Cars

Published on July 13th, 2015 | by Zachary Shahan

33

A Fast-Charging Revolution Is Underway In The Netherlands (Original Videos)

July 13th, 2015 by  


Originally published on EV Obsession.

Thanks to Karel Beckman of EnergyPost.eu and the enthusiastic crew over at Fastned, I recently got to visit the Fastned headquarters in Amsterdam and interview cofounder Bart Lubbers, as well as other key staff. Don’t know what Fastned is? That’s what I’m here for.

Fastned Charging Station

Fastned is a startup (with some initial roots in power and automation giant ABB) that is now quickly rolling out an electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging network across the Netherlands, with plans to also expand into other parts of Europe and perhaps other markets. We have written about the network before (see this and this), but I got a much more complete picture of the story on my trip to Fastned’s Amsterdam offices.

First of all, some stats:

  • At this moment, 35 stations are operational Fastned has permits to develop ~200 stations along the highway (note that it takes a couple of years to obtain the permits).
  • By the end of this year, Fastned aims to be up to 60 stations.
  • ~15 million euros have been invested in Fastned so far, with 3 million of that coming from distributed, small-scale investors who bought certificates of shares for 10 euros a piece.
  • Fastned Founders Club: since May of this year, Fastned offers shareholders lifetime free charging. Investors that purchase more than 2500 certificates of shares of Fastned automatically become a member of this club and can charge for free for the rest of their lives.
  • Pricing plans are the same like the mobile industry. You can choose to pay per kWh or can go for a subscription: 12 euros/month + 35 cents/kWh or unlimited charging for 100 euros/month
  • All Fastned stations are solar powered!
  • Fastned expects to be at a “break even” point financially when there are ~50,000 electric cars signed up for the system. The 2020 EV target for the Netherlands is 200,000. Bart and I think there will be far more than 200,000 EVs on Dutch roads by 2020, of course.

And here’s my interview (in two parts) with Bart and a few others, and with Karel initially just there to connect me with them (not for his own work, that is) but also providing several great questions (as he always does):


 

It was fun learning about the superb customer service Fastned is offering (which reminded me a bit of Tesla), with support always on hand but also often watching the stations to know as soon as possible about any issues — and the support staff will even proactively call a customer in need of help!

It was also nice to see the focus being 100% on fast charging. I know some commenters here on EV Obsession and CleanTechnica have criticized initial decisions to pump millions of dollars in slow-charging stations, with the argument being that everyone should have gone straight into fast-charging, as slow-charging stations are simply sub-satisfactory for the majority of consumers. Well, that’s just what Fastned is doing, and it’s doing it in a big way!

Lastly, I think this is an obvious thing, but it is something that I think is far too often missed: building a piecemeal, haphazard, only moderately useful system or network seldom leads to “success.” You see this with very incomplete bike lane networks in almost every North American city. You see this with EV charging networks across the world. And you see it in many other realms of society. Yes, there is the chicken and egg problem, and it is very challenging to scale up capital-intensive infrastructure before the market is there to help you reach a profit, but there’s a reason leaders are leaders and get the credit they get.

Tesla has of course very quickly developed massive Supercharger networks, and Bart enthusiastically said that they’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from Tesla. However, unless all the other automakers sign on to make their EVs compatible with Superchargers and partner with Tesla, we’re going to need other comprehensive fast-charging networks as well. It’s nice to see Fastned leading the way on this!

To close out, here are some much snazzier videos produced by Fastned describing what they offer (I especially recommend the first one):

*Full Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this article, and am not a Fastned investor — though, I may become one soon!






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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.



  • It would be even faster when you could fast-charge your electric car in motion, with a buttom current collector, WITHOUT STOP, don’t you think?

  • Brian

    All the advertisements for the Nissan Leaf, and Mitsubishi Imiev electric cars show that fast charging significantly reduces the battery range and life if used more than a few times. How is it possible to use a quick charger to charge electric cars like Fastned is doing without significantly reducing the battery range, and performance? A 480 volt DC quick charger can charge a Nissan leaf up to 80% capacity in 30 minutes, but it will diminish the range of the battery if used often, so I cannot see how this could be feasible for electric cars.

