An 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.
Charging 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.