the electric generation

Today’s WSJ Europe included a special report on Tomorrow’s Transport. Christian Wolmar is touching the future of battery-powered cars.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=%22electric+car%22&iid=9884417″ src=”″ width=”234″ height=”163″ /] Legislation and Regulation

Governments across Europe will have to set the right framework to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles. So far several have announced the introduction of subsidies to bring down the cost of vehicles. The UK government is proposing a subsidy of £5,000 on the estimated average £32,000 price of an electric vehicle.

The highest incentives will be in Norway and Denmark, where electric vehicles will be exempt from vehicle purchase tax, worth more than €10,000 ($13,000).

Merely reducing the cost of vehicles is not enough. Governments will also need to ensure that battery charging facilities are relatively cheap and sufficiently available. France has a target of one million charging points by 2015. There are also numerous safety considerations such as preparing emergency services to deal with accidents involving vehicles that have considerable electric power.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=emissions&iid=9884287″ src=”″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /] Think you can just plug your new electric car into the mains? Unfortunately, it is not so simple. The rate of recharge and the voltage are issues, and so is the design of the plugs required. Nissan, for example, suggests that owners would need a special box, with would cost several hundred pounds, fitted by an electrician in the home or office to ensure that recharging batteries is safe and carried out in a way that maximizes battery life.

But this may prove to be unpopular with potential owners. Meanwhile, no standard has yet been developed for recharging points and countries look set to adopt different approaches. The Netherlands, for example, is set to mandate a five pin plug while neighboring Belgium is developing a two pin version.

Then there is the expensive issue of providing recharging points. This is a chicken and egg problem. Not many people will buy electric cars if they fear they cannot recharge, which means governments need to provide a network of charging points. And yet, governments will find it hard to justify the investment with only a handful of electric cars on the road.

Several countries, notably France and Ireland, or cities, such as London, have programs to provide large networks but they will take several years to build.

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