BY FREDA MIKLIN
On Aug. 29, Denver South EDP, together with Aurora Economic Development Council and Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, held a luncheon meeting at the Hilton Inverness Hotel in Englewood to discuss international collaboration opportunities with executives of German E-Mobility clusters. The German-American Chamber of Commerce (GACC), based in Chicago, sponsored the event.
Jessica Ferklass and Paul Maricle of GACC’s Chicago office welcomed the crowd by explaining the importance of E-Mobility in the future, as exemplified by electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. Denver GACC executive director Natalia Wobst greeted the assembled Colorado executives, letting them know she is available to assist with business relationships in Germany. Matthew Bailey of Arrow Electronics and Colorado Smart Cities Alliance (Smart Cities) gave the keynote address.
Bailey described Arrow Electronics, as a Fortune 500 company located in Centennial. It has 19,000 employees in 56 countries and annual sales of $27 billion. Arrow describes itself as a company that “brings technology solutions to a breadth of markets, including telecommunications, information systems, transportation, medical, industrial and consumer electronics.” In more practical terms, Bailey told the audience that Arrow manufactures, distributes or brings to market 1 million different products.
Arrow has teamed up with Smart Cities to determine how to best utilize technology to address transportation. Smart Cities is a coalition that includes Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Centennial, Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins, Greenwood Village, Littleton, Lone Tree, Longmont and Westminster. They account for 90 percent of Colorado’s population and 95 percent of its gross domestic product. The organization is collaborating with business and our universities. Arrow is contributing an open data platform so that cities can conduct pilot programs with data they collect to determine the best use of technology to address transportation solutions statewide. Arrow’s access to expertise from 800 technology companies will allow them to “play a role in creating a vibrant community that’s competitive and has a forward plan to sustain population growth.”
Bailey talked about current technologies already available, like Weathercloud that determines, records and shares weather data details in real time between vehicles on the road. He showed a photo of a robot snowplow in Boulder. His overarching theme was the importance of cities working together as regions to create intelligent transportation solutions. He emphasized that collaboration is key to maintaining infrastructure that can be predictive.
He sees the future as one with electric vehicles used in cities that will have their own carbon net zero energy micro-grids. He talked about the Go Centennial program designed to get people out of their cars. The city partnered with Denver South EDP and Lyft to address the “last mile” issue—getting people from the light rail to their homes, workplaces or shopping/restaurant destinations. The experiment demonstrated how the system could work, but Bailey again emphasized that, “There is no point in a city looking at intelligent transportation systems without including regional partner cities.” Solving problems regionally saves everyone’s time and money.
Bailey asked a panel of German E-Mobility experts, Dirk Vogel, Oliver Schrader and Holger Czuday their views on addressing transportation issues regionally.
Schrader said that if the United States continues on its current path of everyone driving gas-powered cars, the environment will become so polluted that cities will not be able to function as populations grow. He said there is technology available to address mobility in a sustainable way, and that failure to use it will result in chaos. He also said that in Germany, like the U.S., there are many small and medium-sized companies who need government support for innovation. Czuday agreed that solutions are not possible without the support of local governments working together. Vogel said that intelligent systems guarantee GDP growth.
Looking 10 years into the future, Schrader noted that although he loves cars and hates to think about getting around without driving, his 16-year-old son is far less interested in driving. He said it is a very positive thing that young people are open to different modes of transportation like ride-sharing and mass transit.
The panelists all agreed that electric vehicles will soon become the norm and that it would benefit everyone economically if companies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean collaborated to find solutions to common problems.