Zero emission logistics by 2030, the sale of only emission free cars, a halving of emissions across the country based on 1990 levels – these are some of the targets laid out in the Dutch Climate Plan.
When it comes to mobility, it is estimated that sticking to these targets will mean welcoming around 1.9 million electric passenger vehicles onto roads in the Netherlands by 2030, not to mention strong growth expected in electric vans, trucks, buses, and other electric transport.
Naturally, that presupposes a growth in the Netherlands’ network of charging infrastructure, which is why, in its National Charging Infrastructure Agenda (Nationale Agenda Laadinfrastructuur), the Netherlands plans to keep pace with growth on both fronts.
In cities such as Amsterdam this work is already well underway. Public transport is set to emit zero emissions by 2025, and there are already electric buses. The city is well underway in its roll out of charging points to enable decarbonisation of private vehicles too.
“Car use in the inner cities has diminished in recent years,” says Aart Meijles, Project Manager of zero emission mobility in the city of Amsterdam. “Meanwhile, the type of cars on our roads is also shifting, in line with the national strategy. In Amsterdam, we decided that we need to double our deployment of charging objects every year from 2020 to 2030.”
“In 2019, for instance, we had 1,600 charging objects and by 2025 we plan to realise around 5,000. It has already been quite a challenge to reach those figures. Moreover, our target is something like 8-9,000 charging objects around Amsterdam,” he adds.
Charging infrastructure requires a certain amount of space – something that is clearly limited in a dense city like Amsterdam. Consequently, the city is already working alongside local businesses, and people to find alternative spaces and ways to install the needed number of charging stations.
After a few years of managing the roll out of its charging infrastructure, Meijles explains that the city now has usable data on its coverage, and can see the areas of the city that may be underrepresented, and also where certain charging points are being constantly used, suggesting the need for another to be installed.
At first, the city would simply respond to individual requests to place a charge station here or there. However, now that the network is more saturated, and to ensure the city works well with the local population, it now publishes its planned deployment several months in advance (in fact, the city has a current mapping of its plans until 2025). This gives residents a chance to say if a planned site is not going to work, or to suggest a better one.
A healthier urban environment
“We couldn’t do this just by ourselves, and the national legislation really helps our plan to make the city cleaner and more breathable,” comments Meijles. “Buying an electric car can be more expensive, but the current national fiscal benefits help to make that easier,” he adds.
Not everything is so straightforward, however. “While we are able to move to zero emissions on city logistics, we’re not able to introduce a zero emission zone within the city limits, because this is currently not allowed for personal cars, in line with current national law,” says Meijles.
This is something that Meijles thinks could be a great benefit for the city. “The symbolism of creating an environmental zone like this can be more than only the reduction in noxious emissions. The symbolism of people not being able to enter Amsterdam by means of fossil fuels would really fit in with the wider goals of the climate agreement, and would go a long way towards our own aims of creating a healthier urban environment” he says.
Without such a zone, Meijles wonders whether the take up of e-vehicles will be quite as much as is needed to meet the climate objectives.
There are other foreseeable challenges too. The energy transition supposes more than just electric transport; houses and buildings are likely to start pressuring the national grid more too. Heavy freight vehicles, buses and others will also have high power demands on charging infrastructure. What too of the ferries and many commercial boats on the city’s famous throughfares? The city must plan for them too.
Additionally, the advancement of better batteries, explains Meijles, creates different uses of the charging points. “People can use their electric car now for 400 kilometres. Three years ago it was 300 kilometres maximum, so we see now that instead of using the charging point every day, it’s now one in three days, for instance. Added to this we have a lot more fast charging stations, which are deployed, for example, along the highways, to reduce congestion and waiting times for those chargers.” In the next few years these are likely to make their way into peoples’ neighbourhoods too.
Follow the trendsetters
There is a lot to learn from Amsterdam’s approach and the Dutch National Agenda, especially in terms of the involvement of local authorities. As the EU is concluding the discussions on the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (‘AFIR’) – a piece of legislation that aims to boost the number of charging points in the EU, as well as their convenience – there is an opportunity to allow other countries to benefit from this experience.
“Coordination between the national, regional and local governments has often proven useful when it comes to determining gaps in the charging network for electric vehicles. Unfortunately, cities do not often get a seat at the table to have their say when national EV charging models are adopted,” commented Thomas Lymes, Policy Advisor for mobility and air quality at Eurocities.
As the draft legislation includes a significant increase in the number of charging points to be installed in the coming years, cities fear that charging point ‘targets’ will be imposed upon them, without taking into account the specificities or elements of their local mobility plan.
“The message we would like to send to EU policy makers on AFIR is simple: don’t forget cities in the deployment of this infrastructure. The European Parliament has already proposed worthwhile changes to strengthen cities’ involvement. We really hope these innovations will end up in the final text,” Lymes stated.
Through the USER-CHI project, Eurocities is working with municipalities to test charging point solutions and encourage the uptake of electric mobility across Europe.