Electrifying the Dutch – Part 2: the proof of the pudding is in the numbers

When I was thinking about writing an article on Electric Cars in the Netherlands, my stance was that I was not willing to enter the ongoing debate on whether or not one should WANT to abandon the conventional cars or not. In fact, as I mentioned in the first part, I can fully understand the merits of a particular brand of fuel powered car on the German Autobahn, or a 4×4 in the terrain.  That’s emotion, passion, even conviction.

However, I am equally convinced that in this day and age, there is no logical reason why we should not choose an electric car over a conventional model for our daily commute and for most of business travel by car.

The most obvious factor contributing to this opinion is the fact that an electric car is much more economical to run. Contrary to common belief, this is not achieved by driving the way my grandparents do. It is mainly due to the increased efficiency of an electric engine compared to the efficiency of a conventional internal combustion engine. The running costs of an electric car are considerably less than those of a conventional car. € 50,- would buy you enough regular petrol to get you roughly 350 km. € 50,- of electricity would get you approximately 1.000 km.

However, every car, whether electric, petrol- or Flintstone-powered is less than 100% efficient, the images below, taken from the Tesla Motors Website clarifies this.

Internal combustion engines are relatively inefficient at converting on-board fuel energy to propulsion as most of the energy is wasted as heat. On the other hand, electric motors are more efficient in converting stored energy into driving a vehicle, and electric drive vehicles do not consume energy while at rest or coasting, and some of the energy lost when braking is captured and reused through regenerative braking, which captures as much as one fifth of the energy normally lost during braking. Typically, conventional gasoline engines effectively use only 15% of the fuel energy content to move the vehicle or to power accessories, and diesel engines can reach on-board efficiencies of 20%, while electric drive vehicles have on-board efficiency of around 80%.

Only when we take the entire chain of processes into account (for electric cars and conventional cars equally) we can make a fair comparison. Once again, the Tesla Motor Company has created an of excellent image to explain this.

Another significant improvement of the electric car is the Well-to-Wheel efficiency. Normally fuel consumption and CO2-emissions are measured (literally) in the car. In the case of electric cars, this is not the whole story. Obviously the CO2 and other emissions at tailpipe are zero in the case of an electric car, there are emissions during the whole process of generating, transporting electricity etc. It is understandable that, when the electricity comes from renewable sources, such as solar energy, wind, water etc the emissions are far less that when the electric cars are charged from the grid, using electricity from coal-powered power plants.

There are numerous studies being undertaken for the Dutch & European situation at this moment, but because of the increasing number of available  models, their efficiency and perhaps even more important the debate on the power sources, following the nuclear disaster in Japan, there is no real accurate study at this moment. In the US however, the Union of Concerned Scientists have released a very recent study on the electric cars in relation to the power source and grid stability in the US (This shows that even in the area’s where the grid the least stable and electricity is generated from coal, the electric car is as fuel efficient and has the same or less of an environmental impact that a relatively small car, such as a Ford Fiesta.

So, does this end the debate? No, it does not in my opinion.Yes, electric cars are more efficient, cheaper to run, have an equal or less environmental impact than conventional cars. But an electric car cannot take me to Spain, unless I have a lot of time on my hands, the number of models are limited and obviously charging times are still very long. But I feel strongly that when electric cars are combined with smart alternatives, they can and will offer a valid alternative to the ownership of a conventional car. So stay tuned for part three: “alternatives for the alternative?”

This post was originally written for and published by TEDxBinnenhof in close collaboration with Ivo Stroeken, Advisor Electric Transportation, and Max Herold, owner at Managementissues.com.

Electrifying the Dutch – Part 1: the debate

Ever since the introduction of the Th!nk City in The Netherlands in 2009, there has been an everlasting debate on the pro’s and con’s of electric cars in the Netherlands, and there are no signs that we are anywhere near reaching consensus on this subject.

The question is: do we WANT to reach consensus, or rather, why should we strive for consensus? I, for one, see no point in this.

Despite the high costs of purchase, the number of electric cars registered in the Netherlands are exploding, from somewhere to 100 in January 2009 to well over 1500 by March 2012. Of course, when compared to the total number of cars (well over 7 million) this is, well, a modest start. But didn’t Confucius say:” A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”?

