Uni-Kassel proposes standard for size-based categorization of vehicles

240 days ago

4 minutes

At the German University of Kassel, a project on “human-scale mobility” has been running for some time. It focuses on promoting light mobility for environmental and climate protection, urban quality and quality of life and is funded by the German Federal Environment Foundation. Last year, the university organised a well-attended symposium on the topic of light mobility in which LEVA-EU also participated. That symposium and further professional discussions have now resulted in a technical standard that categorises vehicles according to their size. This categorization is meant to assist policies that are aimed at encouraging the use of smaller, lighter vehicles.

Over the past decades, passenger cars have become increasingly larger and heavier. In addition, many car users, when purchasing a new car, switch to larger vehicles (van, crossover, SUV, off-road vehicle) than their previous models. The proportion of new SUV registrations in Germany has been rising steadily for years and are now over 25%.  In addition, the number of cars and car density (cars per 1000 inhabitants) continue to increase: from 2010 to 2019 alone, car density increased by around 12%.

As the number and size of the car fleet grows, there is an increase in problems:

  • Increasingly longer, wider and higher vehicles are taking up more public space. Wide cars exceed parking spaces adjacent to the road and thus use sidewalks or part of the road itself. Due to increasingly longer models, fewer cars fit in parking bays. High cars, in turn, block visual connections in the street and have an intimidating effect on people walking, cycling as well as people in smaller cars.
  • Car users are increasingly parking their vehicles on the street because their size means they cannot fit anymore into their garages.
  • The decision to purchase a large car is based, among other things, on the fear of car users for accident damage in collisions. They “armour” themselves instead of pushing for safe speed levels and effective behaviour monitoring all. Because of the massive cars they become, paradoxically, themselves a danger to others.

In Germany, transport is a sector in which CO2 emissions must fall drastically in order to achieve the reduction targets. Larger cars not only use more energy and space, but also more raw materials and energy from production to disposal. In an era in which resources and energy conservation are a necessity, relative efficiency gains in production and operation are cancelled out by the increase of the size of cars and of the car fleet (rebound effect). The transition to battery electric vehicles leads to even more problems due to the weight of the batteries, which results in heavier vehicles, which is further reinforced by the desire for long ranges.

Municipalities and other stakeholders are therefore beginning to provide incentives for a reversal of the trend from progressive giantomania to light mobility. This requires a tool for operationalizing the “vehicle size” factor, which is provided with this technical standard. Based on the technical standard, which includes several parameters, vehicles are subdivided in 3 categories, i.e. small to large, which cover sizes from XXS to XXL

This categorization allows for a variety of applications. In technical discussions, the following possible applications are pointed out in particular:

– Definition of several, size-dependent measuring vehicles instead of only one measuring vehicle for passenger cars in the technical regulations
– Size-differentiated designation of parking spaces, parking strips and other parking areas in public road space, on private land and in (private) multi-storey and underground car parks
– Size-differentiated pricing of parking space in public spaces (e.g. residents’ parking fees)
– Size-differentiated ban on entering/passing through narrow streets and alleys in old towns as well as in other sensitive urban areas of the city and size-differentiated access regulations on private property.

Further details on the standard and on how calculations are done to categorize vehicles from XXS to XXL are in the German document “Professional standard for the classification of means of transport according to size (G classes)” (Fachlicher Standard zur Klassifikation von Bewegungsmitteln nach Größe (G-Klassen): https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/bq7urtxcey3m9x8srfun8/Fachlicher-Standard-G-Klassifikation_Uni-Kassel_TUI_20230728.pdf?rlkey=haf6cgyfx6hrwmtscgn4j7era&dl=0

Annick Roetynck

Annick is the Manager of LEVA-EU, with decades of experience in two-wheeled and light electric mobility.

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