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Boosting electric mobility research in island nations

Despite their vulnerability to climate change, island nations rely heavily on imported fossil fuels. The EU-funded NEEMO project aimed to boost research into electric mobility in Malta. Such initiatives are helping to develop green transport solutions for EU citizens living on islands and beyond.

©Kadiya #573910627 source: 2023

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Exposed to extreme weather events and isolated from wider support networks, island nations are at particular risk from climate change. However, they also tend to rely heavily on imported fossil fuels, lacking the material and scientific resources to transition to green energy.

The NEEMO project was launched to investigate ways to create relevant clean mobility infrastructure and generate self-funding growth in Malta. The project fostered networking among industry and research communities, to advance research and overcome barriers to the adoption of green transport solutions.

“The purpose was to enhance and build research capacity in electric mobility and its operations in Malta,” says Brian Azzopardi, NEEMO project coordinator and principal investigator at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology Energy Research Group (MCAST Energy). “This means engaging in research themes covering the vehicle technology itself, driving habits, and the mobility of people on the island.”

Joining MCAST in the NEEMO consortium were partners from across Europe, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology and the Nicosia Development Agency in Cyprus.

Enhancing research capacity

Their goal was to investigate opportunities and challenges associated with e-mobility – from electric cars to e-scooters – focusing on islands.

As part of these efforts, NEEMO organised three advanced schools in Malta and three workshops in partner countries, inviting key speakers from partner institutions and leading experts from outside the consortium to exchange knowledge with various stakeholders from Malta and other European countries.

Participants from other island regions, such as Rhodes, were also invited to share their experiences with electric mobility.

The NEEMO project also ran a series of mentoring activities, with researchers from advanced partner institutions in Austria and France visiting Malta to provide guidance and support for around a week each time.

Researchers from Malta also spent time in France and Austria, gaining exposure and experience abroad with foreign research institutions in internships.

Integrating electric vehicles

Malta’s characteristics as an island just 27 km long offer a unique lens through which to develop local electric mobility technologies. The average journey on the island is 6 km. NEEMO’s focus on micromobility solutions can help improve access to transportation for all citizens, including those with limited mobility or limited access to public transportation.

In addition, the island is striving to become more reliant on solar energy. Integrating electric vehicles with solar power is a key focus in this effort. A fleet of electric vehicles could contribute to the island’s energy resilience, by adjusting their charging schedules to alleviate pressure on the electric grid during peak hours.

The project made substantial contributions to ongoing research into frequency control, where electric vehicles offer bidirectional power flow, supplying the grid and offering greater stability while power grids restart after local blackouts, for example.

As a result of the NEEMO project, several studies have already been published in these emerging research areas, and others are in the pipeline.

A new research centre

NEEMO’s findings were disseminated in a special panel session dedicated to the project at the international conference MedPower 2022, held in Malta.

Despite the logistical challenges of holding a research event on a small island, the conference was a huge success, attracting around 200 participants and generating fruitful discussions around electric mobility.

To secure the legacy of the work of the NEEMO project, the Foundation for Innovation and Research in Malta was set up as an independent, autonomous, non-profit, public purpose foundation and research and dissemination organisation.

“The vision of twinning projects such as NEEMO is to build upon the initial achievements of a local research base in Malta, and create a platform for further advancements in emerging research fields of interest to the Mediterranean region and island states,” adds Azzopardi, adding that these hotspots encourage collaboration between research partners “where previously it proved difficult to reach.”

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Project details

Project acronym
Project number
Project coordinator: Malta
Project participants:
Total cost
€ 799 999
EU Contribution
€ 799 999
Project duration

See also

More information about project NEEMO

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