Dutch Shocked by Challenges of Shifting to Electric Cars

The Netherlands is proceeding with one of the most ambitious programs to increase electric car usage in the world. In a country with seemingly ideal conditions for adoption, and heavy subsidy, sales of such vehicles have been disappointingly low.

1 minute read

February 11, 2013, 9:00 AM PST

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


Amsterdam Electric Car

Ludovic Hirlimann / Flickr

"Although a number of European countries and a few American states are aggressively promoting the use of electric vehicles to reduce planet-warming emissions and pollution, the Netherlands provides perhaps the ultimate feasibility test," reports Elisabeth Rosenthal. "If electric vehicles catch on anywhere, it should be here: a small country — about 100 miles east to west — with gas prices of about $8.50 a gallon and a long tradition of environmental activism."

"To encourage electric driving, the country 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. With hefty tax breaks, promotional leases and cheaper operating costs, the vehicles offer driving costs no more than those of conventional cars, some analysts say."

"And yet, experiments with the cars in the Netherlands and Denmark also underscore the challenges facing this new technology. Sales have been lower than politicians and automakers hoped, representing under 1 percent of new vehicles, even here. 'It seems that the industry has not convinced consumers that they can do this,' [Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Environment Agency said]. 'If they fail over the next few years, I think investors will pull out, and that will be a problem.'”

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