Today, transportation both to and from city-centres and within suburban areas, is unsatisfactory in terms of congestion, environmental and societal aspects. To answer identified needs, the Easily diStributed Personal RapId Transit (ESPRIT) project aims to develop a purpose-built, light weight L category electric vehicle that can be stacked together to gain space. Thanks to pioneering coupling systems, up to 8 ESPRIT vehicles can be nested together in a road train, 7 being towed, for an efficient redistribution of fleets and a smartlybalanced and cost efficient transport system. Within the project, 2 user scenarios are foreseen: a one-way carsharing system within city centres and a last kilometre personal mobility system to existing public transport infrastructures in suburban areas. A preliminary test and demonstration of three prototype vehicles will take place in 3 different geographical pilot sites (Glasgow, Lyon and L’Hospitalet de LLobregat near Barcelona). The ESPRIT concept will be achieved through state-of-the-art developments of diverse technology components. To prove the ESPRIT concept, the project will also work on modelling and simulation tools to predict, once ESPRIT vehicles are deployed, the economic, social and environmental benefits as well as key operating strategies. It is anticipated that this concept will encourage citizens to use conventional public transport and carsharing solutions rather than their private vehicles leading to seamless intermodal transport, reduced congestion and significant reduction of noise and air pollution. To reach relevant stakeholders, the ESPRIT project will not only rely on its technical expertise but also on the knowledge and network of its end user community represented by several partners as well as the ESPRIT Advisory Board which includes carsharing organisations, public authorities and transport operators, who will participate in workshops and dissemination events.
As the key to the ESPRIT transport system is the ability to redistribute 8 vehicles at a time by a single operator, the project expects to demonstrate through simulation that it is possible to achieve a continuous 90% availability rate of vehicles across all stations (in last kilometre and one-way carsharing mode) using less manpower compared to current systems which have 50% of empty stations several times a day. This ambition can be translated into the following technical objectives:
Produce the ESPRIT operation and business model estimation tool to be able to accurately predict the economic viability of deploying the ESPRIT transport system in a variety of different urban/suburban configurations. It will also predict the public transport modal share induced by the system. This activity will be supported by studies to analyse citizens’ lifestyle criteria and their specific requirements for last kilometre and one-way carsharing services. It will also state if a 90% availability rate for vehicles is achieved, thanks to the newly possible redistribution strategies.
Develop the necessary technological components to equip the vehicle, which answer the following technical challenges, namely:
A Guiding and Coupling System to allow the vehicles to be linked electro-mechanically together
and perform the coupling action in a semi-automatic way. It will be particularly critical in terms of security and operating safety of the system. It will be responsible for the physical integrity of the road train but also for the transfer of electrical signals and power supply.
A Powertrain and Steering Control System linked to the steering, propulsion and braking equipment, enabling the road train to work safely in forward and reverse gear. In particular, it will prevent lateral oscillations (sway) and toppling, jack knifing and trajectory drift of the road train. The Kinematic and Dynamic Behaviour Management System (KDBMS) will also include a braking energy recovery function to maximise the energy efficiency.
A Charging and Electricity Storage System able to charge a complete road train using a single charging station.
An Auxiliary Management System to control some specific auxiliaries impacted by the dual single and road train configuration (position in the road train): the lights, mirrors, windscreen wipers, windscreen defrosting system and Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC).
Vehicle and Road train architecture which includes:
Development of attractive, high-tech design bodywork combined with robust external and internal finishes. The focus will be on sustainability whilst making the vehicle appearance appealing for ESPRIT users. Design criteria similar to buses and trains will be used, to ensure minimal wear and tear from daily public use, reducing maintenance and damage claims, reducing insurance costs and delays in customer handovers.
Fit for purpose Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. As journey times are expected to be on average no more than 10 minutes, the HVAC system will be conservative to ensure reduced energy consumption and weight saving.
Manufacture 3 fully functional demonstrator ESPRIT vehicles to perform a complete functional validation of all sub-systems, including road testing, and be able to physically present the ESPRIT transport system to end users (citizens, operators, decision makers, government authorities). 3 additional representative weighted chassis will be used to test the road train functionality of a road train of 6 vehicles.
Produce recommendations for development of regulations and standards enabling the use of ESPRIT vehicles driven like road trains by an operator. In parallel, the perspective of allowing the general public to also drive the ESPRIT vehicle in a road train configuration limited to two vehicles will be evaluated.
Produce a detailed roadmap for the first series of ESPRIT fleet deployment (with approx. 300 vehicles per fleet) in 3 European cities (Glasgow, Lyon and L’Hospitalet de LLobregat, near Barcelona). This roadmap will cover industrialisation, further progressive deployment and exploitation issues as well as necessary regulatory issues.
The development work that will be performed to answer these objectives and challenges must above all guarantee public confidence in the ESPRIT transport system by showing that the vehicle is safe, easy to drive and use and has the required driving range under real conditions to meet users travel needs both in urban and suburban conditions. Additionally, the expected cost for the user must be seen as affordable for the service that will be provided. As such, ESPRIT will perform a needs analysis of potential users and stakeholders in the 3 pilot sites. This will steer the design of a safe and accessible vehicle, charging and redistribution system.
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