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February 21, 2013

In Estonia, 'Gas Pedals' Are No Longer Necessary



It’s just a little larger than the State of Maryland, but the tiny Republic of Estonia in northern Europe—separated from Finland and Sweden by the Baltic Sea—now has 165 electric vehicle (EV) fast chargers.

On average, that’s about one charger for every 100 square miles—but the nation has installed a charger in every large village, as well as at stations along public highways spaced about 25 to 35 miles (or 40 kilometers to 60 km) apart. That makes Estonia the first country ever to open a nationwide EV fast-charging network that totally eliminates range anxiety.

The installation of fast chargers started in summer 2012, which have since been used 8,300 times.

A single operator, the national foundation Kredex, is responsible for the administration of all stations – and customers can use the same payment solution and technical support nationwide.  

EV users have three service packages from which to choose, at costs ranging from $3.30 to $6.59. However, individuals can also opt to pay a $39.54 fee for a monthly package and charge their EVs as often as they wish at no extra cost.

The car’s battery can be charged up to 90 percent in less than 30 minutes, and— depending on the model—will be able to drive for up to 140 km (86 miles). According to the Estonia’s Electromobility Program leaders, it was the lack of a proper fast -charging infrastructure that hindered a more widespread use of electric vehicles until now.

“What makes the Estonian fast-charging network unique is the fact that it uses a uniform payment solution and you can either use an authorization card or your mobile phone for making the payment. We believe, that a nationwide grid of quick chargers encourages growth in the number of EV users, since the drivers no longer need to worry about the somewhat shorter driving range of their electric vehicles,” Jarmo Tuisk, head of the Electromobility Program at Kredex, told Estonian World.

The EV fast chargers were produced and installed by Zurich-based ABB; the innovative payment solution for the program was designed by NOW Innovations! of Amsterdam – and customer support is being provided by G4S, a security company based in Crawley, U.K. 

Tallinn University of Technology is adding a research dimension to the project by analyzing the use of battery-powered cars and the charging network itself. That sets good preconditions for bringing electromobility R&D know-how together in Estonia.

Indeed, Estonia is often described as one of the most wired countries in Europe. Skype (News - Alert), the proprietary Voice over IP service and software application, was first released in 2003 by Estonian developers Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu and Jaan Tallinn.

New vistas for EVs

The construction of the fast-charging network was financed by using the funds received pursuant to a CO2 emission quota sales agreement entered into between the Republic of Estonia and Mitsubishi (News - Alert) Corporation of Tokyo.

 In addition to having a public fast-charging network, Estonia promotes a quicker deployment of EVs by providing direct support to both individual drivers and companies, with the amount reaching up to $23,767 of the all-electric car’s purchase price.

Also, new EV owners can apply for a support of $1,320 for setting up a charging system at their home.

According to CHAdeMO, an organization supporting the fast-charging standard, by January 2013 more than 1,900 fast chargers had been installed worldwide, 521 of which outside Japan. Estonia, with its 165 fast chargers, now has the world’s largest operational public fast-charging network providing a universal nationwide service.

There are 619 all-electric cars registered in the Estonian traffic register, but about 500 of them are used by several state authorities. Over a short period of time, Estonia has become the second country after Norway in the world in terms of its share of EVs. While there is one electric car registered per each 1,000 cars in Estonia, the respective figure for Norway is four.

Estonia is followed by the Netherlands, with 0.6 electric cars registered per 1,000 cars.




Edited by Braden Becker

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