Amsterdam Electric

IMG_2594An avid city cyclist, I must admit: there is one automobile trend that has caught my attention – electric cars. While countless cities are beginning to provide better electronic mobility infrastructure and access, Amsterdam is quite literally leading the “charge”.  The city’s e-mobility scheme has been acknowledged in both the Korean Times and the New York Times, which highlight Amsterdam’s (and the Netherlands’) role in facilitating the electric car revolution. NYT states: “… to encourage electric driving, the Netherlands 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.”  Did someone say free?  Who doesn’t like free parking? And better yet, free charging!  Oh! Free from the bondage of petrol purchase! Yes: free charging stations, which generally employ green (e.g. wind or solar) electricity.

IMG_1259Charging stations are found on almost every block or at least a few in every district. Presently, Amsterdam has more than 600 charging stations, with the plan to increase this to 2000 well-mapped charging stations by 2015 – ensuring that your electric car will never be left with a dead battery. On my morning cycle to the train station, I pass several charging stations; on my way to the grocery store, I pass several more. It’s so common in Amsterdam; most people don’t pay attention to it – until they start thinking about a car purchase. With sound provision of public access electricity charging points, this makes it more appealing for a customer to purchase such a vehicle. After all, with parking difficult to come by in this densely populated city, these stations always have a reserved parking/ charging spot (that is until electric cars become too popular). In 2013, electric car estimates were roughly 800; by 2015 this is anticipated to grow to 6000 electric vehicles. For a city dominated more by the bicycle than the automobile, this is rather significant. And for the daily cyclist like myself: Amsterdam has several car-sharing schemes – such as Greenwheels and Car2Go, which use electric or hybrid cars. Greenwheels also offers discounts to frequent train users. Mobility management in action!

To encourage the electric car transition, Amsterdam has a subsidy scheme for electric cars, while also encouraging electric vehicles within the city’s taxi fleet and among its maintenance vehicles. The city is also involved in several EU projects focused on electric mobility – including E-harbours Electric, which addresses electric mobility, renewable energy and smart grids in selected EU port cities.

But beyond cleaner air, addressing climate change and its do-gooder quest, come the economic benefits. Car manufacturers have noticed Amsterdam’s facilitation of innovation. Tesla and Nissan came to Amsterdam to test and showcase their latest electric vehicles – not bad for a city more famous for its bicycles! Amsterdam, bringing back a 1970s’ hit with a new eco-twist: I’ll teach you, teach you, teach you… the electric ride.

Classic Dutch: windmills and now, electric vehicles
Classic Dutch: windmills and now, electric vehicles
I love the old-style conversion vehicle and I love the charging station is right next to the cycle path - both signs of Amsterdam's strong focus on sustainable mobility.
I love the old-style conversion vehicle and that the charging station is right next to the cycle path, demonstrating Amsterdam’s commitment to sustainable mobility on many accounts.
As a half-Swede, I'm proud to find a bright blue electric  Volvo often charging on my Amsterdam street corner. (A quick photo, as I cycle by, already late to catch my train to work!)
As a half-Swede, I’m proud to find a bright blue electric Volvo often charging on my Amsterdam street corner. (A quick photo, as I cycle by, already late to catch my train to work!)
Amsterdam maintenance vehicles go electric.
Amsterdam maintenance vehicles go electric.
E-taxi charging station in Amsterdam
E-taxi charging station in Amsterdam
Typically Dutch: it's not only electric cars, but also electric bicycle charging stations! This one is at my office bicycle shed (in Wagenigen). While I prefer self-powered peddling, sometimes distances are long and the wind is strong, so not a bad option... charge it while you work!
Typically Dutch: it’s not only electric cars, but also electric bicycle charging stations! This one is at my office bicycle shed (in Wagenigen). While I prefer self-powered peddling, sometimes distances are long and the wind is strong, so not a bad option… charge it while you work!
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3 thoughts on “Amsterdam Electric

  1. Hi Jennifer, thanks a lot for sharing your impressions and for showing Amsterdam’s leadership with electric vehicles! Nothing less to be expected from the Dutch and I believe Germany has to make sure not to miss the train here.

    Some while ago I published a post about world’s 10 greenest cities over at http://sustainability-leaders.com and someone pointed out that Amsterdam would deserve to be on that list. You are proving it.

    Australia and New Zealand are still miles away from any serious electric vehicle scheme but I am sure that Asian cities especially will be leading this development very soon, simply because they have no choice but to invest in urban sustainability solutions to battle smog, traffic chaos, growing urban population etc.

    The key is of course to have the electric vehicles running on renewable energies – I love the old Dutch wind mill idea 🙂 Better batteries are essential and I hear some massive investment is being made.. Switching from the horse to something on wheels a century ago surely wasn’t easy, but here we are. For my part I am convinced that electric cars will be the norm soon.

    1. Hi Florian,

      Thanks so much for the comment. Yes, I think I remember that post and always enjoy your blog. 🙂 And I agree with some of your readers: Amsterdam is an impressive and sustainable city on many accounts. I’m really enjoying my time here and learning a lot.

      As far as electric vehicles are concerned, indeed there are many parts to the equation: battery life, (renewable) energy sources, access, affordability… Still, it is moving in the right direction here. I think it helps in Holland that the country (and cities) are so dense. This of course is a larger challenge in Australia, NZ, USA, etc. But, this too will come! 🙂

      What I like most about the Dutch strategy is that it brings several things together in one go: an emphasis on bicycles & bike lanes, plenty of charing stations, car-share schemes, great accessibility with trains and buses and amazing ICT services to get you where you want to go. I’m not Dutch. I don’t own a car, have never driven here – but still travel on a regular basis (even to the smaller corners of the country). With great bicycle sharing schemes at most train stations, you can usually get to where you want to go. So, I think the greatest success of this strategy is its diversity.

      Although, still… density is a key factor. Enjoy the wild nature for me! I miss that too!

      Thanks for the comment and all the best!
      jenni

      1. Good point, Jenny. Urban sprawl is a game spoiler when it comes to sustainability. Something to keep in mind for future developments..

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