E-Mobility Ambassador Series: Mr Joseph Beretta

AVERE continues its Electromobility Ambassadors series presenting people and organizations whose work is truly helping the widespread uptake of electromobility in Europe and across the world.

Our ambassador for this episode is Mr. Joseph Beretta, Honorary President of Avere-France, the French national association for the development of electromobility. Avere-France was founded in 1978 and has since been extremely active in promoting the cause of electric transport in its country as well as internationally. A valued member of AVERE since its foundation, Avere-France also hosted the latest EVS in Europe, EVS32 that took place in Lyon in May 2019.

Joseph, thank you for joining us today and thank for all your and Avere-France work to promote electromobility. How do you see the e-mobility sector today and in the future?

The e-mobility sector is undergoing very fast change nowadays. Even if it took quite some time to emerge, today all the conditions are there to have a real mass market for electric transport. In fact, we should understand this as a market for electric mobility and not just for electric vehicles. This is very important as, through this broader understanding, we are sure all the conditions are now fulfilled:  firstly we must, of course, have enough vehicles being purchased, which we now do. Another condition is that there must be public financing supporting this market. This is now the case as in many countries there are State-financed incentives and advantage for consumers to acquire and use electric vehicles, which makes them competitive against internal combustion engine vehicles. The third condition is that we need charging infrastructures that are easy, intuitive and convenient to use for everybody. We are now in the process of putting these conditions together to really shape the mass e-mobility market to make it a reality for every consumer.

Looking at the future, as e-mobility started very slowly, we now really need to accelerate. Both government and industry have reasons to speed up the process: vehicle companies have to reach their target for CO2 emissions for 2021, so they must sell electric models to be able to do so. Governments need to find a way for citizens to have a good quality of life in big urban conglomerates.  This means to have unpolluted air but also a better quality of the environment broadly speaking. Electric vehicles are a perfect solution to achieve these objectives so big cities need to put in place policies that facilitate the uptake of electromobility. It is very important that they shouldn’t be doing this just for cars but also for the transport of goods and for the mass public transport of people, like buses. These should all be enabled at the same time as we should really be thinking in terms of electric mobility.

What is your most remarkable moment as a Member of AVERE?

Surely it has to be EVS32 that happened last year in France in Lyon. It is something I have wanted to organize since when I have known and joined Avere-France and AVERE. I joined both associations in 1993. At the time, I was deputy director of research and innovation in the field of electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles at PSA Peugeot Citroen. Since then, I have been a member of the board of directors of Avere-France and the European AVERE, with only three years of interruption in all this time. During these three years, I was detached to the French Ministry of Research where I was the French member of FP6 European Council which defined the themes of research projects in the road and maritime transport sector.

I see EVS32 as a coronation of all my years of work, even if it was not always easy to set up and manage. This was also reflective of my experience, as I have often noticed the same merits and the same difficulties in both the European and the national association and this event really brought all these experiences together. It was a great event that really reflected our commitment to the cause of e-mobility and helped focus everybody’s efforts in supporting its mass uptake.

Furthermore, I was born in Lyon so that event made me even more of my city of origin.

What is needed to ensure mass EV uptake across Europe and the world?

When I spoke to academic experts in the 90/2000s about electromobility, they would say it is an “eternally emerging” technology.

Today this technology has actually emerged. The future is here, and we have all the conditions for a smooth transition to the mass uptake of electromobility. We are just getting out of the COVID-19 crisis, which has impacted our freedom of movement as well as the economy. This is, for me, also an opportunity to question our economic and social models so to go even further in the energy transition including of course the transition to electromobility. For me electromobility include battery , plug in and fuel cell vehicles applied to two wheeler, cars, trucks, buses and boats.

If we look at all the advantages of e-mobility, better air quality is surely one, but we should also consider its positive impact on global warming and the reduction of noise emissions. This is only true at the condition that the production of electricity is fossil-free. So, it is necessary that we strive for complete decarbonisation of our energy sources in the fastest and best possible way.

Of course, we must also be realists and understand that this process will take some time, and we will not get there one year to the next. But things are getting better and better and the market share of electromobility is growing steadily. We must always look at the bigger picture and not diminish our efforts in light of some local successes like Norway which, while an important case, is still a small market if compared to the whole of Europe. In the end, the prescriptive markets are the big ones and there are five of them in Europe: Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain. These are the leading markets and, as we see some real uptake there, we can start to be optimistic about the mass electrification of transport in the future.

Recapping, we really are on the cusp of a very fast mass uptake of electromobility and we do need to focus on the recharging infrastructures. The technology is there so we must really stick to the point. In the context of the ongoing economic crisis, we might be tempted to decide not to change anything anymore, to stick to fossil fuel and to continue to pollute and say that we’ll see what to do later on. I think the time to change is now and we must do so without any restraint.

Can you tell us more about Avere-France’s work in the sector?

