Two hundred golden arches are about to appear at Dutch roadsides. But they aren’t the latest addition to a burger chain’s empire. They’re charging points for electric vehicles—part of perhaps the most comprehensive network in the world.
"Range anxiety" has hampered adoption of EVs everywhere. But, after 2015, that should be less of a problem in the Netherlands. Built by a startup called Fastned, the stations will ensure drivers are no more than 50 miles from a "fast" charging point.
"They’re like McDonald’s," says Hans Streng, global head of EV charging at ABB, which is building the power units (but not the canopies). "They’ll be recognizable from a distance at all the highway gas stations. You’ll be able to see there’s a charging station over there."
The distinctive yellow stations are about 100 feet across, and covered in solar panels to power things like lights and cameras. Each station, which Fastned is constructing at existing gas stops, will have four to eight charging points. If all goes well, they could make vehicle charging as convenient as filling a tank, though drivers will still need to wait 15 to 30 minutes before the task is completed.
EVs currently make up less than 1% of new sales in Holland. But Streng says new models, including the Renault Zoe, the BMW i3, and Volkswagen’s E-Up!, should help raise that level. He reckons 2014 will be a "tipping point," and that by 2020, sales should be in the 5% to 10% range.
Drivers will pay a subscription (either annual or lifetime), and have a choice of two charging systems: one based on Japan’s CHAdeMO standard, the other on the Combined Charging System, from the U.S. Society of Automotive Engineers. Streng says it was necessary to offer both, as nobody knows which standard will become dominant (or if they can exist together).
A dense, relatively small country, the Netherlands is well suited to electric vehicles, and Streng says the Fastned scheme could be a "benchmark" for other places. EVs might never take off in the middle of rural Kansas. But, with consistent and reliable infrastructure, they might prevail where most trips are no longer than a few hundred miles.