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Views of Abdeluheb Choho, Deputy Mayor of Sustainability, Amsterdam [free access]

June 1, 2018

"With 2,500 charging points, our city has the highest charging point density in the world. "


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At a recent conference on “Clean Buses in Europe” organised by Global Mass Transit, Mr Abdeluheb Choho, Deputy Mayor of Sustainability, City of Amsterdam, The Netherlands delivered the opening address and spoke about the key initiatives taken by the city to introduce electric vehicles, the goals of the city to become emission-free by 2025, the challenges and the way forward. Excerpts from his speech...

 

Introduction


Buses play a crucial role in the transport of both local residents and visitors in our cities. If we, in Europe, succeed in making all our buses clean, we will make a huge contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions and improving air quality.

Right now, we find ourselves on the eve of the E-mobility Revolution. It has been announced that from 2040 onwards, no new cars may be sold in France or the United Kingdom that are equipped with a petrol or diesel engine. Norway will have introduced that same measure in just seven years’ time. Here in the Netherlands, starting in 2030, we will only be allowed to sell new electric cars. Over the next few years, both the electric vehicles themselves and the charging infrastructure will become ever more advanced and common.

 

Frontrunner in e-mobility


Since 2009, Amsterdam has been a frontrunner in the field of e-mobility. With 2,500 charging points, our city has the highest charging point density in the world. More than 12,000 unique visitors use this public charging network monthly. The knowledge, skills and e-infrastructure being already present makes Amsterdam an attractive establishment location for e-mobility players – for example, companies like Tesla and EVBox have set up head offices in the city.

 

Amsterdam emission-free in 2025


Amsterdam aims to become emission-free by 2025. This goal is based on the recognition that clean air is better for the quality of life in the city and the health of our residents and visitors. At the same time, Amsterdam aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent in 2025, as compared with the levels in 2012.

 

Clean buses


Connexxion, the company responsible for local public transport in Amsterdam, is operating the largest e-fleet in Europe with 100 electric buses; the majority operate around Schiphol airport, with a few around the city. The city’s public transport company, Gemeentelijk Vervoerbedrijf (GVB), has also announced its target of operating clean buses exclusively by 2025. The city council will provide the necessary financial support.

 

Policy towards emission-free 2025


Amsterdam operates a policy of regulation, facilitation and stimulation.

Regulation takes the form of environmental zones, the use of which prevents the most polluting vehicles from entering the city. We have been operating five environmental zones since January 2018 for trucks, delivery vans, taxis, coaches and buses. We are, in fact, the first Dutch city to have introduced an environmental zone for mopeds and scooters.

Facilitation, the second policy, involves making it as easy as possible for e-drivers to recharge their vehicles. If a particular neighbourhood identifies a capacity shortfall, we respond by installing a new charging point free of charge.

The third and final element of our policy is to introduce subsidies and privileges for commercial drivers to stimulate the switch to electric vehicles. This policy combination of keeping out dirty vehicles and stimulating clean driving has proved highly effective. Although air quality has improved considerably since 2009, there is still a lot of work to be done for Amsterdam to be truly emission-free by 2025.

 

Stakeholder management


Our current focus is on the heavy vehicle users; these are commercial users like taxis, buses and the transport sector. Each of these target groups travels large distances within the city boundaries, thereby causing a relatively high proportion of overall emissions. It is among these users that the greatest improvements can be achieved in terms of air quality.

The key to the success of our policy is good stakeholder management. The municipal authorities have signed covenants with sector organisations that represent the various target groups, which have met with great success. For example, we have established an environmental zone for the most polluting taxis, while simultaneously introducing privileges for electric taxis, such as clean taxi ranks and a network of quick-charging points. This policy is proving to be very successful, with the number of clean taxis rising every month. A total of 650 taxis or 16 per cent of the total taxis operating in the city, are already electric.

 

Challenges/lessons learned


One of the greatest challenges facing the city when it came to the introduction of e-mobility was the fact that there were no electric cars in the city because there was no charging infrastructure, and vice-versa. In addition, there was tremendous pressure on parking facilities, which meant that the option to simply install charging points anywhere throughout the city centre was not available initially because installation of a charging point meant that parking space for a fossil fuel-powered vehicle reduced. As a solution, together with the grid operators, we introduced a system of interoperability throughout the country - with a single charging card, people can recharge their vehicle at any time and any place across the Netherlands. In addition, charging points are only installed on request (that is, only if there is clear evidence that a particular neighbourhood does not have enough charging points). This approach means that numbers of charging points will rise in line with the growth in the number of electric vehicles.

 

New challenges


From 2050 onwards, Dutch households will no longer be permitted to use natural gas. This will automatically lead to a huge rise in the demand for electrical power, and to huge challenges for the infrastructure that we, as a city, are working hard to establish. The switch to e-mobility alone will further boost demand for electrical power, which in turn will call for major investments in the electricity grid. There are also doubts as to whether the grid is flexible enough to cope with the expected fluctuations in demand. In addition, huge investments will be needed in the local generation of renewable energy supplies, since all our charging points run on green power.

We are working in close collaboration with the central government, European authorities, grid operators, electricity companies and the automotive industry. For example, we are key participants in smart charging projects in which we are actively examining how to best handle the growing demand for electrical power, and the demands on the grid brought about by the rise in electrical vehicle use in the city. We are also investigating how the batteries in these cars can be used to compensate for the imbalance in the mains supply.

 

The challenge of charging buses in the city


Another huge challenge facing Amsterdam is the integration of charging facilities for buses in public areas, which is logistically complicated. A diesel-powered bus can travel all day on half a tank of fuel. Electric buses, however, have a far shorter operating radius and have to be recharged regularly. The tendering procedure for the first batch of electric buses has recently been launched, and the decision has been taken to opt for opportunity charging, which means that we will have to identify locations to install charging hubs throughout the densely populated city. However, this does not mean that opportunity charging will necessarily become the standard for electric buses in Amsterdam. The situation surrounding the most favourable and best achievable variant for the city will be re-evaluated with each new batch of clean buses.

 

Cooperation


The challenge facing us 10 years ago when electric cars were first introduced in Amsterdam is similar to the challenge facing us now for the successful introduction of electric buses in. Overcoming these challenges will call for innovative solutions and close cooperation between all parties to achieve the eventual goal of an emission-free city by 2025.