  • wattleberry

    A most impressive presentation of the present and near-future scenario which, along with Tesla’s efforts are needed to make the transition to electric ‘real’ in the eyes of the public. Also, by taking this initiative, it is helping to establish fast charging as the way forward in contrast to the obvious alternative, long term, of battery swapping which is quicker but probably more dependent on uniformity of ‘units’ or ‘packs’ of batteries and much more complex transfer and storage apparatus involving an underground component.
    However, the eitr, existing filling stations, already have the latter and will be desperate to minimise their wasted assets by promoting exchange as being much quicker.
    Perhaps the Fastned type of operation will prevail for as long as it takes for electric to become dominant and manufacturers to adopt a standard spec battery cassette(s) to make the choice as simple for customers as gas is now. The other, maybe ultimate, determinant, would be the opportunity this would give for buyers to pay a very low price for vehicles devoid of batteries, their rent being incorporated in the charging fee and neatly leaving the issues of obsolescence and decay to the huge corporations owning them.
    It remains to be seen how the oil majors, which own most of the gas outlets, react to the challenge, bearing in mind that, by then, this will be only one unpleasant development facing them. If anything, they could try to take the initiative by jumping sooner rather than later.
    Whatever, I should imagine that, like Elon, Fastned has anticipated both possibilities. They may even end up buying the stations!
    Finally, as nobody wants to discuss taxation, I will end by saying all these outside charging facilities will be welcomed by governments as retaining a convenient revenue-raising capability.

    • JamesWimberley

      Battery swapping was tried in Israel on a large scale by Better Place and failed. Battery forms are not standardised; a retailer would have to carry a huge stock, and they are vastly more expensive than tyres.

      It would make sense for gas stations to get into the recharging business. They have the locations and the space. Will oil company fears of competition make them miss the opportunity?

      • wattleberry

        With respect, there is already much standardization in li-on batteries and such is the nature and rate of change now that any attempt at applying anecdotal evidence to refute or support future developments has to be of very limited relevance. That video Tesla demonstration showing an automated exchange in a minute and a half left a lasting impression.
        Ironically, could these independent installations, by stealing their thunder, actually steer the gas stations in the direction we are contemplating more rapidly than might have been envisaged?

        • bbqroast

          What standardization? Of course they all use similar sized little batteries, but no one is thinking of swapping those. The larger units that are practical to move are of all shapes and sizes.

          Battery swapping may become popular, but I would not be surprised if it does not for some reasons:

          – Current batteries are moving into the realm of full practicality. Most people drive a short distance everyday, such that even a unmodified home socket can recharge the vehicle fully.

          – Fast charging, like Tesla’s superchargers, offers enough juice to get you going in a reasonable time frame (approaching the point where it would be inadvisable to drive continuously with less pausing in between).

          – Battery quality varies depending on how thoroughly it has been used. The battery is perhaps the most important and variable part of an EV. The risk of people swapping out older batteries discourages businesses, especially at low prices, while the risk of being given a poor quality battery discourages patrons. Would you switch out your cars engine at some gas station you may never visit again?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Battery swapping would work best in a battery leasing model.

            Tesla battery swapping works on a battery renting basis. You drop off your discharged battery but are expected to come back and pick it up later. (There are arrangements to keep the second battery, but that’s not the basic plan.)

      • Bob_Wallace

        Fast food restaurants (some fast food places serve good food) and stores that have a lot of “impulse buying” stock. Places that make money by having people stop by for a half hour.

        Not gas stations. Who wants to hang out at a gas station?

      • jeffhre

        Large scale – they were only able to sell a handful of cars?

