to all kinds of clean vehicles. An e-scooter is 5% of the carbon footprint of a car. We care deeply about carbon impact,” says Ting. He points out that one of the problems with cars is that most of the energy of a gas-powered car is that it is moving the 5000-pound weight of the vehicle.
Ting says the future of transportation needs to be shared, electric, low-carbon and lightweight.
What Will Be the Future of CoMotion’s Influence?
The conversation does not end with the event on Thursday for CoMotion. “It’s a long road to sustainable mobility. We hope that people will read the CoMotion newsletter and attend our webinars. When we created the theme of ‘The New Deal for Mobility’, we were prescient of the time,” says Jonah Bliss.
“We are in a sea change in the way that people get around in their cities, states and countries,” adds Bliss, “We are optimistic that we’re going to see investment in public transportation, electric vehicles, new mobility and improving our existing infrastructure.”