Greek island partners with VW in ambitious plan to decarbonise transport and energy

Greek island partners with VW in ambitious plan to decarbonise transport and energy

Volkswagen has supplied eight electric cars to the Greek island of Astypalea, marking an early milestone in an ambitious trial to decarbonise the island’s transport and energy systems. Through the initiative, the Greek government hopes to develop a blueprint that it expects to roll out across many of the country’s two hundred or so inhabited islands.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has made green energy a central plank of Greece’s post-pandemic recovery drive, attended the delivery ceremony along with VW Group CEO Herbert Diess.

“Astypalea will be a test bed for the green transition that is energy autonomous, and entirely powered by nature,” Mitsotakis said.

The first cars to arrive on the island will be used by the police, coast guard and at the local airport. They are the beginnings of a larger fleet aimed at replacing about 1,500 combustion-engine cars with electric models and reducing vehicles on the island, a popular tourist destination, by a third.

The island’s bus service will be replaced with a ride-sharing scheme and 200 electric cars will be available for locals and tourists to rent. There will be subsidies for the island’s 1,300 inhabitants to buy electric vehicles, bikes and chargers.

Astypalea, which extends over 100 square kilometres in the Aegean Sea, currently meets its energy demand almost entirely by diesel generators but is expected to replace a big part of that through a solar plant by 2023.

“Astypalea can become a blueprint for a rapid transformation, fostered by the close collaboration of governments and businesses,” Diess said in a statement.

Greece, which has relied on coal for decades, aims to close all but one of its coal-fired plants by 2023, as part of its drive to boost renewables and cut carbon emissions by 55 percent by 2030.

The government plans to install a 3 megawatt-hour solar park and 7 mWh battery system on Astypalea by 2023 that will cover just over half of the island’s overall energy demand and be enough for all EV charging needs.

A second phase of the project could include adding wind turbines to handle more than 80 percent of power demand by 2026.

Although relatively small scale, Astypalea will serve as a test case both for VW and the Greek government, which is looking to transition energy systems on non-interconnected islands to greener power.

Of the roughly 1,500 vehicles now on the island, about a third are cars, and most of them are very old, said Maik Stephan, VW’s head of business development, who runs the Astypalea project.

The plan is to replace all of them with models such as the VW ID3 hatchback, ID4 crossver and electric Transporter vans, as well as the Seat MO eScooter.

By replacing aging fossil fuel-based generators, the government aims to cut energy costs by at least 25 percent, while reducing CO2 emissions from the island’s energy system by 50 percent in the first phase and 70 percent in the second phase.

Dutch transport companies order 50-ton hydrogen trucks

Dutch transport companies order 50-ton hydrogen trucks

US based Hyzon Motors, a leading global supplier of zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell powered commercial vehicles, is to supply 20, 50-ton hydrogen trucks to Dutch transport companies Jan Bakker and Millenaar & van Schaik.

Hyzon expects to begin delivering vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2021, and to deliver the remaining trucks in 2022. The vehicles, HyMax 450 Tractors built on a class-8 DAF truck chassis, are expected to offer a range of up to 320 miles on a full charge with motor power up to 550 kW. Currently Hyzon is the only company in the world offering hydrogen trucks up to 50 ton gross vehicle weight, with its in-house high power fuel cell technology.

Hyzon expects to manufacture the trucks in its European facility near Groningen in the Netherlands, where orders are being taken for deliveries of Hyzon-branded commercial vehicles worldwide. The trucks have been purchased by Duurzaam Transport, a subsidiary of Jan Bakker, and H2 Transport, a subsidiary of Millenaar & van Schaik.

Jan Bakker and Millenaar & van Schaik both aim to convert their entire fleet to zero-emission vehicles. Jan Bakker is made up of 17 companies, operating in transport, energy, and agriculture. Millenaar & van Schaik is one of the largest asphalt transport companies in the Netherlands.

Craig Knight, Hyzon CEO, said, “We are excited to be engaging with transport and logistics organizations like Jan Bakker and Millenaar & van Schaik, to bring hydrogen fuel cell powered trucks to the Netherlands. These contracts further underline the interest in Hyzon’s products in the European market, where we have seen strong uptake in zero-emission heavy vehicles.”