        • Bob_Wallace

          I hadn’t paid much attention to why Better Place failed. I just looked on line and found this article. Very interesting tale of a guy who talked a good game but didn’t have the skills (or wasn’t adequately in touch with reality) to pull it off.

          http://www.fastcompany.com/3028159/a-broken-place-better-place

  • Even Proberen

    I drive Nissan LEAF in the Netherlands and I use FastNed regullary. The idea is nice, charging is simple but the price for charging is high: €0,68 per kWh. I have already discovered that the national chains of motels like AC restaurant and Van der Valk have started installing fast charging stations. They are located near highway exits, and there the price is 50% less and waiting is better due to the fact that they serve good food, free WiFi and are generally much more pleasant ways to spend 15-20 minutes waiting for the charging to finish. I hope FastNed succeeds, but electricity is no oil and any pancake house or restaurant can get ABB Terra combo fast charger for under 10 thousand euro and start giving electricity for free with their food and drinks. Competition will get much more diverse very quickly.

    • But are you talking about the rate outside of a plan, or do you have a monthly plan and are coming up with the number from that?

      • Even Proberen

        Zachary, sorry I was not clear in my reply. €0,68 / kWh is price if you don’t have any kind of subscription (plan). That is one price they have not mentioned. If you pay €12,50 a month then the price per kWh is halved. For €100 per month there is no charge per kWh. Even if middle plan is interesting – I have a distinct feeling that fast charging will be ubiquitous – FastNed will have convenience of being on the highway but they will be far far from only game in town. I have already started actively shopping around for cheapest one and for 3 euro cheaper charge I will gladly take the highway off ramp and go 1 km further.

        • tibi stibi

          i invested some money in fastned because i wanted to brake the chicken and egg circle. but i agree in the future i think they will disappear. people will charge at home or at work. or whan goging shopping.
          you would only need a charger when you are going on long trips like vacation. but holland is a small country with a tesla car you can drive to any corner and back without a charge 😉

          • Bob_Wallace

            I suspect there will be a continuing need for public fast chargers. There will be some people who won’t have a place to plug in where they park. At least for many years.

            If they have access to “one hour” park and charging then they will be able to use EVs. Put the chargers close to grocery stores, gyms, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. The places where people are likely to visit once or more a week.

            Chargers should be sized so that people can charge around 200 miles in one hour. That would make it reasonable to drive 10,000 miles a year while charging only once per week.

            Rapid chargers should be supported by merchants. They are customer acquisition devices. Just try to find a place to spend advertising money that will keep a customer in your store for a half hour or more.

          • tibi stibi

            you are right off course.
            but i like to add the self driving car to the ev future. when your ev will be fully charged driven in front off your house you will not need to charge it ever. and on long trips you will have a fresh car ready when your current one will be empty just like in the old day’s with the horses 😉

          • Bob_Wallace

            Self-driving cars likely means a lot of people not owning a car, but phoning for one when needed. Those self-driving cars will need rapid charging in order to stay available as many hours as possible.

          • tibi stibi

            check but they will not do that at a public expensive place but rather at the renters place.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Who says that public charge stations will be expensive? Market forces could bring the price down a lot and a large scale charging system could purchase electricity at a lower than retail price.

            The average residential rate for electricity in the US is 12.32 c/kWh. The commercial price is 10.45 and the industrial price is 6.71. That’s the 2015 average to date.

            Some number of EVs will not be able to charge ‘at home’, at the “renter’s place”. That means either slow charging at work or curbside or at a rapid charger.

            Once we move to self-driving cars that are not owned by the user it might make more sense to build a number of those cars with smaller battery packs so that we can make the ‘rush hour’ cars as cheap as possible. Just enough storage to cover the morning commute. Then recharge for the afternoon peak.

          • tibi stibi

            the public charge station will need to make a profit and will have payment costs and because its public will have to be user friendly that will all be costs which can only compensated by buying large amounts of electricity.
            but i expect that will never happen. now most people will charge at home or at work or at the mall.
            the charging network is there for just in case scenario’s.

            when self-driving cars come in i expect that large companies like uber will come into play renting out enormous amounts of vehicles charging at their own charging stations at cheap (remote) places. you will give your starting point end point and space you need (people and cargo) and extra’s (like desk or sofa with movie or a bed) the uber like company will calculate the most cheap option.

            anyway i invested and hope it will help to get ev’s on the road as soon as possible and i don’t expect to see any money in return let alone a profit.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You are entitled to your opinion. But without numbers I can’t buy into your opinion.

