Shrinking Car City @ Museum for Architecture & Engineering NRW

Shrinking Car City is exhibited within the framework of the Dynamik und Wandel. Entwicklung der Städte am Rhein exhibit at the Liebfrauenkirche Duisburg organised by the Museum für Architektur und Ingenieurkunst NRW.

Exhibition Future Vision @ Museum for Architecture & Engineering NRW, Cologne, Germany, 9 September-13 October 2013
Publication @, 9 September -13 October 2013

the Future

The race for the development of electric cars is rapidly accelerating. The focus, due to sustainability compliance, is their energy balance. However new urban planning perspectives and opportunities are created when you finally dare to acknowledge that the electric motors is not only as technical progress , but also can be seen as an opportunity to redefine the individual traffic and thus also the urban public space . The car is shrinking – and the public space of the city can grow back!

Cities as climate killers or protectors? Climate change requires fundamental rethinking and requires new action strategies. Especially in the planning and design of our cities. Today more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. These agglomerations are responsible for a large part of the greenhouse gas CO2 production and thus for global warming. The cities will therefore have to change, as will life in the cities.

The United Nations Climate Change (IPCC) predicts global warming by an average of 0.2 degrees per decade. If this trend is to be stopped, consumption must be drastically restricted.

Industry and agriculture, but above all our everyday life, are driving climate change forward: resources are consumed by daily commuting, by heating and food. The challenge is: Sustainable action! Planning and design, and especially life in our cities, can make an important contribution to this. The city should become a multifunctional place of short distances. Compaction, compact structures, green railways, networking of renewable energy sources, building technologies and new building materials, are all building blocks for a sustainable city. Food production in Europe has to be much more concentrated in the urban regions, and even in the cities.

In 1910, the cities were dominated by industrialization before hitherto unknown challenges. They have found solutions that have changed society and transformed the image of the city. The challenges facing the climate change are great, and the future: look at this exhibition will raise awareness for this complex issue.

What the city of tomorrow will look like, we want to think about it.


Today’s car was developed out of the coach and still carries its genetic coding. It is still used today as a large vehicle, which transports a group of passengers over longer distances. However, its actual use in an urban context did not affect its general development for a long time. Today, there are chances of adapting the car to the actual needs.

It is necessary to transform the limitations imposed by the new energy technology – mainly because of the limited storage capacity of today’s battery. The smaller range of electric vehicles can be offset by the minimization of the vehicle size and converted into a competitive advantage. The lower complexity of the electric motors makes it possible for medium-sized companies to develop and manufacture new electric cars. This means that vehicles tailored to the urban space could also come onto the market.

These developments also include the experience with small vehicles that have been available for a number of years and are better suited to the driving behavior within the city – that is, they are suitable for short trips at low speed with mostly one passenger. This minimization of the vehicle size becomes a further competitive advantage at the latest when the driver finds a parking space in the traffic-free city center without having to look for expensive. The transition from the electrically operated wheelchair to the electric small car is smooth. The urban car is shrinking.


The introduction of the electric drive runs parallel to other technological developments, namely medialization, digitization, robotization and networking. Digital networking supports a resource-saving mobility.

The combination of physical and media mobility can reduce the number of trips actually made. The use of networked mobile and digital services can also be a means of securing the quality of life for the more immobile parts of the population – especially in rural and shrinking regions. These combined mobile and media services can range from video conferencing to media-assisted communication with the hospital. Thanks to the networking of physical mobility and digital networks, an aging population in rural areas is also able to participate in public life.

In addition, resources can be conserved if digital networking supports those multimodal mobility systems that link motorized individual transport to public transport such as buses, trains and (electric) bicycles. Not to mention the car-sharing services, which increase their energy efficiency by means of organized and effective use of the vehicles. Intelligent network systems make it easier for the user to make choices, communicate and make reservations, as well as for the provider of dynamic billing. This makes car sharing services more attractive.

At present, the acceptance of such services is increasing. Some major car manufacturers have also recently offered such mobility services. Car sharing is not a product, but a service. This corresponds to a general tendency towards the development of the market, which leads away from the provision of objects and to the provision of services. Jeremy Rifkin has described this general tendency that access – rather than ownership – becomes more important, even at the end of the millennium, in his book “Age of Access”.


How successful the introduction of electromobility will be depends on how the lack of storage capacity of the batteries can be bypassed. This includes, above all, the development of a reliable supply network of charging stations.

Here too, the solution could lie in the forced networking of urban systems, especially if one integrates renewable energies conceptually. The batteries of electric cars could act as external storage media in the urban energy supply system, absorbing the renewable energy surpluses and vagaries, storing them in the short term and, if necessary, feeding them into the system again. With alternating circuits, the uneven demand resulting from the urban dynasties of life could be adapted dynamically in real time to the fluctuating supply. Both systems – the electromobility and the energy supply – would mutually stabilize.

This would not only feed energy from regenerative sources into electric cars. The introduction of locally won clean energies in general would also be supported. The electric car as a vehicle on the way to the post-fossil age would gain in importance.

in the

The increased use of electric cars will have a direct positive effect on the quality of the public space in the city. After all, they are quieter and generate no exhaust gases, at least locally. At the same time, the size and number of vehicles used in electrical engineering and car sharing can also reduce the space occupied by both the flowing and the stationary traffic.

In some of the models that are currently being developed, the electric motors are attached to the wheels of the vehicle, which makes smaller wender tires possible. These minimized turneries could also be used to provide fewer areas for motorized traffic. With digitally supported and networked parking systems, the number and size of car parks and garages could also be reduced.

The introduction of electromobility therefore means not only less noise and higher air quality in the cities. It may also mean that the road area is recaptured in favor of pedestrians, open spaces or other uses. Newbuilding areas could be more closely planned and conceived as urban ensembles – with the corresponding economic relevance.

All these opportunities offered by the introduction of the electromobility of our urban landscapes are opening up at a time when, in the course of ecological awareness formation, our energy consumption and our habits are generally questioned and rethought. This does not mean that electromobility will automatically have this effect. The opportunities must be taken and the developments must be steered. The car is shrinking – and the public space of the city can grow again.

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