UK construction company trials Beyond Visual Line of Sight drone flight

UK construction company trials Beyond Visual Line of Sight drone flight

UK drone technology developer sees.ai has teamed up with construction and infrastructure company Skanska in a live test of a remotely operated drone.

Last month, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granted sees.ai the country’s first approval to trial routine Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations in closed industrial and urban areas.

In the first resulting flight, the drone pilot was located in a central control room fifty miles from the residential development at Midenhurst in Surrey. During the flight the drone captured video and imagery of structural details on the site.

Long term the expectation is pilots working in a central control room without the need to physically see the drones would drive down costs and allow long distance surveys.

Once the system has been proven sees.ai is looking to deploy it at scale across UK infrastructure, energy networks, roads, railways and the emergency services.

CEO, John McKenna said, “The successful trials undertaken with Skanska are a major step forward in demonstrating the value of Beyond Visual Line of Sight drone technology.

“We are excited by the results of the trial and what they signal about the acceleration towards a future where drones fly autonomously at scale inside our industrial sites, suburbs and cities.”

Peter Cater, Development Manager, Skanska added, “We were invited to carry out these trials because of our use and knowledge of drone capability and we were very excited to be the first company in the construction industry to do this.

“The trials have benefited everyone involved; sees.ai get to test their equipment and remote use of the drones and we get access to accurate, real-time data on our construction activities which benefits us and our customer.

“Projects like this – at the forefront of innovation – go to show what an exciting industry construction is to be involved in.

“We are always looking for innovative ways of working, ways to be more sustainable so we can find better solutions for our customers. These trials are just one small part of our digital transformation journey.”

Goldman Sachs financing deal accelerates e-scooter operator TIER’s international expansion

Goldman Sachs financing deal accelerates e-scooter operator TIER’s international expansion

German electric scooter operator TIER has secured $60m of asset-backed financing from Goldman Sachs. TIER claims to be Europe’s largest e-scooter operator, serving over 100 cities across 12 countries and the debt facility will support TIER’s international expansion through 2021. TIER, for instance, was recently chosen as one of London’s three e-scooter operators, with trials starting this month.

The new financing follows TIER’s recent $250m Series C funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The new capital will also help drive the expansion of the TIER Energy Network, which includes installation of battery charging stations at retail stores across Europe and the Middle East.

Alex Gayer, Chief Financial Officer at TIER, says, “The size of this highly scalable asset-backed debt facility is a game-changing first in micro-mobility, accelerating our expansion and cementing our market leadership in Europe. This facility leverages our recent equity raise and will enhance our capital-efficient growth.”

Ben Payne, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, comments, “Even amid a global pandemic, TIER has established a proven track record of profitable unit economics and asset longevity. We are excited to help the European leader extend sustainable mobility to more people across the world.”

Opel launches Movano-e, its first electric large van and rival to Ford’s Transit

Opel launches Movano-e, its first electric large van and rival to Ford’s Transit

Opel has released details of the all-new Movano-e, the first battery electric vehicle from the German brand in the large van market segment. Its electric propulsion system delivers 90 kW (122 hp) and 260 Nm of torque, with the maximum speed electronically controlled at 110 km/h.

Depending on the model variant, customers can choose between 37 kWh and 70 kWh lithium ion batteries for ranges of 115 or 225 kilometres respectively in the WLTP combined cycle.

A regenerative braking system recovers the energy produced under braking or deceleration, and further increases efficiency.

For professional fleet management, the ‘Opel Connect’ telematics solution with ‘Free2Move Fleet Services’ can track the geographic location of the vehicle, optimise routes, monitor maintenance and fuel consumption and offer tips for more economical driving.

Opel CEO, Michael Lohscheller, says, “The new Opel Movano-e completes our range of electric light commercial vehicles. Our customers from trade and commerce can therefore drive and transport emissions-free. We are convinced that the new generation Movano will win additional market share for the brand.”

