Is Electricity 'Fuel'? Dutch Gas Stations Sue To Stop Electric-Car Charging

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2012 Chevrolet Volt Gas Station Advert

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Remember all that stuff we said recently about The Netherlands being a haven for electric vehicles?

Maybe knock a few degrees of conviction off that statement, as it seems not everyone in the European country is as keen on electric vehicles as some.

Companies operating regular gasoline and diesel filling stations certainly aren't keen. So much so, that NOS reports they're filing a lawsuit against the Dutch state to prevent third parties from operating charging points at freeway service station locations.

As part of the recent announcement that the country would be home to almost 250 DC quick-charge stations--none located more than 30 miles from every person in the country--provider Fastned would operate charging points at several freeway rest stops and service stations.

Energy or "fuel"?

26 service stations have filed the lawsuit, centering on whether these charging points constitute "fuel", and are therefore governed by the same regulations (and need to incur the same costs, rather than being offered space for free) as the filling stations.

If they aren't, then the stations may represent unfair competition, with service operators particularly concerned that third parties will open competing shops and reduce business.

If they are, then the location of new charging points at service stations would go against previous agreements, giving service station operators exclusive rights to charging posts.

The issue here then isn't that service stations don't want electric car charging at all--more that they don't want an increasing body of electric car owners spending their money elsewhere.

Such concerns are probably justified, but there's an element here of "the early bird catches the worm". Had existing service stations decided early on to install charging points, third party units simply wouldn't be required--and the issue of competition wouldn't even arise.

As it is, their tardiness in providing for electric vehicle users has caught them off guard by companies that will. Perhaps instances such as these will encourage other service stations to set up fast-charging points.

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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Comments (36)
  1. A really smart entrepreneur would find a way to add these charging stations and yes people should actually pay for electricity like they do at home. I know Tesla said that they will have for life free charging at it's superchargers for the Model S 85kwh vehicles, but I think that is to sell Model S cars and after a certain date any new buyers will be told that they need to pay a nominal fee to use the chargers. I am from the school that their is no such thing as a free lunch and that is usually true.

  2. I don't think you'll get many people disagreeing with you regarding the payment aspect. A nominal fee is understandable and potentially desirable but this lawsuit serves only to create barriers to EV adoption; gas companies are very concerned that their business model is about to be affected and will do anything to protect themselves and their shareholders. (Regardless of what's good for the rest of society.)

  3. Electricity is too cheap and charging too slow for the revenue generated to be worth anything except to the vehicle manufacturer/s, who want to sell you electric cars (which need some way to cover longer distances than one charge will allow). Elon Musk understands this, which is why he is pushing this model of longer distance electric car recharging.

  4. Perhaps some figures would help illuminate the situation...

    Ecotricity in UK runs 3 quick chargers between London and Birmingham, over the three months to April they stated that they served up 4,000 kWhs to electric car owners (for free for now). Average 10 kWhs per charge means 400 x $5 = $2,000 per quarter or $8,000 per year revenue. Subtract the cost of electricity at 0.25c /kWh is $7,000 contribution. However they also need to get planning permission, pay for the quick chargers (actually Nissan gave them away for free in this case), pay for maintenance, sign deals with the service stations and this is with three of them in the busiest intercity corridor in the UK. No way they would stay in business if this was all they did!

  5. The only way to make money from installing chargers at this point in time (and for quite a while I'll bet), is to have someone pay you to install them. Whether that is government, vehicle manufacturer, advocacy group, etc...

  6. If you don't like FREE EV charging then your shouldn't like FREE WiFi, FREE cups of coffee and FREE access to electrical outlets to charge your cellphone either. The reason FREE EV charging works is because the cost of the electricity one uses to charge up is so minimal. The average cost to top up your EV battery is about the same as a cup of coffee. For a Tesla, more like a latte from Starbucks with the bigger battery, but still very cheap for the opportunity to get that well-healed customer in your door.

  7. There are more comments in this thread
  8. Yet another lawsuit to prevent progress and keep us firmly attached to the petroleum tata. This should be dismissed in court as such; this issue is bigger than any of us and should certainly take precendence over the profits of petrochemical companies. Too bad, so sad.

  9. I am not sure that the Dutch courts will see it that way.

  10. I can't wait until the Dutch gas stations claim that H1 is fuel and, of course, we all know that O2 is fuel, so....

  11. One of my big points in buying electric is to sidestep the ridiculous petrol corporate control that now exists, so I say they can cry all they want, but their business will still erode, even if it doesn't go away.

    In summary, WAAAAAAAAAAA!

