Ecosystem based planning will help create a more healthy life in a community – the use of alternative, nature-friendly materials and alternative sources of energy (solar energy, for example), creation of eco-buildings with lower energy consumption, roadside tree planting, expansion of parks and green surfaces, traditional gardens changing into vertical gardens, e-mobility reduces noise in cities, the buzzing of bees became stronger because they started nesting in the roofs of buildings. People pay attention to quality of living, they educate themselves, raise awareness of other people, and the cities, with their numerous green projects, are turning into an urban ecosystem, which leads to improved quality of life.
Of course, this doesn’t mean cities cannot host environmentally friendly sporting events. It’s not only about enabling spectators to arrive to the venue by means of an organized, clean public transport – but it’s also about making sure that sports as such become more environmentally friendly. An excellent example of this is Formula E. Car racing, which does not move away from the urban space, but lives in symbiosis with it, as opposed to the majority of races in this sport. There were 3 Formula races in Europe this year, and two of those, in Paris and Berlin, were held in the very center of the city. Only in London the race is held closer to one of the semi-suburban parks (Battersea Park), but this is supposed to change as early as next year. For this reason we chose Paris and Berlin to be the stops on our way. The choice of cars is duly suited to these two cities: cars that enable comfortable and carefree (even in places where the electric charging infrastructure has not yet been developed) long-distance travels and also a clean city ride. This, of course, suggests plug-in hybrids.
Only a few days after the race, Paris streets were rain soaked. There was no sign of concrete walls, grandstands, and kilometers of cables that accompany such races – workers put away everything very quickly. The race track that was winding through the center of Paris, around Musee de’l Armee, the Napoleon’s tomb and Hotel des Invalides, transformed back into ordinary, carcrammed Paris streets. If Formula E race cars were speeding down those streets at over 200 kilometers per hour, our BMW 225xe was moving much slower because of the jam, but powered by electricity. With its electric range of up to 41 kilometers, it is ideal for day-time rides in the city such as Paris, although the city doesn’t actually provide electric car users with many charging options other than those offered by the electric car-sharing service Autolib, but you need a special connecting cable and service subscription. Well, this is an acceptable solution to a user who is in Paris every day, since there is a large number of such stations and the cable is also not expensive (around €200) – the only thing is, it doesn’t enable quick charging.
But since our BMW 225xe is a plug-in hybrid, we didn’t have to worry about this. Hotel garages have electrical connections and the car was charged overnight, and the battery easily lasted for a few tens of kilometers in the Paris city jams.
From the former Formula E race track we headed towards Champs-Élysées, which is less than two kilometers away (but around a half-an-hour’s drive in the morning traffic) and to Escale Numérique, which translates as “digital break”. It is a digital Wi-Fi station, an awarded work of the famous French designer Mathieu Lehanneur. The station, which won the street furniture competition, serves as a charging station for electronic devices and enables free internet connection – meanwhile, Paris has a poor Wi-Fi coverage or none at all. Information boards deliver interesting historical facts about Paris and useful city information for those, who don’t have cell phones or laptop computers. It features concrete swivel seats with mini tables perfect for your laptop, all of it topped off with a green plant roof, supported by huge logs. “The idea was for the station to look like a garden, which is actually best seen from the surrounding balconies. I wanted a place that would connect people, and when you put a similar structure in the city, which is already full of some other structures, it takes time for people to accept it and to get used to it,” said Lehanneur in his studio in central Paris. “For the first few days, I was hiding behind a tree watching the reactions of people. Some sat down and just read a newspaper, others made a phone call, and then they slowly, step by step, started discovering that the station offers much more,” said the designer, who used natural elements to make the high-tech structure appear less futuristic.
Wi-Fi station triggers a lot of interest even outside the French borders, but they are currently developing a business model, which would convince the cities to bring such a station to the people living there and, of course, to tourists. “We live in a world, where, if you want to attract tourist, you have to give them a free internet connection. And cities can do that in a quite innovative way.” By the way: imagine how much more interesting charging stations for electric cars would be, if they had been designed by Lehanneur?