Oxbotica and TRL pilot safety framework for off-highway automated vehicles in complex scenarios

Oxbotica and TRL pilot safety framework for off-highway automated vehicles in complex scenarios

The UK Government backed agency Innovate UK has funded an industry led consortium of autonomous driving experts to develop a code of practice to help organisations looking to use autonomous vehicles in off-highway applications such as construction, quarrying and farming.

The resulting protocols and framework were recently tested in a live trial at a UK quarry.

The consortium, including autonomous vehicle developer Oxbotica and mobility research organisation TRL, investigated retrofitting autonomous capabilities, using robust low-cost sensors, to any vehicle, as well as drafting a code of practice that identifies the key elements for safe and efficient use of autonomous vehicles in off-road industries.

The core challenge for the project team is off-road environments, which can include mines, quarries, farms, refineries, warehouses, ports, and airports, feature more varied hazards and less structured scenarios than on-road settings with no universal highway rules, such as speed limits or junction etiquette. A code of practice helps standardise across industries and allows learnings from each domain to be shared.

Off-road vehicles also have to interact with a wide variety of unpredictable objects in their environment, either because they block the vehicle’s path, such as undergrowth or tree branches, or because engaging with them is part of the vehicle’s primary function, such as harvesting or excavating.

With autonomous vehicles commonplace in many of these industries, working to deliver safety, efficiency and productivity, the code of practice will help organisations transition to new working practices and harness the potential benefits with no impact on safety.

To demonstrate the approach and highlight its potential to work across a range of vehicles and industries, Oxbotica and TRL equipped and tested both a Ford Ranger and Range Rover Evoque, retrofitted with Oxbotica’s autonomy software platform, in a UK quarry in April. The vehicles were fitted with a full suite of sensors, including LiDAR, RADAR, and stereo cameras.

Oxbotica’s technology has already operated in a range of environments without road markings across Europe, Asia and America. Its software seamlessly transitions between sensors to operate across multiple domains and environments. The software is capable of using sensors independently or fused in any combination, meaning vehicles can drive with or without maps, depending what is available at any given time.

Ben Upcroft, VP of Technology at Oxbotica, said, “Our autonomy software platform is capable of being integrated with any vehicle, in any environment. In order to harness the true power of this technology, operational regulations need to be developed in unison to ensure safe and efficient deployment. Consortiums such as this are a key stepping stone in ensuring the safe operation of autonomous vehicles in complex scenarios, and enabling the scale up to full commercial deployment in industry settings.”

Dr Ianto Guy, Project Lead at TRL, said, “This Code of Practice seeks to provide high-level guidance to organisations, in all sectors of the off-highway industry, on the ways in which working practices should be adapted to ensure that the adoption of autonomy is as smooth and safe as possible. The aim is that this code will support safe practice, build public confidence, and encourage the cooperation between organisations across all industries employing off-highway autonomous vehicles. It is hoped that off-highway industries will use this code of practice as a starting point for discussion and build on the recommendations made here to develop comprehensive best practice guidelines.”

Bird says bigger battery is key to its world’s most eco-conscious claim for new scooter

Bird says bigger battery is key to its world’s most eco-conscious claim for new scooter

US electric scooter developer Bird says its newest scooter model, the Bird Three, is the world’s most eco-conscious. And according to Scott Rushforth, Bird’s Chief Vehicle Officer, it all starts with the battery system.

“A scooter’s battery is directly linked to its environmental impact, and those with smaller batteries require more frequent charging and power fewer trips per charge,” he explains. “Scooters with swappable batteries can compound the issue and increase greenhouse gas emissions by requiring an estimated 1.5 to 2 batteries per vehicle. In other words, smaller and swappable batteries lead to higher overall manufacturing emissions and require more vehicle miles travelled to retrieve, replace and recharge scooters.”

Bird Three, however, has a battery capacity of up to 1 kWh, meaning it requires less frequent charging and delivers more miles travelled on a fully charged battery than any other shared scooter available today. More miles travelled leads to more sustainable rides and, ultimately, decreased carbon emissions throughout the vehicle’s entire life cycle.

The all-new Bird Three, continues Rushforth, is the culmination of four years of experience working in partnership with over 200 cities across the world “to turn drivers into micromobility riders”… It was developed by our in-house team of engineering and vehicle design experts to provide the safest, smartest riding experience possible—all with an unrelenting focus on sustainability.”

