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AN OVAL plate with letters “NL” identifies a vehicle from the Netherlands. And, of course, EV suggests that a vehicle is electrified in some way, an HEV as in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, a PHEV as in Plug-in HEV, a BEV as in Battery Electric Vehicle (or even an FCEV as in Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle).
An article in The New York Times, February 10, 2013, by Elisabeth Rosenthal is titled “Plugging In, Dutch Put Electric Cars to the Test.” It offers interesting details of Dutch drivers and their varied enthusiasms for—or indifference to—BEVs. The country is also something of a test case predicting the likelihood of a million BEVs on U.S. roads any time soon.
Do you know the difference between “fat chance” and “slim chance”?
First, the Dutch experience, with a bit more digging than simply the NYT article: The Netherlands would seem to be an ideal place for BEVs. By U.S. standards, it’s compact, flat as a billiard table, has a moderate climate, is heavily urban—and, because of taxation, has gasoline costing the equivalent of around $8.50/gallon.
The climate of the Netherlands is not unlike New York City’s. More than 80 percent of the Dutch are urbanites. And, east to west, it’s about 100 miles max.
EV incentives include exemption from car registration fees and taxes. A major one for those living in Amsterdam is dedicated BEV-only parking with no fees and free charging. (By contrast, it’s not unknown to wait 10 years for one’s own parking slot for a conventional car.)
How are EVs doing in the Netherlands? “Sales have soared eight-fold to 7500 last year.” A little arithmetic indicates that, the year before, the EV total was 938.
It’s now “under 1 percent of new vehicles.” Indeed, a little digging reveals it’s 0.57 percent. Dig a bit more and we learn that about 85 percent of these sales are for plug-in hybrids, principally the Opel Ampera (the Euro Chevy Volt) and the Toyota Prius.
Among actual BEVs, the best seller in 2012 was the Nissan Leaf, accounting for 5.2 percent of that 0.57 percent, i.e., three-hundredths of one percent of total sales.
Apparently Amsterdam city fathers won’t have to set aside many of those dedicated BEV spots.
Why aren’t the Dutch lining up to buy BEVs? Like elsewhere, the EV-hip are learning to use smart phones to identify opportunity charging and other benefits. Yet even proponents continue to cite limited range, having to plan ahead and high initial cost.
What’s more puzzling—with gasoline at $8.50/gal. equivalent—is why more of them aren’t buying plug-in hybrids? PHEVs get the same benefits except for free parking/charging.
Last, what does this suggest about our own government’s goal, as stated in Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2011? One million EVs by 2015?
Certainly there’s no hope if we’re talking BEVs. Even if things are stretched to include conventional hybrids—which, making their own electricity, aren’t even plug-ins—this would call for almost a doubling of 2012’s U.S. “EV” sales.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that federal policies to promote EVs would cost about $7.5 billion through 2019. And many people still continue to convolute EVs, HEVs, PHEVs and BEVs.
Jeez. Let’s learn from The Kingdom of the Netherlands. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013