Low and zero-emission zones can significantly improve air quality in urban areas, according to a recent study commissioned by the Clean Cities Campaign and clean transport think tank Transport & Environment.

The global transport sector previously contributed up to 20 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions. After a slowdown in the sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its contribution has risen to nearly 28 percent. Road transport accounts for 70 percent of carbon emissions produced by the transport sector.

Cars with higher carbon emissions cannot enter low-emission zones, or they have to pay more. Zero-emission zones prohibit the entrance of any vehicle that produces carbon. The regulations in those zones affect various vehicle categories, including passenger cars.

Several countries in the EU have developed low- and zero-emission zones to support the region’s sustainability targets, with plans to increase the number of similar zones in the future.

In the EU, for example, Rotterdam in the Netherlands became an early adopter of a zero-emission regulation in 2015, prohibiting fossil-fueled heavy-duty vehicles from entering the area.

In addition to reducing emissions, these zones can improve the air quality of towns and cities where they are located, with experts saying that introducing zero-emissions zone by 2030 can help the world achieve the World Health Organization’s guidelines for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution.

Per WHO data, the combination of outdoor and household air pollution caused approximately 6.7 million premature deaths per year. Health risks associated with poor air quality also lead to €427 billion to €790 billion in public health expenses annually.

Stringent low-emission regulation can reduce NO2 pollution from local roads by 36 to 45 percent at traffic hotspots by 2027. Meanwhile, implementing zero-emission zones can lower NO2 production by up to 95 percent within the same period.

Analysts say the implementation of low-emission zones is more feasible than zero-emission zones in the present era. Implementing a zero-emission zone requires authorities to either remove the traffic or completely ban internal combustion engines on vehicles. Environmental scientists, nevertheless, argue that the world should accelerate the transition to zero-emission zones.

The increasing mobility in society makes it difficult to fully adopt a zero-emission approach, further raising the need to transition toward electronic vehicles (EVs). The EV market in Europe is expected to grow by 11.99 percent from 2023 to 2028.

The Challenge in EV Market: Increasing Demand for Charging Stations

With more than 695,000 new EVs registered in the EU in the last quarter of 2022, the region requires a reliable network of public charging stations on the road. Unlike the widely available gas stations, EV charging spots are more difficult to come by because the adoption of EVs is still in its early stage.

This situation poses a challenge to EV owners as they cannot easily charge their vehicles when needed. The lack of charging infrastructure also deters conventional car owners from transitioning to EVs.

Authorities have taken various measures to support the development of a solid charging network in the EU. One of the most recent efforts is a research collaboration between the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (ANL).

The JRC and ANL highlight the need to ensure the compatibility of physical connectors (plugs) and standardized vehicle-to-grid communication interface across all power levels in charging infrastructure. The agencies, however, note that private sector operators may come up with additional solutions.

Resourcing energy to accommodate the EV charging infrastructure is another issue the industry must tackle. The EU, including Nordic countries, is accelerating the development of renewable energy. Sweden, for instance, has seen a spike in renewable energy use over the past few years, with hydropower contributing most to its green electricity production.

Time efficiency is another major concern of running an EV charging infrastructure. Small passenger electric cars may not require a long charging session, but heavy-duty vehicles demand more charging periods. Heavy-duty EVs, including logistic fleets, also take up more space in the charging station.

Fast-Charging Facilities by Nimbnet

Private operators like Nimbnet offer fast-charging facilities at strategic locations to assist EV drivers and ultimately accelerate the Swedish transport sector’s transition toward renewable energy. Currently, Nimbnet runs charging stations in Gothenburg, Sundsvall, Nordmaling and Söderhamn. The chargers Nimbnet operate can help drivers top up their EVs’ power by up to 350kW. The operator provides two to four charging points per station.

Charging stations operated by Nimbnet can accommodate private and heavy-duty vehicles. Nimbnet also partners with other leading charging operators to extend its services to more customers. The operator implements a dynamic pricing system, determining charging costs based on power availability and hourly electricity prices.

Drivers can use the Nimbnet App on their phones to determine the best routes and possible charging stations to top up their EV batteries. The app also informs drivers how much to charge at each station to keep power use at a minimum.