And the reason we’ve done this is simple, “If countries like the US and others are to meet their long-term climate goals, as much as 90% of all road vehicles must be electrified and 20% of all vehicle miles reduced by the end of the decade. That means more cities and more riders will soon be relying on micro-electric vehicles instead of two-ton, gas-powered automobiles to meet their short-distance transportation needs.”

Aurrigo secures UK first as its Auto-Shuttle takes to the road in Cambridge

Aurrigo secures UK first as its Auto-Shuttle takes to the road in Cambridge

A trial in Cambridge, England marks the first use of Aurrigo’s self-driving shuttles on public roads in the UK. The 10 seat shuttles will take passengers from the Madingley Road Park and Ride site to locations around the University of Cambridge’s West Campus.

Passengers recruited for the trial project will be able to use Aurrigo’s app to join the shuttle at a number of locations along the two-mile route.

The company has been instrumental in the development of autonomous pods in the UK, but the trial is the first carrying passengers on a main road surrounded by other traffic, including cars, lorries, vans, bikes and pedestrians.

The trial is part of an Innovate UK and Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV)-backed project, led by Aurrigo with Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) and Smart Cambridge to explore how autonomous technology could be used on the public transport network.

“This is another major milestone in the journey towards making autonomous vehicles a reality on our roads,” said David Keene, Chief Executive Officer of Aurrigo.

“We’ve completed successful trials in city centres, in retirement complexes and at major golf tournaments, but this is the first time these vehicles will be sharing the route with everyday traffic.

“The shuttles, which have been designed and manufactured at our Advanced Engineering Centre in Coventry, will operate the 20-minute journey around the West Cambridge route. They will run autonomously for the majority of the route using our in-house developed driving software and the latest LIDAR and camera technology to identify potential hazards as they move around.”

He continued, “Our technology will help provide new transport solutions for city centres, shopping and care facilities, airports and heritage sites. The trial in Cambridge is the next step in proving it.”

Claire Ruskin, Director of Cambridge Network and business representative on the GCP Executive Board, added, “It is very exciting to see these vehicles working on real roads here in Cambridge. These shuttles could be used on demand all day and night, every day of the year – which is unaffordable with our existing public transport.

“They are flexible and make good use of resources without needing significant infrastructure. As employment around Cambridge is 24/7 for many organisations – including our hospitals, emergency services, and many of our labs – we have been anticipating this new technology to see how real operation will help people get around.”

MaaS Global acquires Wondo marking first steps in expected consolidation of mobility-as-a-service market

MaaS Global acquires Wondo marking first steps in expected consolidation of mobility-as-a-service market

MaaS Global, the Finish mobility-as-a-service platform and the company behind the Whim app has acquired Spanish mobility startup Wondo. As part of the transaction, Wondo invester Ferrovial will become one of the shareholders of the new company.

The Whim app allows users to book and pay for all their journeys using both public and private sector operators either one trip at a time or with a monthly subscription. With over 16 million trips made since its launch in November 2017, Whim is widely seen as a pioneer of a commercially available all-inclusive MaaS solution. Whim is currently live in several European and Asian markets and preparing for new launches.

“The acquisition of Wondo enables us to rapidly expand to new markets and increase our B2B and B2C service offering, which is crucial in the rapidly-evolving MaaS market. MaaS needs critical mass and requires volume and gravity. This transaction is a prime example that the consolidation of the MaaS industry is now taking place, and we intend to continue playing an active role in it” says Sampo Hietanen, CEO and Founder of MaaS Global.

Wondo provides integrated access to multiple modes of transportation. “Given our shared DNA, we are thrilled to join forces with the MaaS Global team to contribute to the creation of the leading global MaaS platform. We complement each other’s geographical reach and service offering and have a similar vision on the future developments of the MaaS sector,” says Ion Cuervas-Mons, CEO of Wondo.

Wondo has historically been backed by Ferrovial, the Spanish-based multinational focused on transport infrastructure and urban services. As part of the transaction, Ferrovial becomes one of MaaS Global’s strategic investors.

