Sunday, July 31, 2011

Europe’s Incentive Plans for Spurring E.V. Sales
EUROPEAN governments are reaching deep into their pockets and plumbing the depths of their imaginations to get electric vehicles out of showrooms and onto the highway. Though the goals of the individual countries are mostly similar — carbon-free fleets in pollution-free cities — many different approaches to making it happen are in place.

While Britain, Norway and Portugal are creating state-of-the-art electric infrastructures for E.V.’s and enticing urban commuters with time-saving driving privileges, buyers of electric and hybrid vehicles in other countries are tempted with monetary incentives like tax credits or rebates.

Currently, 17 of the 27 European Union countries levy carbon dioxide related taxes on passenger cars, and 15 nations offer tax incentives for plug-in vehicles, according the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. ...

The number of electric vehicles in European garages is still modest. The European Union’s ambition is to reduce by half the number of conventionally fueled cars in cities within 20 years and to phase them out entirely by 2050....

... In the United States electric vehicles are eligible for a maximum federal tax credit of $7,500; the battery size determines eligibility and the size of the credit. Some states sweeten the pot further with rebates or lane-use permits for freeways. ...

European ... perks are largely based on the vehicle’s level of carbon emissions, determined by standards linked to Europe’s climate change targets. Whether the vehicle is pure electric, hybrid, natural gas-fueled or propelled by another means is largely irrelevant; the key figure is carbon emissions. Logically, electric cars with zero carbon emissions qualify for the largest incentives.

Here is a sampling of incentives that European governments offer to buyers of environmentally friendly vehicles:

AUSTRIA In addition to tax breaks, owners of hybrid and other low-carbon vehicles benefit from a fuel consumption tax that pays bonuses to passenger cars with low carbon dioxide output. Alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrids, qualify for as much as $1,120 in annual bonuses.
FRANCE In a similar program, a maximum benefit paid for new e-car buyers is $7,000, while buyers of high-carbon-emissions vehicles can pay penalties of up to $3,650. France sees itself as a future leader in e-mobility and has begun construction of 400,000 charging points, expected to be in operation by 2015. GERMANY Germany’s new post-Fukushima energy plan envisions great things for e-transport, a segment where this auto-producing nation has lagged. One proposal is for a $1.4 billion program of electromobility research and development; rebates are not in the mix. The current five-year grace period, during which private owners of E.V.’s are exempt from the annual motor vehicle tax, is being doubled to 10 years.
BRITAIN E.V. buyers can count on $3,200 to $8,000 in rebates until at least 2016. In London, electric-car drivers save the daily congestion charge (about $13) and enjoy limited free parking. Moreover, exemption from a vehicle excise duty (a car tax based on carbon emissions) could be worth up to an additional $1,500 a year. ...
NORWAY Norway, and in particular the city of Oslo, is the Shangri-La of electric transportation, though no monetary rebates are offered. The country provides other privileges, including the world’s largest E.V. parking lot as well as free charging. E.V. drivers on their way to work in the morning can use taxi and bus lanes, cruise through tolls without stopping and park free. Buyers are exempted from a wide range of taxes, fees, import duty and congestion charges.
PORTUGAL Portugal’s nationwide public network of 1,350 charging stations was visionary, enabling E.V. drivers to travel anywhere in the country. Buyers of electric vehicles and passenger cars with other exclusively renewable energy systems receive a premium of $7,000 and an additional $2,100 if they scrap their old car, as well as income tax relief of up to 30 percent, or $1,114. ...

by Paul Hockenos
The New York Times
July 29, 2011

In "Plug-and-Play Batteries: Trying Out a Quick-Swap Station for E.V.’s:  also in the July 29, 2011 New York Times Bradley Berman notes

THERE may be fewer than 500 electric cars on Danish roads, but signs of progress in building an infrastructure to support a larger population of E.V.’s. are already evident.

The first electric car battery swapping station in Europe opened here last month, the initial site in a network of 24/7 fully automated drive-through stations. There, the lithium-ion battery packs, which weigh about 600 pounds, will be removed from specially designed cars and replaced with a fully charged pack. The swap takes five minutes.
Better Place Denmark, the local branch of the Silicon Valley company. It is building the swap stations and related businesses in Australia, China, Denmark, Israel (where the world’s first swap station is) and eventually, the United States. 
Better Place has 19 more battery swap stations in the works for Denmark. “By the first of April, we will cover the whole country,” Mr. Hansen said, referring to 2012, with stations no more than 40 miles apart.

At this point, only Renault is making cars designed for quick battery swaps. The company stretched the gasoline-powered version of its Fluence, a Corolla-like sedan, by five inches to accommodate the suitcase-size 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The resulting Fluence Z.E., for zero emissions, goes into full production later this year, available in either swappable or fixed-battery versions.
Swipe a membership card at the entrance and the garage door to the battery-change track, similar to a carwash tunnel, opens. Pull forward and the robot takes over — the driver simply shifts into neutral and lets go.
As the car is guided forward, it’s lifted a few inches....About a minute into the experience, the dashboard message indicates empty battery — meaning it’s gone — after which there’s no air-conditioning, although music and other functions continue. During most of Denmark’s year, the brief lack of climate control would not be a problem,... four and a half minutes after entering the station, the car had a fresh battery. The sedan was lowered and we pulled out of the tunnel ready to drive another 100 miles or so, according to Renault’s range estimate....
Better Place subscribers purchase their cars, but not the expensive battery packs. For a fixed fee of about $350 a month, they will lease access to the batteries, swap stations and charge points. 

Renault says it intends to produce more than 100,000 Fluence Z.E. sedans through 2015, although availability in Denmark will be limited. Another battery-swappable model from Renault, the Zoe Z.E. — a smaller hatchback more suited to Danish tastes — is expected next year. But it could be a number of years before other carmakers produce models that work with the Better Place stations.

The economics are challenging. Each station costs “a couple of million Euros” — about $3 million — to build, Mr. Hansen said. That is a big investment for stations that might barely be used in the next couple of years.
The Better Place business model is a top-down, central-office approach to electric car charging infrastructure.

by Bradley Berman
July 29, 2011
The New York Times

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