How Barcelona plans to go electric

7 July 2021

Spain’s second-largest city, Barcelona, has set its sights on becoming a poster child for sustainable mobility in the past few years. Boasting southern Europe’s biggest Low Emissions Zone and a pioneer of the much-publicised Superblock concept, Barcelona is well on its way to this goal.

“This is a Mediterranean city. Like other Mediterranean cities, people like to walk in the street,” says Rossend Bosch, Project Manager at the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB).

Barcelona’s Rambla, one of Europe’s most famous pedestrian promenades, is a prime example of this. Inside the city, just 20% of daily trips are made by car.

In the Metropolis with its 3.2 million inhabitants, however, the share of car use compared to other forms of mobility rises to 30%, according to Carles Conill, Director of Sustainable Mobility at AMB. Private car use has led to serious issues around congestion and pollution.

Fighting air pollution

“Nowadays, 70% of the population are exposed to higher levels of NO2,” says Marc Iglesias, Head of Sustainable Mobility at AMB. The Metropolis has measures in place to mitigate this poor air quality, but AMB realises that behavioural change is necessary to tackle these issues.

“The use of public transport is not enough to decrease the number of vehicles, and this is a problem we have to solve in the next years,” says Bosch. “One of the strategies to reduce this is to introduce e-Mobility into the mobility area.”

Like many cities in Europe, Barcelona is looking to take advantage of the mass enthusiasm for electric vehicles in the European market, with one million electric cars expected to be bought in Europe in 2021 and sales of electric bikes to hit 13.5 million units a year by 2030.

But eMobility in Barcelona is still not at the level of some of the city’s Northern European counterparts. “Barcelona is one of the first cities in the country to have an electric infrastructure,” says Silvia Valero, Project Manager at AMB. “But we have less than 40% of electric vehicles than the average in Europe.”

Innovative solutions

To push people to make the switch to electric, Barcelona is one of six other European cities in the USER-CHI project that focusses on charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. The city will test solutions such as a smart planning tool to determine the best places for new charging points, a wireless charging solution for e-cars and public charging hubs for e-bikes and scooters that use renewable energy.

“Now, in the city of Barcelona, we have more or less 30 quick charging points, but we have 10 more charging points around the City of Barcelona, in 10 municipalities of the metropolitan area,” says Bosch. “This is an important network, but it’s not enough for this big area. In the future, we’ll try to increase the number of charging points. In the middle of Barcelona, perhaps the number will arrive in the next few years to 50 charging points.”

This ambition is supplemented by a project to place more than 40 charging points in the municipalities around the City of Barcelona, hopefully creating a well-used network.

Are you a city or public authority? Are you inspired by Barcelona’s eMobility journey? Now is your chance to become a Barcelona Follower City as part of the USER-CHI peer learning programme. More information on the USER-CHI website.

If you would like to learn more about Barcelona’s plans to boost electric mobility, watch episode two of the USER-CHI Cities series below. Visit the USER-CHI website for more information on the project.