One might wonder why those early adopters went ahead and purchased these vehicles in the first place? Expensive, range of 150 km maximum, no public infrastructure for charging the vehicle other than an extension cord, the battery has to remain plugged in otherwise it would bleed and it’s range would diminish to zero in roughly a week. The owners were either admired or ridiculed, depending on the perspective. But still, they went ahead and did it and discovered something amazing.

The sum of all fears for prospective owners (or rather, users) of an electric vehicle is called range anxiety. Only 150 km on a single charge. And refueling the car would take at least eight hours, even more. Not really versatile when compared to conventional cars. But what those hard-core users found out is that range anxiety is fundamentally non-existent. The only issue they had, was that they had to plan their journeys more carefully, to prevent the battery from running on empty. One added advantage of this was an increased efficiency of their daily business practice and a significant decrease of their travel distance, without, obviously, compromising their effectiveness! And of course, with the ever increasing number of fast charging stations (200 by the end of 2012, well over 300 by the end of 2013) the issue of running out of juice is merely a matter of pressing too hard or plain poor planning.

Those first vehicles would set you back roughly € 40.000 which is, frankly, staggering and there was virtually no choice in brands or models. That kind of money would buy you a decent set of wheels, even back in 2009. Lease of these vehicles was no different matter, because nobody in the car business knew what the long term development of their investment in those vehicles would yield, and so the lease-prices were even more staggering. You had to be pretty convinced or determined to even consider using an electric vehicle back then.

Today is an entirely different story altogether. Virtually all car manufacturers of conventional cars are developing new electric models from scratch, for prices which are much more interesting. Yes, those vehicles are still much more expensive than their conventional cousins. But a select number of providers, believing in the residual value of these cars, is starting to offer realistic lease prices, making the electric cars even cheaper than their conventional brethren, when comparing the annual total costs of ownership. This way, enterprises can actually start to convert part of their fleet from conventional vehicles to electric ones.

The prospective users of those cars are, of course, an entirely different matter. There are very few ‘owners’ of a company car who make this decision based on the environmental effects of the car. And those few just might be the ones who bought the first electric cars in 2009. The vast majority makes this decision based on the brand, versatility, fuel consumption and additional tax liability. This last aspect has caused a massive increase in numbers of sales of the Toyota Prius & Auris, the Honda Civic Hybrid etc.

Electric cars can benefit from an even greater advantage, the fuel consumption is dramatically less then it’s conventional counterparts and, due to the emissions on which the additional tax liability is based, there is a 0% tax bracket.

The increasing number of makes & models can provide the same (or challenge even) the level of comfort and ride of the conventional car, makes the electric car a much more valid alternative. And an added bonus is the amazing torque offered an electric car. A necessity is the availability of ‘access to mobility’ providers, for, for example a weekend trip to the Belgian Ardennes in a conventional car without having to go to the hassle of renting a car. Again, certain mobility providers are offering these services as we speak, making this a reality and thus ensuring that the driver of an electric car can access the mode of transportation they need, whenever they need it.

In this day and age, there is no logical reason why we should not choose an electric car over a conventional model for our daily commute and for most of business travel by car.

The question I’ve started off with was, however: do we WANT to reach consensus over the electric car? No we don’t.

I can very much understand and even appreciate ones point of view when someone states that they immensely enjoy the ability to reach 200 km/h and over on the German motorways, or how a particular brand of 4×4 really ‘does it for them’. At present it’s an illusion to think or, even more, to try to convince someone to substitute their beloved brand X for an electric car, and I for one, am not prepared to enter this debate.

What I am convinced of, and I will prove this in ‘electrifying the Dutch, part 2: the proof of the pudding is in the numbers’, is that electric cars offer a valid, and often economically more viable alternative to conventional cars.

This post was originally written for and published at TEDxBinnenhof in close collaboration with Ivo Stroeken, Advisor Electric Transportation, and Max Herold, owner at Managementissues.com.

