All the leading car manufacturers have started production of cars that run on electricity and several of these hit the market in 2011: the TH!NK City, Tesla Roadster, Mitsubishi i-Miev, Nissan Leaf, Citroën C Zero, Peugeot iOn and the Vauxhall Ampera.
Amsterdam: a world leader
All levels of government play an important role in the initial years of this young, dynamic market. They need to provide the necessary support, working as both stimulator and facilitator. The City of Amsterdam has whole-heartedly embraced this role and is currently a world leader in the field, installing 1,000 charging stations and aspiring to introduce 10,000 electric cars by 2015. This makes Amsterdam an extremely attractive city for companies looking to make further developments in the electric transport branch.
Economic opportunities for electric transport
Countries such as Germany, England, Portugal, China and the USA are united in viewing electric transport as the most viable option for the future of transportation. Agreements regarding lower CO2 emissions (Kyoto) and the potential application of sustainable energy sources mean that these countries will be less dependent on other countries as less fossil fuel will be required.
Until they are confident that electric cars will be successful, car manufacturers are erring on the side of caution when it comes to mass production of their electric models. The infrastructure already in place and cooperation offered by the City of Amsterdam should help to boost the confidence of car manufacturers while removing some of the uncertainty that can stifle development.
The Netherlands: the ideal testing ground
The high amount of short journeys made in the country, the reliable electrical grid and highly-educated workforce all mean that numerous major car manufacturers view the Netherlands as the ideal market into which to introduce their first electric cars. In fact, it could be argued that there simply is no better testing ground anywhere in the world.
Pioneering companies including Nissan, Opel, Mitsubishi, Renault and BMW all opted for the Netherlands to introduce their first electric car models to the European market, and four out of these five selected Amsterdam itself.
There are a further two reasons why major companies select the Netherlands, and in particular, Amsterdam to introduce their electric car models. Firstly, there are no Dutch car manufacturers to offer competition and secondly, because Amsterdam boasts an extensive, reliable network of charging stations available for use by the cars. These reasons also explain why Daimler introduced Car2Go in Amsterdam in November 2011 - an innovative car sharing programme featuring no less than 300 electric cars.
What does Amsterdam have to offer?
In recent years, the City of Amsterdam and companies in the city have acquired skills and knowledge in the field of electric transport to give Amsterdam an impressive competitive edge. It is now vital that this advantage is maintained and that the inherent benefits are capitalised upon. Amsterdam is a main player in the field of electric transport for the following reasons:
- The city is home to major multinational companies that have either invested knowledge or funds in the sector (or plan to do so), or that are working towards switching to an electric fleet of company cars: ABN AMRO, Rabobank, KLM, ING, Athlon, Ahold/Albert, Accenture.
- Companies such as The New Motion and Ahtlon Car Lease provide the ideal link between supply and consumer demand. As electric transport service providers, they not only offer lease cars but also charging packages and even charging stations. These companies are helping to create a new market.
- Amsterdam is also home to smaller, fledgling companies that develop electric scooters, boats and other vehicles or convert cars to run on electricity. The emerging electric market has an informal character that means European directors of major companies such as Renault easily come into contact with directors of smaller companies based in Amsterdam.
- The Koopman Car Terminal distributes electric cars from the Port of Amsterdam.
- Higher education and vocational training institutions in the city are developing courses geared towards the field of electric transport (business models, effect on air quality, mechanics).
- The City of Amsterdam is dedicated to supporting, facilitating and providing opportunities for the sector.
Electric transport represents one of best opportunities for successfully working towards a sustainable future. It helps address local-level issues regarding air quality and noise pollution while also addressing issues on the world stage such as CO2 levels and the looming oil shortages.
Amsterdam has also led the way with regard to cycling for many years, a fact that not only applies within the Netherlands, but also the world over.
The Amsterdam canals are an apt symbol for sustainable mobility. Originally constructed to enable transport by water, they are now facilitate one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands: canal cruises. But even these are becoming more environmentally friendly, with many boats now using electric motors or motors running on natural gas or vegetable oil.