“Ferrovial is very pleased to join forces with MaaS Global to develop a winning value-added proposition in the mobility-as-a-service space. This is another step in the strategy of the company to be at the centre of the changes that are transforming the shape of urban mobility”, says Andres Camacho Donezar, Director of Mobility at Ferrovial.

Worldwide transport activity to double by 2050 and carbon emissions to keep rising, warns ITF

Worldwide transport activity to double by 2050 and carbon emissions to keep rising, warns ITF

Latest projections presented at a global summit of transport ministers paints a downbeat view that global transport activity will more than double by 2050, and traffic emissions will rise by 16% compared to 2015 – even if existing commitments to decarbonise transport are fully implemented.

Presenting the key findings of the biennial International Transport Forum (ITF) Transport Outlook 2021 report, ITF, which is part of the OECD, says following current trajectories any expected emissions reductions will be negated by the increased demand for transport.

However, ITF maintains, with the right policies transport CO2 emissions could be cut by almost 70% over the 2015-50 period and a reduction of this magnitude will bring the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5˚C into reach.

The solution, says ITF, is to put in place ambitious low-carbon policies now, reinforce positive behavioural changes caused by the pandemic and gear stimulus packages towards decarbonisation.

ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim said “I am proud to present the 2021 edition of the ITF Transport Outlook. It provides policy makers with insights from cutting-edge ITF research on the three major challenges of our time: the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and inequality. It shows how they are linked, but also identifies actions – actions that are critical to ensure an effective and equitable transition to sustainable mobility on an urban, regional and global level in the wake of the pandemic.”

Recommendations

The report gives six recommendations on how governments can set the world on a path towards sustainable mobility, achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Align Covid-19 recovery packages to revive the economy, combat climate change and strengthen equity. Recovery from the Covid-19 crisis offers a singular chance to combine economic development with shifting mobility behaviour and scaling up low-carbon technologies while increasing opportunities for citizens by improving access.
  • Implement much more ambitious policies that will reverse the growth of transport CO2 emissions. Governments must set ambitious targets in the 2021 revision of the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, underpin them with concrete policies, and reinforce them by leveraging Covid-19 recovery packages to accelerate and deepen transport decarbonisation.
  • Target different transport sectors with strategies that reflect their specific decarbonisation potential and challenges. Not all strategies to “avoid, shift, and improve” are applicable across the sector in the same way.
  • Support innovation to accelerate the technological breakthroughs needed to decarbonise transport. Technological advances are critical to effectively decarbonise transport, especially in otherwise hard‑to‑decarbonise areas such as aviation and long-haul road freight.
  • Shift the priority to improving accessibility. Transport planning tends to conflate increased capacity with improved accessibility. Yet travelling more and further does not mean citizens have easy access to where they need to go. Transport planning that serves citizens considers their desired destinations and focuses on how well transport options connect them.
  • Intensify collaboration with non-transport sectors and between public and private actors. Transport decarbonisation is inseparable from developments in other sectors. Sustainable mobility is only possible with clean energy. In turn, low-carbon transport is central to sustainable trade and tourism.

Future scenarios

The situation today:

  • Urban mobility generates 40% of all CO2 emissions from the movement of people
  • non-urban transport is responsible for the remaining 60%
  • 75% of all emissions from urban passenger transport come from private cars
  • Freight emits more than 40% of all transport CO2; its share is growing slightly

If current policies remain in place between now and 2050:

  • Passenger transport activity will increase 2.3-fold (measured in passenger-km)
  • Freight transport activity will grow 2.6-fold (measured in tonne-km)
  • Emissions from urban mobility will fall very slightly, by 5%
  • Freight CO2 emissions will grow by 22%

Under ambitious policies that also lock in CO2 reduction windfalls from Covid-19:

  • Cities could cut CO2 emissions from urban mobility by as much as 80% to 2050
  • Regional passenger transport (eg by air, rail, bus) could more than halve its CO2 emissions
  • Freight emissions could be 72% less
Audi charging hub concept largely independent of local grid capacity

Audi charging hub concept largely independent of local grid capacity

Audi is developing a concept to develop modular electric vehicle charging hubs incorporating second life batteries to reduce loads on the power grid. A pilot project, launching later in the year, will provide a practical test for a possible roll-out across Germany.

