Thursday, February 11, 2010

Copenhagen pushes for electric cars

TRANSPORTATION. Politicians in the Danish capital Copenhagen are ready to take the lead in pushing for electric cars on the city’s streets. City Hall has decided to set aside land for 500 special parking places and charging stations for electric vehicles (EV’s) in the city center, reports the Berlingske Tidende newspaper today.
“If we want to reach our climate goals we must as quickly as possible adapt our traffic, which means away from cars that run on gasoline to electric cars, bicycles and public transportation. That’s why we now want to cover the city with parking places and charging stations for electric cars”, says Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, vice mayor for environment, to Berlingske Tidende.
The city is also urging the Danish government to make quick decisions on tax reductions for electric cars.
When mayors from cities around the world met for a summit in Copenhagen in connection with the United Nations Climate Conference in December, electric vehicles were high on the agenda. The City of Copenhagen, branding itself as the Climate Capital of the World, arranged an electric car parade through the city center, with visiting mayors at the wheels.
One of the speakers at the Mayor’s Summit was Shai Agassi, an Israeli-born former software entrepreneur who now leads Palo Alto-based EV-pioneer Better Place. His venture-backed company aims to lead global development in creating a market-based infrastructure for electric vehicles.
“We have now reached the mid-point, two years from the start of our project, and two years from the launch. We hope to have our first complete network here in Copenhagen”, said Agassi before showing a film (see below) of the battery-changing stations that Better Place hope will replace gas-stations in cities around the world in the years to come.
“You drive into the station and it will take less than two minutes to change the battery. It will be more convenient than today’s cars that run on gas. You can then drive a 160 kilometres (100 miles) without recharging”, said Agassi (right).
Better Place has formed an impressive partnership with car-makers Renault-Nissan, which has committed 4 billion Euro ($5.6 billion) and 2,000 engineers to creating a range of vehicles designed to operate with Better Place’s infrastructure, according to a story in this weeks issue of the Economist.
Sceptics question if other car makers will be interested in following the standards set by Better Place and Renault-Nissan, or if the car-industry in general will permit a small upstart like Better Place run the show if EV’s turn out to be the way forward.
In addition to Copenhagen, Better Place has also formed partnerships with a number of other cities and governments around the world. Earlier this week the company announced the opening of a full-scale demonstration center in Israel, choosing a former major fossil fuel distribution center as a symbolic location.
And Shai Agassi, on stage in Copenhagen with California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson and other prominent leaders, is a firm optimist.
“Imagine a city without exhaust pipes, even the main streets for cars would become attractive again”, Agassi said to an enthusiastic audience.

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