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The Global Electric Vehicle Movement: Best Practices From 16 Cities

Global leaders want to have 20 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road worldwide by 2020. Last year, some 40,000 EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) were sold around the world. If the J-shaped growth expectations are to be realized, the cost of advanced batteries must continue to fall and smart policies must accelerate the adoption of EVs in urban areas.

A new report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) tackles the latter. The EV City Casebook (PDF), compiled by IEA with the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Electric Vehicles Initiative, and C40 Cities, details best practices from 16 cities in nine countries.

The profiled cities, from Shanghai to the tiny Goto Islands of Japan, account for 30% of the EVs on the road today. The other cities profiled are Amsterdam; Barcelona; Berlin; BrabantStad (The Netherlands); Hamburg; Helsinki; Kanagawa Prefecture (Japan); Los Angeles; New York City; North East England; Portland (Oregon); Research Triangle (North Carolina); Rotterdam; and Stockholm. (For more detail about efforts under way to promote EVs in Portland, read my profile of Electric Avenue and distillation of 10 EV charging lessons learned published at this blog in March.)

10 EV Charging Lessons Learned From Portland’s Electric Avenue
Justin Gerdes

Portland’s Electric Avenue Driving Electric Cars Into The Mainstream
Justin Gerdes
The report acknowledges the significant hurdles that must be overcome to reach the 2020 target, which was set by member countries of the Clean Energy Ministerial. But it also finds that EVs are starting to gain traction with consumers:

Before reaching this ambitious goal, electric vehicle technology must pass through several stages of market development, optimization and scale-up. Although the current EV market is small, the outlook is encouraging. About 40,000 EVs/PHEVs were sold worldwide in 2011, the most in any year in history (and greater than the historical EV stock peak of approximately 30,000 at the turn of the 20th century). Since the nascent market is still developing, with more models being launched each month, it is clear that 2012 auto sales will be important in determining the road ahead for electric vehicles.

Already, in 2012, we’ve seen record sales, in March, of the Chevy Volt and hybrid Toyota Prius; the April launch of the electric Ford Focus; booming sales for the Nissan Leaf in Norway; and, earlier this week, an announcement that eight U.S. and German automakers had agreed to a standard all-in-one charging port, the Combined Charging System, for EVs sold in the U.S. and Europe.

There will be setbacks – GM was forced into damage control over allegations, since dismissed, that the Chevy Volt was a fire hazard and the new $50,000 Toyota EV RAV4 landed with a thud this week – but it’s clear that the EV market is maturing.

The new EV City Casebook documents best practices from Portland, Oregon, and 15 other global cities. Credit: Justin Gerdes

The EV City Casebook documents the basket of financial and non-financial incentives the profiled cities have implemented to boost demand for EVs and charging stations.

Financial incentives:

Rebates or tax credits on vehicles (often augmented by subsidies from the national government)
Exemptions from vehicles registration taxes or license fees
Discounted tolls and parking fares
Discounts for recharging equipment and installation
Non-financial incentives:

Preferential parking
Access to restricted highway lanes
Expedited permitting and installation of EV supply equipment
Many of the profiled cities have used their purchasing power to jumpstart the market by adding EVs to municipal fleets or hybrid buses to public transport systems. Some are installing charging stations at libraries, parking garages, city halls, or other public buildings and offering EV owners discounted electricity rates from municipal-owned utilities. Cities are also, the report finds, using their convening power to bring together city planners, automakers, utilities, infrastructure suppliers, academic and research institutions, and city and national officials to “identify and address technical, economic and regulatory barriers to EV adoption and integration.”

What does this proactive policymaking look like on the ground? I reviewed the profiles of two cities, Amsterdam and Stockholm, to learn more.


By 2040, the City of Amsterdam expects that nearly all of its public and private vehicles will be powered by renewable electricity sourced from the wind, sun, and biomass. There are 750 EVs on the road in Amsterdam today; by 2015, city officials expect the number to reach 10,000.

The city claims that with 350 public charging stations installed, Amsterdam (population 780,000) has the highest per capita penetration of charging infrastructure in the world. By next year, the city expects to have installed 1,000 public charging spots. Real-time information on the location and availability of the public charge spots is accessible via an open API (Application Programming Interface).


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