Is Holland Europe's Test Case For Electric Cars?

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Amsterdam, the Netherlands [Image: Flickr user _dChris]

Amsterdam, the Netherlands [Image: Flickr user _dChris]

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Plug-in cars are catching on in the Netherlands, and it isn't hard to see why.

It's a relatively small country, with high gas prices, heavy taxes on gas-guzzlers, and particularly flat land--no range-sapping hills for short-range electric vehicles.

It's also largely pro-environmental, while cycling is a considered a widely-enjoyed method of transport, rather than simply a pastime.

When we drove the Toyota Yaris Hybrid there last year, we were struck by repeated sightings of Fisker Karmas and Opel Amperas (Chevy Volts)--they really do seem popular.

The country had respectable plug-in vehicle sales of 7,410 in 2012, from a population of under 17 million. Compare that to the U.S. plug-in total of around 52,000 cars, around seven times higher, from a population over eighteen times greater.

And, as The New York Times reports, charging posts by the side of the street are commonplace. All these factors are making the Netherlands something of a test bed for electric vehicles.

While not universally popular--those 7,000 sales still represented less than a percent of the country's total new vehicle sales--analysts predict sales of 15,000-20,000 per year in the country by 2015--a realistic estimate.

Some car companies are putting faith in the Netherlands' attitude towards electric vehicles, too.

Tesla's European distribution center, as well as assembly and servicing facilities, is based there. The facility will be central to Tesla's assault on Europe.

New driving taxes in the country proposed a few years back would be charged on a per-mile basis, which could also work in favor of customers choosing electric vehicles. 6 in 10 drivers were expected to save, and the sliding scale could prove much cheaper for plug-in cars.

Customers in the Netherlands are still overcoming some of the difficulties faced by many of those introduced to new plug-in cars, such as initial range anxiety.

The country's largely free charging network has made that less of a concern for some, and cars like the Karma and Volt overcome that anyway.

Largely though, the country is proving itself more suited than most to plug-in cars--and will be a focal point for the rest of Europe on how successful electric vehicles are over the next few years.


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