European countries vying for the title of electric vehicle superpower

Wednesday, 22 August, 2012

European countries are testing out different strategies to boost their citizens’ adoption of clean transport technologies, states a new report by GlobalData.

The report claims that the race is on for the title of electric vehicle (EV) giant. The drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the 20-20-20 target is the key motivator for the deployment of EVs in Europe, but governments have to work hard to convince their citizens.

The UK government has developed a number of initiatives to promote the mass adoption of EVs and promote lower greenhouse gas emissions, with an ambition to deploy 1.2 million EVs and 350,000 plug-in hybrid EVs by 2020. A commitment of £250m ($409.3m) was pledged for the promotion of low-carbon transport over 2009-2014, with initiatives including the plug-in car grant scheme which grants £2000 ($3133) to £5000 ($7832) to customers buying an electric or plug-in hybrid car.

Despite this, the EV market in the UK experienced only 1100 sales in 2011, as high prices and a lack of charging infrastructure makes government schemes insufficient to attract customers. As of 2010, just 400 charging stations were located in the UK, proving a need for government-backed expansion projects.

The German government plans to deploy 1 million EVs by 2020 and 5 million EVs by 2030, and has promised public funding of €20m ($26.9m) to help achieve this. However, the high cost of an EV is restricting growth throughout Europe, and Germany is investigating the conversion of internal combustion engine vehicles into EVs as a possible solution to this. Hamburg entrepreneur Sirri Karabag has developed a way of converting a Fiat 500 ICE vehicle into the Karabag 500e, which runs on electricity and costs less than the pure EVs currently available. The country’s market development will focus on field tests, demonstrations and the mass production of batteries and vehicles until 2016.

The French government dedicated €400m ($555.72m) to EV R&D projects and charging infrastructure between 2008 and 2012, in hopes of introducing 450,000 electric or hybrid vehicles by 2015, 2 million by 2020 and 4.5 million by 2025. In order to achieve this, a variety of incentives have been put in place, including a subsidy of €5000 ($6968.50) for new cars and light commercial vehicles emitting less than 60 g of carbon dioxide per kilometre (this applies to all EVs). The Autolib scheme also offers Parisian citizens the opportunity to join a car-sharing plan, which caters to individuals who want to use electric cars for short trips.

Other methods of EV promotion include Austria’s model region implementing the electric mobility program by the Klima- und Energiefonds (Climate and Energy Fund), which demonstrates large-scale proposals of electric mobility. Portugal also boasts an impressive research and development initiative, with the introduction of the Sustainable Energy Systems and Electric Mobility Research Platform and Network known as E2 Research Net, which involves research teams from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in an educational and research joint venture.

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