More and more people are talking about electromobility, but very few are actually living the electromobile dream.
Currently, there are only around 2 000 electric vehicles on Germany’s roads. Two of these belong to Peter Meyer, owner of Hamburg courier company City Express, which employs 180 couriers.
“I have always been interested in the sustainable mobility concept,” says Meyer. “Last year, things just clicked.”
The result has been that, from the start of 2010, he has had two Chinese-built, electrically driven vans on the streets of Hamburg. Why Chinese? “Simple,” says the impatient businessperson, “I didn’t want to wait until 2014 to be able to buy a German vehicle at a reasonable price. Another thing: A €50 000 model doesn’t pay in our business.”
The Chinese minivans, made by Dong Feng Motors, currently cost around €17 000. They are equipped with 12 lead-gel batteries, each delivering 12 V, which give the vehicle a range of about 80 km. After that, the vans need to recharge from the mains for about six hours. “Sure, this range limits their application, but it’s certainly enough for jobs in the city,” comments Meyer, who has also become an authorised dealer for Chinese electric vehicles.
Meyer has been receiving positive feedback, most importantly from his customers. He says: “When my employees drive onto someone’s premises with the electric van, they even receive applause.”
Meyer’s serious commitment to sus- tainable mobility is underscored by the fact that he also has four electric scooters that ply the streets of Hamburg between the Elbe and Alster rivers.
In addition – by next year at the latest, when Hamburg becomes the European green capital – Meyer will also use power sourced exclusively from renewable-energy sources.
In the past, bicycles with small auxiliary motors were mainly seen as quirky helpmates for couch potatoes and retirees. This prejudice has disappeared, largely thanks to electric bicycles, also known as pedelecs (pedal electric cycles).
Pedelecs are bicycles with a small elec- tric motor that only provides riding assistance when the rider pushes on the pedals. At a speed of 25 km/h, the motor switches off. On average, the battery has a range of 80 km. It can be removed and plugged into the mains at home. For a pedelec, a rider needs no driver’s licence, insurance or licence plate.
In the last 12 months, in the Netherlands, pedelecs have generated more turnover than conventional bicycles. “In Germany, we are expecting sales of between 200 000 and 300 000 units,” says Nora Manthey, of ExtraEnergy, an association promoting electric bicyles. This would be more than double 2009 sales. Almost all bicycle manufacturers now include pedelecs in their range.
“Recent additions include component manufacturer Shimano and auto industry supplier Bosch with a drive system,” Manthey adds.
Porsche and other car manufacturers have already presented prototypes.
Among those profitting from the upward trend is Kay Hollstein. With his eBikeStore, he operates a company dealing exclusively in electric bicycles. “Commuters are becoming increasingly interested in electric bikes,” he says. A distance of 10 km can be covered easily in 20 minutes. “You can do that in a suit and tie, and you don’t have to take a shower afterwards.”
Currently, the entrepreneur is in talks with companies like Tchibo and Siemens, which provide pedelecs for their employees who do not have a car to get them to and from work, but which also want to use them for transport around their premises and production sites. The once-derided bicycle with its little auxiliary motor has become an energiser.