Each hub will comprise six self-contained charging “cubes”, each incorporating charging connections and storage batteries.

Audi says combined the batteries will offer 2.45 MWh of electricity, providing a charging output of up to 300 kW for each bay, but the whole assemblage will remain functional through a single 400-Volt hookup. Additional energy will be provided by solar panels on the roof.

Users will be able to book charging bays in advance and the system can accommodate both overnight charging at a relatively modest 11kW output or 300kW high power top up charging.

For instance, the hub will be able to provide enough energy to charge an Audi e-tron GT for up to 100 kilometres in about five minutes, and from nearly empty to 80 percent in just under 25 minutes under ideal conditions. The hubs will feature high end lounges for short stay users.

Audi says by leveraging recycled lithium-ion batteries and green energy generation, the modular concept provides flexibility and scalability while making it easier to select locations for the charging stations. The hub can be installed and adapted to the individual location quickly and independent of local network capacities.

Oliver Hoffmann, Audi’s Board Member for Technical Development says, “The charging hub embodies our aspiration for the electric era and highlights Audi’s commitment to Vorsprung durch Technik. A flexible high-performing charging park like this does not require much from the local electricity grid.”

May Mobility equips Toyota to test “Autono-MaaS” service in Ann Arbor

May Mobility equips Toyota to test “Autono-MaaS” service in Ann Arbor

May Mobility, a leader in autonomous vehicle technology and shuttle operations, is testing a Toyota Sienna equipped with the next generation of its autonomous driving kit and will work with Toyota to add the vehicle to public shuttle fleets in 2022.

The automated Sienna features Toyota’s vehicle control interface, which allows seamless technology integration and robust operation of key vehicle control systems, such as steering, brakes, and acceleration.

“As we’ve seen throughout the industry, companies developing self-driving vehicles need strong OEM partners to be successful,” said Edwin Olson, co-founder and CEO of May Mobility. “With Toyota, May Mobility can deploy our unique self-driving technology on the best vehicles in the world.”

The Sienna technology integration is a major milestone in May Mobility’s cooperative relationship with Toyota, confirms Olson. From the initial investment in May Mobility to the Series B fundraising in 2019, the relationship has expanded to include a shuttle fleet in Hiroshima, Japan. May Mobility is also providing autonomous shuttle services in Indianapolis, Indiana, as part of a Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF) initiative about to come into service.

Keiji Yamamoto, Operating Officer of Toyota and President of Connected Company said, “We are delighted that Toyota’s “Autono-MaaS”(autonomous-mobility as a service) vehicle based on the Sienna will be utilised for May Mobility’s public road testing. Toyota continues to collaborate with automated mobility service providers through these vehicles and is implementing Autono-MaaS swiftly, aiming to realise a society where all people have the freedom of movement.”

Modifications to the Sienna include the addition of LIDAR, RADAR, and camera sensors, along with the compute and control modules that make up May Mobility’s autonomous driving kit. The May Mobility Toyota Sienna shuttle is currently being tested on public roads in Ann Arbor. Additional shuttles are under development and will be ready for use in public fleets in 2022.

Robot runner trial set to speed up home food and grocery deliveries from Singapore mall

Robot runner trial set to speed up home food and grocery deliveries from Singapore mall

Singapore superapp Grab is set to pilot a robot runner service from several restaurants at the Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ) mall in Singapore.

The autonomous delivery robots will collect orders from the restaurants for pick by Grab’s delivery-partners at a central collection point for onward home delivery. The service will allow the Grab delivery-partners to shave off between five to 15 minutes between deliveries, the soon-to-be public company said in a statement.

Grab designed the robot in partnership with Techmetics Robotics, a US firm that provides robotics services for healthcare, assisted living, and hospitality use, among others.

During its pilot phase, the robot will serve up to 35 GrabFood and GrabMart merchants in PLQ and accommodate over 250 orders a day.

The pilot is expected to last for a month, after which Grab will review its performance and viability before rolling out the service to other locations.