            I’ve done back of envelope calcs for rapid chargers. They look profitable to me. And I have some feel for the number of people who will not be able to charge at home or work.

          • tibi stibi

            ok i hope you are right than i will see a return on my investment 😉

            you are right i don’t have numbers because any numbers on self driving cars will be speculative.
            but do you think self driving cars will charge at public stations?
            they will most probably need someone to connect them 😉

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m not sure it would make sense to have separate public/private rapid charging systems (private business fleet chargers, perhaps).

            Let the public use the rapid chargers when they are most likely to use them (lunch breaks, on the way home when they stop at the gym/grocery store). The self-driving cars can use them during the lowest public demand periods (9:30 am to 11:30 am, for example).

            Self-driving cars could scoot in for a 15 minute partial charge and them move out of the way for an incoming private vehicle. The more a charger gets used, the more money it makes.

            We already have robotic gas pumps that can identify the type car, open the filler door, remove the cap, fill the tank, replace the cap and close the filler door. Inserting a plug would be a piece of cake in comparison. Just need an articulated arm and a bit of target detection.

      • Brian

        I hope this succeeds, as I want electric cars to replace dirty gas cars as quickly as possible, especially here in the United States, but I thought quick charging is bad for the electric car batteries, and significantly reduces the range and capacity of the battery cells? Won’t quick charging significantly reduce the capacity of electric car batteries, and undermine the quick adoption of electric vehicles?

    • michiel

      The price at the AC restaurants and Van der Valk is EUR 0,50 / min. Which with an average charging speed of 40kW (BMW i3 or Nissan Leaf) leads to the same or often even higher price than that of Fastned.

    • Foersom

      > I drive Nissan LEAF in the Netherlands and I use FastNed regullary. The
      idea is nice, charging is simple but the price for charging is high:
      €0,68 per kWh.

      The price and payment system are also what I am afraid about.

      I think it looks good with this FastNed charging stations. It is another step in order that EV become common place.

      However lots of these charger companies appear to have incompatible payment systems. You have to be member of each charge system to get a reasonable price. This is very different from a petrol / benzin / essence / gasoline fuel station where you just drive in and pay the same as every other customer, even if you drive to a foreign country.

      EV charging lacks usage and payment for everyone without being ripped off.

  • JamesWimberley

    What standard? This is the first question about any charging network. Your job, but I went to the Fastned site to find out for you.
    “All Fastned stations have a number of multi-standard chargers that include CHAdeMO, CCS and AC up to 22/43 kW. If new (faster) charging standards are introduced we will convert or add chargers to deliver these as well.”
    CCS is SAE.

    • They offer everything, as I understand it. Can charge any electric car. Of course, Teslas need a CHAdeMO adapter.

      • Even Proberen

        Just one small remark: Tesla can be charged with 43Kwh AC as well. On some FastNed stations I have seen Tesla ChaDeMo adapter provided (tied firmly with a sturdy chain! It is an expensive adapter)

        • Foersom

          No, Tesla cannot be charged with 43kW AC, only by 22kW AC.

          The European Tesla Model S has as power plug a Type 2, standard Euro (Mennekes) plug. This is good because then the Tesla can also be charged from the 1000s of standard chargers available around Europe.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Are those transparent on both sides solar panels that catch light going in either direction? If so I presume they determined they made sense for the conditions there and the large amount of diffuse sunlight in the Netherlands. I’m pretty confident they didn’t just install them upside down.

    • Foersom

      > Are those transparent on both sides solar panels that catch light going in either direction?

      I doubt that.

      They simply used the panels as shelter roofing. Added advantage on hot summer days the panels may be better cooled from air passing underneath, and that helps power generation.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Well, they do look like bifacial modules. There are some examples here: http://www.solar-constructions.com/wordpress/transparent-solar-panels/

        And I guess Hollow-land would be a good place for them. I also think bifacial solar modules might end up being big in utility scale solar, at least in mid to low lattitudes, as when sticking straight up and facing east-west they produce a much more constant amount of electricity through the day than standard fixed panels without the expense and maintenance costs of tracking systems.

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