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Our friends electric, part 3

October 3, 2011 – 12:40 pm

This parking space at Carrefour supermarket is an electric car charging point. New since August this year, I haven't seen anyone use it to charge their car yet.

Charging point for Cochele electric car-share programme in Seville car park.

I did a post back in July about Renault launching their new electric cars here in Seville this October. Well, the day has arrived – today three of their new ZE (Zero Emissions – I described the models in detail in the previous post) range are being presented to 9,000 of their salesmen (number has dropped a bit from 10,000) from 20 countries (down from over 30 – crisis, air fares etc I guess), including France, Turkey, Russia, Poland and South America. With all this multiculturalism it’s like Expo 92 all over again. Eco-Expo, if you like. I wonder if they’ll be heading over to Feria de la Naciones for a bit of home food?

These 9,000 Renault chappies and chappesses will be trying out, and learning how to drive, the Kangoo ZE, Fluence ZE, and Twizy – about 200-300 brand new electric cars on the road (that number hasn’t dropped, at least). They will be around for two months, arriving and driving in groups I suppose, based in the hotel Barcelo Renacimiento.

What is no surprise is that the 75 charging points (postes, puntos de (re)carga or recargadores) which were promised for now haven’t yet been installed. The plan is for 13 points on the street, and 62 in car parks, and forms part of the government’s Plan Movele to encourage electric car use – it has committed itself to having 250,000 (down from the original target of one million) of these vehicles on the road by 2014.

Energy company Endesa has committed itself to installing three points in Seville: one is already in its headquarters (it has 15 electric cars of its own); a mobile one which is moving between Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza Nueva and Santa Justa train station; and a third will be at the airport. Another energy company, Iberdrola, has a charging point at its office in La Cartuja, with one electric vehicle available for the use of its employees, and it is also involved in the Cochele Think City car-sharing programme (see below).

Iberdrola has signed an agreement with the Junta de Andalucia to provide 13 electric cars, and has also provided charging points. And the REE (Red Electrica de España) also has one point in Seville. Carrefour offers charging points, offering free charges for customers, in plum parking spots right by the entrance.

But will all these be enough for the hordes Renault salespeople descending on Seville? Will there be queues at the recharging points, triggering a new type of water-cooler conversation? “How far does yours go on one charge?” “Oh, about 150km. How about yours?” “170km. But my mate Jose says his does 200km.” “Ooooh, well I never.” Etc etc.

Electric car recharging point at Carrefour in Camas, near Seville.

Apparently, in a few weeks the contract for the remaining bulk of points will be allocated, with the new points being located “near shopping, cultural and businesses centres”. Companies are, apparently, keen to get in there on all levels, from the electricity distribution network and charging points, to sales of the cars themselves, as well as developing new models.

I read some interesting figures in the newspaper at the weekend, about the amount of electric cars (purely electric, as opposed to hybrids) which have registered in Seville province so far this year. Grand total: 25, of which 13 are cars, 10 mopeds and two electric bikes. Bearing in mind the high upfront costs of these green modes of transport (they start at about 34,000 euros, though the Renault models come in way cheaper, with the Kangoo ZE starting at 14,000 euros plus IVA, tax, delivery etc), it’s not really surprising.

So it’s inevitable that companies and local government are taking the lead in using these electric vehicles, with their ability to fund fleets, and you have to wonder when will the general public join in. Will the sight of all those snazzy brand-new electric Renault models inspire people to splash their cash on a clean-and-green set of wheels? A group of companies involved in electric cars has formed an organisation to promote the use of these new clean vehicles in the city, called Automovil Electrico en Sevilla, so maybe it’ll try and encourage us.

Cochele electric car.

I saw an electric car sharing point in a car park in Seville last week – it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it, but this time I took more interest – I shot some snaps (camera phone, dark, hence the poor quality) and chatted to the attendant. These Cochele cars are used for “car sharing”, where you pay a monthly fee, and hourly rate, and extra for km (see my other post for more details).

Electric car plugged in for a recharge.

The man told me that they’re used on average about once a day. So after the thousands of Renault staff have upped and left in December, who exactly is going to use the 75 points which are, apparently, going to be installed by then? (The Movele map currently shows just four in the city centre.) Will we see more electric cars pootling around the streets of Seville next year? While I sincerely hope we will, as less pollution in Spain’s cities is something everyone wants, I’m afraid I have my doubts.

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