Uit de inbox: Politiek Online lanceert Statenversie volgdeverkiezingen.nl

Op 2 maart vinden de verkiezingen voor de Provinciale Staten plaats. Ook bij deze verkiezingen houdt Politiek Online weer bij welke kandidaten er allemaal op sociale media actief zijn. Dat doen we via de website volgdeverkiezingen.nl. Op 27 januari lanceren we deze website in Perscentrum Nieuwspoort met een debat tussen de campagneleiders van de politieke partijen.

De website volgdeverkiezingen.nl is inmiddels uitgegroeid tot een goede traditie. Rondom de verkiezingen voor de Gemeenteraden en de Tweede Kamer vorig jaar bracht Politiek Online deze website in de lucht. En ook de komende campagnes volgt Politiek Online op de voet.

Op 27 januari vanaf 15.00 uur lanceert Politiek Online de nieuwe versie van volgdeverkiezingen.nl. De campagneleiders van alle deelnemende landelijke partijen zijn uitgenodigd om hun blik vooruit te werpen op de campagnes. Onder meer Michael Sijbom (CDA), Pieter Paul Slikker (PvdA), Arno Vliegenthart (SP) en Jaap de Bruijn (GroenLinks) zullen de degens kruisen. Wat zijn de trends en op welke manieren wordt er campagne gevoerd? U bent van harte uitgenodigd om deze bijeenkomst bij te wonen. Aanmelden wordt op prijs gesteld en dat kan via devries at politiekonline punt nl.

Uit de inbox: Verslag debatdiner Drijvende Krachten beschikbaar

Vorige maand heb ik op verzoek van Young EDBR op persoonlijke titel deelgenomen aan het debatdiner drijvende krachten. Het twitterverslag van het debat vind je hier Vandaag ontving ik ook een email met de link naar het verslag van het diner en de kernelementen die wethouder Van Huffelen heeft gedestilleerd uit het verslag:

  • Samenwerking met de gemeente en andere duurzame pioniers wordt sterk gewaardeerd. Er is behoefte aan georganiseerde samenwerking en het tot stand brengen van verbindingen die de transitie naar een duurzame maatschappij verder kunnen versterken.
  • De regels en procedures worden door duurzame pioniers als een barrière ervaren. De gemeente wordt hulp gevraagd om zaken sneller voor elkaar te krijgen.
  • Slimme financiële constructies zijn nodig om duurzame projecten van de grond te krijgen.
  • Duurzaamheid moet expliciet zichtbaar worden gemaakt in de stad. Door icoonprojecten op verschillende niveaus kunnen Rotterdammers duurzaamheid zien en ervaren.

De kernelementen en de kansrijke ideeën die tijdens het debat, de publieksdag en op het forum geopperd zijn, worden verwerkt in het Programma Duurzaamheid. Dit programma zal naar verwachting eind 2010 gereed zijn.

Uit de inbox: Maak kennis met 2e kamerleden van onze generatie!

Bijeenkomst Zingeving Zuidas over nieuwe politici

De dag van morgen zal helemaal in het teken komen te staan van het regeerakkoord. Zingeving Zuidas haalt op deze dag zes Tweede Kamerleden tussen de 24 en de 40 jaar naar de Theaterzaal van de Thomaskerk op de Zuidas. We gaan met hen in gesprek over wat ze toch in vredesnaam bezielt om in de politiek te zitten. Neem vrienden en collega’s mee! Een stevig debat sluiten wij niet uit…

Bijeenkomst Zingeving Zuidas over nieuwe politici

Meer informatie Thomas Open of Zingeving Zuidas

Twitterverslag duurzaam debat Drijvende Kracht 7 september 2010 #010duurzaam

Gisteravond was ik op persoonlijke titel uitgenodigd om het debat Drijvende Kracht in Rotterdam bij te wonen. Het thema van de avond was duurzaamheid in Rotterdam. Een boeiende bijeenkomst, waarbij de aanwezigen opgeschrikt werden door twitterende tafelgenoten (waaronder ik, zei de gek). Geen opmerking was veilig… Dat maakte de scherpte van de discussie er overigens niet minder om. Al met al een interessante avond. Of het ook interessante tweets heeft opgeleverd mag je hieronder zelf beoordelen. Aanvullingen? Commentaar? Kom maar door in de reacties.

Twitterverslag Duurzaam Debat Drijvende Kracht