  12. Sounds like whining to me.
    "I didn't want to spend the mmoney on charging stations and now I am lowing money to someone that did install them, maybe I will sue to get my way."

  13. Sorry.typing on phone i hard. Try that again...
    "I didn't want to spend the money on charging stations and now I am losing money to someone that did install them, maybe I will sue to get my way."

  14. As I have repeatedly stated in prior posts, the MASSIVE international fossil fuel companies have only begun to fight! They are nervous and are will do all they can get away with to stop this mortal threat! They darn well know that the electric car threatens their very existence, and they will not go down without a cosmic struggle.

  15. @Jack: For some context to your rather apocalyptic comment ...

  16. Yes John, I'm sure gaslonine engines will be with us for many decades yet but if you think about it that was kind of Jack Garbuz' point.

  17. Car industry expects traditional petrol or diesel engines to have disappeared by 2040.

  18. This whole article is just a symptom of the real problem I call "ElectroFossilSalesInterruptous." And, it's great, for the good of humanity to finally have this problem!

    All along we have known EVs would be a disruptive technology and articles like this point out how radical change affects economic thinking. After a hundred plus years of depending on a fossil fuel economy, don't expect the fossil fuel stakeholders to give up easily.

    I expect slow going until the advent of "the better battery." Then, I can see millions coming over to the right way of thinking. In fact, if you can make an EV work out for your life style right now and you can afford the premium, buy it.

  19. I believe that the same thing happened with the Blacksmiths when the IC's began to proliferate. I believe that many Blacksmiths eventually provided petrol to the "horseless buggies".

  20. It gets even better! All parties were invited to show interest in locations to place a fast charger in 2011. How many gas stations and/or oil companies do you think showed interest? You've guessed it: NONE!
    I guess as the saying goes: You snooze, you lose!

  21. So the gas stations don't want the charging stations, but they also don't want others to have them either!

  22. Just a side note. I visited Decatur Texas last weekend and stayed in a motel (down and out variety). They charged me 10.00 per night just for electricity to overnight charge. In all fairness to them they did discount in other areas so I ended paying $77.00 per night. Not so bad.

  23. Totally fair in that case, then. I don't have an issue with people getting their due: the hotel installed a plug or EV charging station and needs to get paid. The issue I see are the oil companies who are used to status quo and refuse to work with government and the EV industry to find satisfactory and fair charging solutions.

  24. That's NOT my Volt, it's at a gas station!
    1 fill-up, 7 gallons since new. It is still full. Four months, lifetime 250+ MPG. Burned 1 qt. of gas in June.

  25. He's not near the pump,
    probably just wants a slushie :)

  26. or the bathroom.

  27. I believe the case is the following.

    The service station locations are property of the Dutch government and the owners of the gas station pay a rent to use that spot to exploit a gas station. One of the terms of that agreement is that in return, they get an exclusive right to sell fuels on that location, which is quite reasonable. Their interpretation of 'fuel' is: anything that can move a car. It is now for the judge to decide whether that interpretation has any merit.

    The French oil company Total has already installed CHAdeMo fast chargers on a few gas stations in The Netherlands.

  28. The fight is only just starting. The oil industry will die not with a bang, nor a whimper, but with a million angry lawsuits.
    Hey, I just made a cool quote. :)

  29. Most gas station owners (at least in North America) make money not on the fuel, but on the incredibly overpriced products in their store. They will wise up and put in chargers, charge a nominal fee, and sell coffee and donuts.
    How much sense does it make when someone has to charge for an hour and so they go sit in a restaurant buy food. And for what it's worth, in 5 years there will be conspiracy theories about BIG ELECTRIC.

  30. John is correct, most gas stations make far more money inside the store than on gas. Station owners would be wise to cater to their needs while the EV owners waits for 20-30 minutes? Plenty of time to sell them other products

  31. This story and the Tesla vs dealer associations are a sign that those in the traditional vehicle industry realize the future is in electric powered vehicles. There will be a number of fights down the road, but more likely sooner than later the smarter and better choice, EVs will prevail.

  32. The first three paragraphs under "Energy or 'Fuel'" are about the rationale of the lawsuit. The remaining paragraphs are about the business case for EV charging stations at fueling stations.

    I take issue with the business case arguments because, as stated in the first three paragraphs, "fuel" is regulated differently than energy, as such there is an unknown element of what are the regulations regarding "fuel" stations; can they provide DC fast chargers without running afoul of particular regulations?

    If they could offer fast charging, the technology provides 20-30 minutes for 50% charge or thereabouts. Fuel stations make money through quick turnover, unless they are a Sheetz, Pilot, Loves or Wawa. 20 minutes is a lot of soda.

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