Cars of Tomorrow in Australia & Electric Vehicles in Netherlands

As nations are aggressively promoting the use of electric vehicles to reduce climate changing carbon dioxide emissions, the Netherlands can be seen as the ultimate testing ground. Long steeped in environmentalism, the country is encouraging adoption of electric vehicles by expanding its network of charging stations in cities and along highways. Meanwhile, Australia is driving into the future with its “Cars of Tomorrow Conference 2013″ in Melbourne next month. Read more

Plugging In, Dutch Put Electric Cars to the Test

“There’s still some planning; it’s a bit like a puzzle. It’s not the same ease of mind as with a gas car.’  – Maarten Noom in Amsterdam, who drives an electric vehicle

By Elisabeth Rosenthal in New York Times (9 February 2013):

AMSTERDAM — When Patrick Langevoort’s company issued him an electric vehicle two years ago, the first months were filled with misadventure: he found himself far from Amsterdam, with only a 25 percent charge remaining, unable to find the charging point listed on a map. Though the car was supposed to travel 100 miles on a full battery, he discovered that cold weather and fast driving decreased that range.

The Netherlands is installing a rapidly expanding national grid of charging stations to encourage broader use of electric vehicles.

Patrick Langevoort charged his car at his workplace in Arnhem, the Netherlands. He found going gasless a challenge at first.

But electric vehicles have improved, the network of charging stations in the Netherlands has expanded and drivers like Mr. Langevoort are getting used to the particularities of electric driving. “I used to be a real petrol head,” said Mr. Langevoort, who works for a company that manages electricity networks. “Now, I’ve sold my petrol car.”

Although a number of European countries and a few American states are aggressively promoting the use of electric vehicles to reduce planet-warming emissions and pollution, the Netherlands provides perhaps the ultimate feasibility test. If electric vehicles catch on anywhere, it should be here: a small country — about 100 miles east to west — with gas prices of about $8.50 a gallon and a long tradition of environmental activism.

To encourage electric driving, the country is developing a rapidly expanding national grid of charging stations in cities and along highways; and Amsterdam offers owners of electric vehicles free street parking and charging. With hefty tax breaks, promotional leases and cheaper operating costs, the vehicles offer driving costs no more than those of conventional cars, some analysts say.

The number of plug-in electric vehicles in the Netherlands soared eightfold to about 7,500 last year, and charging posts dot the sidewalks. “In a few countries you’re starting to see a number of E.V.’s on the road, especially in capital cities; they’re very visible,” said Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Environment Agency.

And yet, experiments with the cars in the Netherlands and Denmark also underscore the challenges facing this new technology. Sales have been lower than politicians and automakers hoped, representing under 1 percent of new vehicles, even here. “It seems that the industry has not convinced consumers that they can do this,” Mr. Jensen said. “If they fail over the next few years, I think investors will pull out, and that will be a problem.”

Last year 120,000 plug-in electric vehicles were sold globally, according to a recent report by Pike Research, an industry analyst group, which predicts 40 percent annual growth between now and 2020. In 2012, 52,000 were sold in the United States, which now has 12,000 charging stations, according to the automotive consulting firm J. D. Power; but they are dispersed over a large area. Those statistics include pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids, which can run on gas or propane once the battery loses power.

Though many analysts had assigned electric vehicles to the second-car niche, a 2012 survey of Dutch drivers of the cars by the consulting firm Accenture found that most of them ended up being used as a family’s primary vehicle.

Drivers learned to figure out how far they could drive on a charge, overcoming what has been dubbed “range anxiety.” They started off cautiously driving straight from home to the office, knowing they could charge at one or both sites. Over time, they expanded their driving repertory, learning where to find charging points in garages and along highways — a smartphone app contains them all — much as people learn the locations of convenient A.T.M.’s. That task was made easier by the growing number of chain stores and restaurants offering parking spots with charging outlets, so that customers can refuel while they dine or shop.

Still, a layer of complexity limits acceptance. “There’s still some planning; it’s a bit like a puzzle,” said Maarten Noom, an Accenture consultant who drives an electric vehicle. “It’s not the same ease of mind as with a gas car.”

Mr. Noom, for example, charges at his office and overnight at home, but he switches to a gasoline car when his appointments are scattered around the Netherlands, since he sometimes drives hundreds of miles in a day. Charging at home uses low voltage and takes four to eight hours. New high-voltage rapid charging stations give an 80 percent charge in 20 to 30 minutes, but they are costly to install and still rare.

Mr. Langevoort, the electricity company manager, says he now leaves for work later because his Opel Ampera’s charge goes further as the day warms.

Some electric car leasing programs here provide free or discounted gas vehicles for those who want to take a weeklong driving vacation around Europe.

Many experts say the lack of a uniform business model in the fledgling market is also a hindrance. Contracts for charging are sometimes purchased along with the car and tied to a particular charging network, much as cellphones are linked to a certain carrier. What is more, the penetration of the various networks varies depending on the region, and technology is not always interchangeable.

In Europe, the charging network run by New Motion delivers electricity from pumplike devices. One rival, Better Place, offers swap stations where drivers get a fresh battery in addition to charging points. In the United States, SAE International, an organization of scientists and vehicle engineers, recently adopted a standard charging plug nationwide so that most electric vehicles can use any charging station. But some companies, like Tesla Motors, operate closed networks of high-performance “superchargers.”

