E-cars help in the fight against coronavirus

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A LIFE project is offering organisations like the Red Cross the free use of its electric cars during the coronavirus outbreak. We spoke with I-SharE LIFE’s Alessandra Melchioni to find out more.

Can you tell us about I-SharE LIFE? 

The I-SharE LIFE project is testing the technological and economic viability of electric car sharing services in several small and medium-sized towns in Italy and Croatia.  The project, which started in 2018 and runs until next year, has received some 3.3 million euros in LIFE funding.

Our goal is to reduce pollutants like particulate matter 10 (PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as well as greenhouse gases coming from urban mobility.

50 electric cars are undergoing demonstration tests in Busto Arsizio, Bollate, Bergamo, and Como in the Lombardy region in Italy. Another 8 are being deployed in Osijek, Croatia.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your LIFE project?

The impact has been significant. Any activities requiring physical interaction have been stopped or severely limited to ensure safety. Other work is however continuing by using technology.

Why did you decide to help? 

In just two weeks, the COVID-19 outbreak has radically changed customers’ habits. The use of car sharing services is down by between 85 and 90%. Revenues across the entire transport sector have also dropped.

In these extraordinary times, the City of Osijek and its public transport operator GPP decided to make electric vehicles, being deployed through the I-Share LIFE project, available to the Red Cross and their volunteers.

Our Italian partner, meanwhile, offered the free use of its car sharing services under I-SharE LIFE to municipalities in Lombardy.

Who is using your vehicles? In which towns in Italy and Croatia? 

Our LIFE fleet is being used across the Lombardy region. For example, in Sondrio, two cars are being used by the Red Cross, while in Saronno, a group of pharmacies are now able to bring essential medicines to citizens in isolation. In Castellanza, the Civil Guard is also availing of them.

In Croatia, Red Cross volunteers in Osijek are using the fleet to deliver vital food supplies and medicines to those at risk of infection and other vulnerable groups.

How does the process work? 

The I-SharE LIFE mobile app and a central back-end system is used to find, book, use, and return e-cars. Our regular customers are currently being advised to use the service once it is safe to use car sharing services again.  Legal agreements have been simplified and all costs have been dropped.  Staff manage and clean the fleet wearing Personal Protective Equipment.

Are all your vehicles being used? 

In Croatia, yes. All of our electric vehicles are available for Red Cross volunteers in Osijek.

At the time of writing, 14 vehicles are being used in Italy, but we have just launched the initiative there and more requests are coming in all the time, so we expect our full fleet to be in use.

What has been the reaction from the public? And from patients? 

The reaction has been amazing in Croatia. The public has responded positively, while patients and those at risk really appreciate the fast and flexible service.

In Italy, various municipalities have voiced their gratitude, including through the media.

How long do you plan on doing this for? 

We plan on doing this until the quarantine period ends.

What advice would you give to other LIFE projects thinking of helping during this pandemic?

  • Take a new approach: the rules have changed.
  • Be flexible: though life could return to normal in the short or medium term, it may not, and you must be prepared to operate in a new context in the future.
  • Be very clear in communicating the benefits of your offer, especially to vulnerable groups.
  • Be human and help those in need!

The I-SharE LIFE project team:

Italy: Alessandra Melchioni (FNM Group) Augusto De Castro e Sebastiano Di Carlo (E-Vai)

Croatia: Sasa Bart (Dyvolve) Srecko Kukic (city of Osijek) 

Samples of media coverage:

Teleunica (In Italian)

Ansa news agency (In Italian)

Alta Rezia news (In Italian)

RTL (in Croatian)


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