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Fernando Izquierdo: there’s a new way to move

As Madrid prepares for a car ban in the city centre to reduce emissions, emov’s all-electric fleet is proving to be a hit.

In the chic district of Salamanca, Madrid stands a grand building with old-world charm. Its big glass doors feature golden handles in the shape of initials, perhaps belonging to a now defunct merchant bank. On the ground floor, the concierge looks bored. On the second floor, the scenery changes into a vast open-plan workspace containing some 20 young employees focussed on their screens. The average age is less than 30.

In comes Fernando, a sporty man in his mid-forties. Everyone greets him with a kiss on the cheek, and uses the familiar “tú” form of address, no questions asked. This is Madrid.

An aficionado and “member” of Real Madrid, Fernando already has 15 years of experience in leading-edge urban and mobility services. He started off as head of operations in Madrid for the operator of the city’s outdoor car parks. Then, he was promoted within the group to director for Spain and Portugal of a company that manages city billboards, which was sold to world number one Decaux after the 2008 financial crisis. It was in 2016 that Fernando joined emov, a joint project from parking solutions company Eysa and Groupe PSA.

A flying start

The start-up got off to a spectacular start, with 50,000 people registering in three weeks. “No business plan could have predicted that”, says Fernando, elated. When asked about this success, given the difficulties faced by the similar Autolib’ service in Paris, he puts it down to a combination of several factors. The leading one, he jokes, is that “there’s something magical about the people of Madrid”. Firstly, Spain was one of the last big European countries not to have a self-service car rental system, meaning “expectations were high”. But “environmental awareness has also played an important role”, he adds.

One of the most polluted cities in Europe

Every day, 2.5 million vehicles drive around the Spanish capital, which has a population of 3 million. To combat levels of nitrogen dioxide that regularly cross the authorised thresholds, the mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, has implemented an extensive action plan for a more sustainable city. Some of the drastic measures include the implementation of a road space rationing strategy based on number plates during peak pollution periods. Electric vehicles, which give off no emissions whatsoever, are allowed at all times in every zone. By 2025, only this type of vehicle and those belonging to local residents will be allowed to drive in the city centre.

World capital of electric mobility
These traffic restrictions are one of the reasons why this service has been so popular in Madrid, with 160,000 subscriptions after just one and a half years of existence and a fleet of 600 vehicles. “What’s more, Madrid is a city where traffic tends to flow rather well, except during rush hours” explains Fernando. Another advantage of the service is that users do not need to worry about parking. Parking for the electric fleet is free everywhere in the city, one of the city council’s major contributions to the service.

No concessions

In Madrid, the city council does not grant concessions but rather supports all of the numerous initiatives for zero-emission mobility. For this reason, after Car2Go (Daimler), emov and Zity (Renault and Ferrovial), Wible (Kia and Repsol) is now poised to enter the market, with its fleet of plug-in hybrids bringing the number of free-floating electric cars in the “manzana” (city centre) to 2,000. And that’s not to mention electric scooters, “BiciMAD” self-service bicycles and free-floating bicycles. The city council regularly meets with these new mobility providers to ensure their peaceful coexistence in the urban space. “We maintain close relations with the city council’s various departments, which play a key role as facilitators.”

Ambassadors for electric mobility

For Fernando Izquierdo, this service also provides an opportunity to introduce people to how to drive electric cars, which have a range of up to 150 kilometres. But as well as promoting greener mobility, the system aims to favour shared mobility. “The idea is not to replace the millions of cars in Madrid with just as many electric cars, but to reduce the total number by encouraging people to use shared transport.” The average emov journey concerns 1.9 passengers and takes 20 minutes.

In spring, emov services were rolled out in Lisbon. When asked about the future, Fernando says he hopes that emov will start a trend and expand to other big European cities.

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