Avere-France does a lot of different things. It is interesting to look at its history: Avere-France was created like AVERE in 1978 and the two associations have grown together, with ups and downs in their live and cooperation, which were often connected to the stage of development of the electromobility market.

When I became President of Avere-France I worked to re-focus our work not just on electric vehicles but on electric mobility. I explained that we could not just look at the vehicles, but we must instead understand e-mobility as a holistic service.  If we want its mass uptake, we must deal with all the aspects, like energy, different means of transport, like trucks and buses but also all e-mobility services

In Avere- France we have four big objectives: one is to remove all those legislative obstacles that slow down the uptake of electromobility, and we do a lot of lobbying towards public institutions to achieve this goal. We are known in France and also at European level, with European policymakers asking us to explain what is happening in France. We represent the French electromobility value-chain and we work closely with the French government.

Secondly, we provide education and training for current and potential consumers and users of electric transport. It took us some time, but we developed a partnership with the government and  with big companies which allow us to provide key information to anybody who wishes to acquire an use electric vehicle. We keep our information updated based on the latest technologies. We also collect information about all the local, regional, national and European support programs. All this information is accessible on the web site jerouleenelectrique.fr.

Thirdly, we help all the actors to get financing. We think the last big obstacle to overcome is the availability of charging infrastructures as the offer on the market is there and the new technologies have improved majorly the autonomy of vehicles. We have worked to help set up financing programs for the installation of public and private recharging points. The program, called “Advenir”, is now moving from its first stage, where we had ten million Euro available, to a second stage with a budget of one hundred million Euro over a three-year investment period. These funds are available to cover up to 50% of the costs of creation and installation of new charging points specifically in companies, in condominium buildings, in public parking slots and on highways.

Finally, we were often asked to work with local governments for regional projects which is why we have created a network of regional associations in France, and today we are present in all the major regions of France and our network acts as a multiplier of our initiatives. We also try to be active in big events. We have lots to do and we have increased our budgets and in the last few years, having moved from a staff of three to a staff of ten.

What are your upcoming projects to help the growth electromobility?

I believe it is always good to question yourself and that is why we have now launched a five-year plan to establish our priorities in next years. In two or three years we will likely have dealt with the issue of charging infrastructures, but new problems are likely to come up. We expect the relationship with the electric grids to become an issue with the mass uptake of electromobility and we want this to be a win-win relationship with no shortage of energy happening.

We are now preparing to set up actions in this direction and we have already made some studies in collaborating with the biggest electric energy actors in France, like EDF, ENEDIS, RTE. This is to ensure that we can achieve by 2050 to have only zero-emission vehicles on the roads. This entails that the French electricity networks should be able to absorb the demand of around thirty million electric vehicles without issue, given certain conditions that require some work to be done: a fossil-free production with a lot of intermittent wind and solar production,  that also allow for energy storage. The latter entails a clear interaction between electric vehicles and energy grids that allows to use this storage.  This is one of the main reasons we don’t just cover battery vehicles, but also hydrogen energy, as they allow for easier storage of electric energy. The batteries are efficient to quickly respond to a demand for power when hydrogen allows a large storage of energy for seasonal variations. The complementarity between battery and hydrogen mobility must be clearly defined and supported in the coming years.

This is also needed to help the development of future business models that rely on a smooth electromobility value-chain, from vehicles to infrastructure. This requires the cooperation of research centres, industry, and the government. We will need appropriate policies in the future, also at the European level, as these business models will need to be able to work anywhere on the continent.

How has the broader cooperation between Avere-France and the European network helped e-mobility in your country?

The European networks really help us know what’s happening in other countries and to learn from the best practices of other similar associations. For the development of e-mobility, we need to look at Norway, France, UK, Germany, Spain , …. If we look at these countries, we see the State  support the process. It needs to remove certain obstacles, like price and infrastructure, otherwise, it would take too long.

AVERE does at European level what Avere-France does at the national level, meaning provide the insights that allow national actors to know what is happening and what is the best way to act to push forward legislation that helps the mass electrification of transport.

Any final thoughts?

Today Avere-France is turning one page as, after twenty five years on the board and 8 years like president, I have left the presidency in September. In this time I feel I contributed to the evolution of both electromobility and of the association in a significant manner and I hope my successor will continue work in this way and this way of working will also apply across Europe.

My role of president took a lot of my time and I now need more time for other parts of my life, like my family and friends. This is a good chance to have a more harmonious lifestyle. I left the presidency, but I am staying as honorary president. I will continue, even if I no longer have an operational role in Avere-France, my actions for allowing my children and grandchildren to use tomorrow sustainable and ecological modes of transport.

The spirit of electric mobility will always guide me.

AVERE is delighted to have Avere-France as one of its members. If you work in the European e-mobility sector and are interested in joining AVERE, don’t hesitate to contact us!