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Plugging In, Dutch Put Electric Cars to the Test

“There’s still some planning; it’s a bit like a puzzle. It’s not the same ease of mind as with a gas car.’ – Maarten Noom in Amsterdam, who drives an electric vehicle

¶ AMSTERDAM — When Patrick Langevoort’s company issued him an electric vehicle two years ago, the first months were filled with misadventure: he found himself far from Amsterdam, with only a 25 percent charge remaining, unable to find the charging point listed on a map. Though the car was supposed to travel 100 miles on a full battery, he discovered that cold weather and fast driving decreased that range.

But electric vehicles have improved, the network of charging stations in the Netherlands has expanded and drivers like Mr. Langevoort are getting used to the particularities of electric driving. “I used to be a real petrol head,” said Mr. Langevoort, who works for a company that manages electricity networks. “Now, I’ve sold my petrol car.”

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. 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.
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