“That type of uncertainty is also unsettling to customers,” said Mike Omotoso, a senior manager of forecasting at LMC Automotive, a market research firm. “There’s a Wild West feel, with a lot of companies jumping in. But ultimately there will be a shakeout and consolidation.”

In many European countries there is a good financial case for driving electric. In Denmark, taxes on new luxury cars can be 200 percent of the sticker price, whereas electric vehicles come tax-free. In the Netherlands, gas costs about five times as much as the electricity needed for a similar journey.

While there are some tax breaks for electric vehicle purchases in the United States, the Obama administration has relied more on exhortation to make electric vehicles “as affordable and convenient as gasoline-powered cars in the next 10 years.” Last month, the Energy Department announced its Workplace Charging Challenge, in which Google, Verizon, Eli Lilly, Nissan and other companies pledged to put charging infrastructure in at least one major office.

Mr. Jensen, of the European Environment Agency, said that a big infusion of money could be needed to improve infrastructure in those countries seeking to increase the use of electric vehicles.

When he looked into buying an electric car, the charging system would not fit in his garage, Mr. Jensen said, and few are willing to drive around Europe with a trunk full of adapters. “I think the companies who will win are not necessarily the ones that have the best technology, but the ones that form the best alliances,” he said. “It you have a mobile phone — and even more a car — the most important thing is that you can use it wherever you go.”

A version of this article appeared in print on February 10, 2013, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Plugging In, Dutch Put Electric Cars to the Test.


29th January 2012:

Driving into the future:  The Cars of Tomorrow Conference 2013

March always brings exciting automotive related events to Melbourne and this year is no exception. The second “The Cars of Tomorrow” Conference forms a key part of activities during Australian Automotive Week and will be held on the 14th March at Melbourne Park Function Centre near the CBD.

Brought to you by AutoCRC, Future Climate Australia and The Society of Automotive Engineers Australasia, the conference will consider pathways to survival and success for the Australian automotive industry, as well as improvement in vehicle efficiency as an ongoing global trend.

The conference addresses four main topics: The commercial imperative – how to keep businesses viable; technology and how to integrate a low emission future for vehicles and operators; the role of public policy and the importance of low CO2 solutions for Australia; and understanding consumers and the purchasing decision-making process in an era of proliferating technologies and choice.

In order to address these complex issues a number of high profile speakers have been chosen to inform and stimulate the discussion. Among the international speakers at the Conference will be: US-based Dr Anup Bandivadekar, Passenger Vehicles Program Director at The International Council on Clean Transportation speaking about the issues that keep  global automotive executives awake at night; Andy Eastlake, Managing Director of the United Kingdom’s Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership will speak on the topic of ‘Regulatory interventions: Successes and failures in other markets’.

Dr Tom Turrentine, Director of the California Energy Commission Plug-in Hybrid Electric & Vehicle Research Centre, University of California, Davis, will offer some fresh insights into ‘How people behave: Is there a disconnect between purchasing decisions and fuel efficiency?’. This promises to explode some myths surrounding green vehicle sales experiences.

The Cars of Tomorrow Conference will also feature key Australian speakers, including Lyn O’Connell, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure & Transport (‘The importance of low carbon solutions for Australia’), Professor Simon Washington, Queensland University of Technology (‘Stimulating LEV sales in Australia’), Dr David Charles, former Chair of the Automotive Industry Innovation Council (‘The vision for low emissions R&D in Australia’), and John Mellor, Publisher GoAuto (‘Finding a future for the Australian automotive industry’).

The Cars of Tomorrow Conference will welcome attendees from all corners of the automotive industry and the marketplace; from planning, manufacturing, retailing and finance, to service, support and development industries, such as energy, environment, infrastructure, and intelligent road and traffic planning through to fleet managers and corporate decision makers.

“The Cars of Tomorrow Conference aims to deliver a comprehensive view of where the automotive industry is headed, and how it will address the critical changes it now faces,” says Henry O’Clery, Director of Future Climate Australia.

“We’re examining the issues from both international and Australian standpoints, because the Australian automotive industry will be affected by these changes.

“We hope to prompt discussion of how the local industry can position itself for a strong future in the face of a growing shift towards imported low emission vehicles, new technologies and new solutions for personal mobility.

“It is apparent that developments in the global industry are picking up pace, and Australia is lagging at the same time” he says.

“AutoCRC is delighted to be able to welcome such informed and interesting local and international automotive industry experts to The Cars of Tomorrow Conference at Melbourne Park,” says Jim Walker, CEO of AutoCRC.

“The Conference will provide vital up-to-date information and an opportunity to discuss issues and solutions with international experts for people involved in all aspects of the Australian automotive industry; not just in product development and retailing, but within the energy and environmental sphere as well as intelligent traffic management systems and urban planning,” he says. “We welcome the contributions of all these industry stakeholders in this vital event”.

For more information about the Cars of Tomorrow Conference 2013, or to register, visit


Henry O’Clery                                                                    Jacqueline King

Executive Director                                                           Communications Manager

Future Climate Australia                                               AutoCRC Ltd

Tel: 0417 501 161                                                              Tel: 03 9948 0458 / 0404 045 293

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