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A weatherman uses his decades of knowledge to push for electrification.


The Low Hanging Fruit Of Electrifying Transportation: Interview With Jesper Theilgaard

A weatherman uses his decades of knowledge to push for electrification.

In a random convergence of stories, let me point you in the direction of a clever man who I have seen thousands of times on Danish television: Jesper Theilgaard. For 40 years he has literally talked about the weather. For decades as a weatherman on the national news channel, and now as an independent mediator of facts about climate change through his own platform:

Climate Planet

Last year I went to the grand opening of a novel concept called Climate Planet in the second largest city of Denmark, Aarhus, which I covered on Planetsave. Climate Planet is a 6-story high enclosed mobile structure shaped as our planet earth, and inside you will find another globe hovering in the center, 4 meters in diameter, displaying real-time NASA imagery of our planet.

There is room for 200 visitors inside the Climate Planet, and a show is presented on the center globe display in conjunction with large screens in the perimeter, accompanied by a massive sound system hidden in the floor. When you witness the creation, history, and climate of earth in this setup, you will be blown away.

Jesper Theilgaard narrates this repeating recorded show, and he does it well. Being subjected to 360-degree visuals and sound on the issue of climate change makes a profound impact. This year the structure opened in Copenhagen September 13, and will move to Utrecht in The Netherlands on October 6, as stated in the detailed tour plan. An extended version of this show will be presented at COP 24 in Poland in December.

Low-hanging fruit

I am a member of the Danish association of electric vehicle owners (FDEL) which works tirelessly to promote electric vehicles is this country, which you might expect is quite a challenge because of reluctance in government to ease off of battery electric vehicle taxes (current market share of BEVs in Denmark is less than 1% as opposed to our neighbors in Norway whose current market share of BEVs is reaching 21%). FDEL organized the longest electric vehicle parade recorded in the Guinness Book Of Records, which I was lucky to be a part of. But that was in 2016, and it seems the Dutch beat that record last year.

Jesper Theilgaard

So, what happened the other day is that Anna Hilden, who is member of the board at FDEL, ran into Jesper Theilgaard in a parking lot as he was going from one event to another. I asked FDEL permission to share the chat between the two here on CleanTechnica, and here is my translation:

Anna Hilden: Jesper, tell me about your business and what drives you.

Jesper Theilgaard: I have founded — a company aimed at informing about climate change in a language that most people can understand. In addition, I would like to use my company as a platform to participate in the public debate. I think there is a need for a more nuanced debate on climate change. There is often a lot of digging trenches, and I would like a little more substance in the discussions — in the media, as well as from our politicians. So that’s what I have done, and it has exceeded my expectations. The need for this type of dissemination is surprisingly evident.

Anna Hilden: How important a role does transportation play in the climate context?

Jesper Theilgaard: The transportation sector has a relatively large share of the total climate impact, but it is also an area where something can easily be done. It is easy to see that transportation is challenged in terms of emissions — there are lots of gasoline and diesel cars on the roads and not so many electric cars, there are trucks, airplanes, trains, etc. Just a tiny part of all this is electrified at the moment. There are a lot of low-hanging fruits. Technologically speaking, it’s easy — it costs money, yes, but it’s an area where it’s quite easy to change our society. It’s a good place to start. If I remember correctly, the worldwide contribution of our total emissions from the transportation sector is about 14%, so there’s really a lot of potential here.

Anna Hilden: How do you look at the individual transport in this regard, including the role of electric cars?

Jesper Theilgaard: Electric cars are great for personal mobility, with just the current limited range being the problem. I think 400 — 500 kilometers of range is what I would need from an electric car for it to handle my own transportation needs traveling to and from lectures etc. throughout the country. Right now only Tesla can accomplish this, and they are still too expensive for ordinary people. But if we can overcome this challenge, it would be amazing.

Anna Hilden: What do you drive yourself?

Jesper Theilgaard: I drive in a diesel car, a Peugeot 508. And that’s not cool. I’ve been looking at electric cars, but I drive far when I go to my lectures. And I don’t find the frequent half hour charging stops very compelling. But I may have to.

Anna Hilden: You could be a great role model as an electric car driver?

Jesper Theilgaard: Yes, and I really do feel bad about driving a diesel car. I participated in a debate with Lars Christian Lilleholt (the Danish minister of energy, supply and climate) at a people’s meeting the other day, and I was a little hard on him because he a few days before had shown support of the planned electric car tax of up to 40% of the full tax. Of course, it applies mostly to expensive cars, but it’s still a bad signal. But of course I need something proper to drive. So if you at FDEL hear about some good new cars that are coming out that could cover my needs, let me hear about it!

Don’t kill the messenger

Before you judge Jesper Theilgaard for not driving an electric car right now, let’s all rest assured that he will soon enough. He has a message to get across, and he will find that the message gets underlined when you practice what you preach. I’m in that same miserable situation right now, because of my stubborn attitude towards legacy auto makers who just don’t have anything remotely as compelling as a certain model from a rookie planet-saving company that I have chosen to put down a reservation with.

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Written By

Jesper had his perspective on the world expanded vastly after having attended primary school in rural Africa in the early 1980s. And while educated a computer programmer and laboratory technician, working with computers and lab-robots at the institute of forensic medicine in Aarhus, Denmark, he never forgets what life is like having nothing. Thus it became obvious for him that technological advancement is necessary for the prosperity of all humankind, sharing this one vessel we call planet earth. However, technology has to be smart, clean, sustainable, widely accessible, and democratic in order to change the world for the better. Writing about clean energy, electric transportation, energy poverty, and related issues, he gets the message through to anyone who wants to know better. Jesper is founder of and a long-term investor in Tesla, Ørsted, and Vestas.


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