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ELEVTRA’s final seminar: food for thought on ELEVTRA’s future and the future of electro-mobility

10 December 2014

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ELEVTRA held their final seminar on 4 December at the Silken Berlaymont Hotel, located in Schuman - at the heart of the European quarter. The seminar brought together several key stakeholders in the electro-mobility market as both speakers and participants. The ELEVTRA project and its place in the future of electro-mobility played an integral role in discussions alongside other heated debates that led to the roundtable running well over its allotted time.
shecco’s Nina Masson kicked off the proceedings by introducing the principles of ELEVTRA and its long-term research into establishing a standardised training programme for electric vehicles and charging stations within Europe. After the introductions, the future trends for electro mobility were analysed which led onto presentations about projects that were being undertaken in academia. Overall, the seminar, which concluded with a roundtable discussion, focused on several areas of electro-mobility. Speakers included:

  • EU Commission officials
  • Battery manufacturers
  • Charging station manufacturers
  • Academics

Research on electro-mobility is integral for the future

Three separate academics spoke on the importance of electric vehicles and how they are actively seeking to improve efficiency. Perhaps the highlight of these talks was Robert Van den Hoed, of Amsterdam's University of Applied Sciences, who explained how data received from charging stations in Amsterdam could revolutionise how electric charging stations are used. He believes that with this pure data - from the city with the densest electro-mobility infrastructure - estimations of usage and needs can be forecast and as such lead to more efficient implementation of charging stations.

Ms Gomez, a post-doc researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), also spoke on their current projects, which complement ELEVTRA’s aims, as they also intend to create a denser and more connected network of relevant and interested stakeholders in electric mobility. Mr Croitorescu, from the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, finished the session by speaking on the role of self-driving electric vehicles in the future of electro-mobility and the challenges this will engender.

Are we seeing another false dawn for electric vehicles or the real thing?

One of the main topics of discussion for both ELEVTRA and general electro-mobility, is whether the world is ready for electric vehicles and whether electric vehicles are ready for the world. These ideas were highlighted in the market trends section and expanded upon later during the round-table discussions.

Greg Archer, manager of Transport & Environment's clean vehicles programme, made the following statement during the roundtable: “You don’t want a car you spend €30,000 or more on, to do 80-90% of your tasks, you want it to do 100% of them”. For this reason he believes that the time isn’t quite now for the electric vehicle, noting that he expects the electric vehicles market to pick up when battery technology has improved drastically, which he thinks will happen by 2025. According to Archer there is a lot of room to improve electro-mobility in the intervening years with regards to public transport and other endeavours such as electric bikes.

A lack of public infrastructure was seen as a big reason for the slow uptake of electric vehicles, but ultimately the lack of demand is the key issue. This is obvious from the stark contrast between predictions of electric vehicle growth made five years ago, and actual sales. Without demand, prices have remained high. As a result, countries like Germany have found themselves having to provide subsidies to the EV market.

The ELEVTRA project also noted problems with acquiring the relevant materials due to the high prices of borrowing electric vehicles. As reported in other events, the problem of the chicken and the egg continues to plague the electro-mobility sector: which will boost the other, infrastructure or demand?

What is ELEVTRA’s place within electro mobility?

Senan McGarth, chair of Eurelectric's EV task force, noted that one of the main knowledge gaps concerns car dealers: “Their eyes can glaze over when faced with questions about the difference between an AC and an DC charging post.”

This lack of dissemination and understanding of the paradigm shift that electric mobility entails was also highlighted by Archer who noted: “That it is an entire transformation of how we use and own personal mobility. And we can see that car manufacturers are waking up to that… Just thinking this is a switch in powertrains is the wrong approach, it requires a completely different approach to personal mobility.”

This was perhaps the major finding of ELEVTRA’s final seminar; the acknowledgement that electro-mobility is now powering up and people are beginning to understand the huge amount of work that is necessary to ensure the transition from internal combustion engines to batteries: electric vehicles will not simply sell themselves on their own merits. It was agreed that training is integral to this, but until the industry has the proper infrastructure, optimal batteries and a better understanding of how electric vehicles will work in contrast to engine-powered cars, it will be another key area that will need to be researched to ensure that when electric vehicles do take-over, that the market is ready.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Useful contacts

Clemence Girard-Reydet
Events assistant at shecco


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