“We are working towards a longer-term collaboration with Grab to meet the demands of customers and improve shopping experiences,” said PLQ general manager Audrey Balakrishnan.

Paris-based Virtuo raises €78.7 million to scale its car-on-demand service

Paris-based Virtuo raises €78.7 million to scale its car-on-demand service

Virtuo, the car-on-demand service that sets out to drive the shift away from car ownership across Europe, has raised €50 million in a Series C funding round led by AXA Venture Partners.

In addition, Natixis and several members of the Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Epargne Group are granting Virtuo a pan-European asset-based financing of €30 million, to support the development of its fleet, bringing this new round of financing to around €78.7 million.

With the fresh funds, Virtuo will invest in technology and launch services that will position its car on-demand service as a key alternative to car ownership. Alongside the development of the app and the experience, the investment will allow Virtuo to accelerate European expansion and the electrification of its fleet.

Virtuo, founded in 2016, set out to disrupt the car rental industry, an industry it describes as typically fraught with long queues, arduous paperwork and hidden fees. With its 100% digital app experience, Virtuo has not only emerged as a convenient alternative to car rental for city escapes and mid-distance trips, but as an alternative to owning a car altogether.

Virtuo says it is focused on understanding and developing an app-based experience that fulfils the needs of the new generation of drivers with a particular focus on urbanites from major European cities across its regions of France, the UK and Spain.

“Our ambition for Virtuo and our car on-demand service is to reinvent our relationship with cars. To provide all the benefits that cars can offer while using technology to remove the physical burden,” said Karim Kaddoura and Thibault Chassagne, Virtuo’s Co-founders. “We believe you should be able to access a car the same way you stream music or films: the car should appear on demand when you need it, but disappear from sight when you don’t.

“Our vision is that our car-on-demand service should support a new social contract between city dwellers and the car, where they benefit from the freedom a car brings but without the burden on our cities and the environment,” they add. “At Virtuo, we want to put cars in people’s pockets, not on city streets.”

Virtuo plans to expand its services with an ambition to cover about ten markets by 2025.

UK transport charity launches campaign to get people back on public transport

UK transport charity launches campaign to get people back on public transport

UK sustainable transport charity, Campaign for Better Transport, has launched a national campaign to help get people back on onto public transport.

The Way Forward campaign, launched outside the House of Lords, with support from Green politician Jenny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (pictured), is calling on the Government to support public transport by actively encouraging people to use buses, trains, coaches and trams as restrictions ease, and introducing an incentive scheme to help boost passenger numbers as part of a national plan to place public transport at the heart of a green recovery.

Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said, “The events of the last year have made people less confident about using public transport, but as restrictions continue to ease, we all need to start getting back on board. That’s why we’ve launched this campaign to urge the Government to reassure people that public transport is safe again and to introduce a national scheme of discounted fares to encourage people to use it. By getting back on board we can all help to reduce congestion, protect the environment and boost the economy in a way that is fair and sustainable.”

As more workplaces, shops and businesses reopen in the coming months, campaigners argue it will be crucial that people return to public transport to avoid increased congestion and air pollution, and help communities recover. To protect public transport services both now and in the long term, and encourage people back on board, The Way Forward campaign is calling on the Government to:

Lead the way with a national campaign that encourages people to see public transport as a safe way to travel and to launch an incentive scheme that helps to get people back on board

Continue the emergency financial support for public transport services until passenger numbers have recovered

Place public transport at the heart of a green recovery with a passenger-centred approach to getting people back on board. Public transport needs to evolve to suit new ways of working and living to offer a genuine alternative to the private car. It needs to be easier and simpler to pay for with contactless payments as standard and multi-modal tickets that can be used on buses and trains, and more affordable with flexible tickets that fit new travel patterns

Protect services and renew the public transport system by restoring lost rail links and reconnecting communities to the network.

Tuohy added, “A public transport network shaped around passengers that provides the services people need, at a price they can afford, as we adapt to new ways of working and living is crucial to rebuilding the economy and tackling climate change. By placing public transport at the heart of its transport policy the Government can make sure we all have access to easy, convenient and affordable journeys no matter where we live.”