The Tale of Two Cities

electriCONCEPT
electriCONCEPT

Many experts have predicted that 2011 is the year of the electric vehicle. Despite the advances, many automakers have electric car programs that still are in its infancy. Amongst the most talked about aspects of electric car technology is the battery power for the vehicle.

Many cities of the world have also prepared itself for the electric car revolution. One of them is Amsterdam, or as it is called, Smart City Amsterdam. The city has high hopes in its plans, with projects envisioning sustainability for the city as it moves forward.

It is one of the few cities that is espousing the green way of life is Amsterdam. You can drive around the city in an electric car without fear of losing power, as there are a hundred charging stations scattered throughout the city. These charging stations provide free juice to registered users with the right kind of vehicle. These are but one of the perks received by those who have jumped on the electric car bandwagon.

The supply of power though is much greater than supply, with only about a hundred electric cars operating in the city. The city projects that one thousand electric vehicles would be running along Amsterdam’s streets by the end of the year. As there are about two hundred thousand internal combustion cars in Amsterdam’s streets, the city is targeting that all of them would be battery powered by 2040.

Many organizations have recognized the efforts of the city of Amsterdam. The World Electric Vehicle Association has honored Amsterdam with having the “best vision” for sustainable mobility. Despite the vision, the road ahead is filled with potholes and roadblocks.

Amsterdam is a small city, with a population of about eight hundred thousand individuals. The normal way to get around is by bicycle, so the electric car may have stiff competition to the two-wheeled vehicles. Another city with a large bicycle population and also a recipient of the Electric Vehicle Association’s award is Shenzhen. This is now a boomtown with the onset of the capitalist revolution transforming a once quiet village of eighty thousand odd individuals to the current fourteen million people.

Shenzhen is just north of Hong Kong and has become the manufacturing hub of the world, with thousands of factories manufacturing for the world’s demand. Pollution is not just a problem here, but its neighboring environs such as Hong Kong. This prompted enterprising individuals to set up the company called BYD or “Build Your Dreams”.

The company went into manufacturing rechargeable batteries for consumer electronics. As it grew, the company purchased two existing car companies in the area and built its own car manufacturing plant in Shenzhen. Now they have rolled off the assembly line a hybrid battery/gas powered vehicle called the FD3M. The car was impressive, with the transfer from electricity to combustion power, which is a testament to the capacity of the company to lead the electric car revolution in the country.

The plan of BYD is to become the biggest car company in China by 2015 and be the biggest carmaker by 2025. Their secret is in improving battery power to the vehicle by charging faster and providing longer range. Their flagship is the E6, which is now being used as taxis in and around Shenzhen. This system tests the car’s range and reliability and regular check-ups allow the company to further improve the car.

Now, foreign investors have taken notice, with Warren Buffett purchasing 10% in 2008 and Berkshire Hathaway increased its total investment to $1.7 billion. While there are many problems with the company, such as a sales slump, a patent lawsuit and a governmental issue with its plants, the company still rolls along. The dream is just around the corner for them.

Ironically, Amsterdam and Shenzhen, at one point, were bicycle cities. In the near future, it would become electric car cities.