Our President Espen Hauge Interview with Green Future Auto Magazine

Our President Espen Hauge has been interviewed by the prestigious Portuguese sectorial publication Green Future AutoMagazine. Here below the text of his interview, also available in Portuguese here.

1. How do you see the future of Electric Vehicles and the future of Mobility in Europe and in the world?

A big question. The future is electric of course, my concern is still if we are able to make the transition fast enough. In recent years fortunately the tangible reasons for optimism are multiplying; Gigafactories under construction, better and more EV models on the market, charging infrastructure business moving fast.

In 2020 Europe became the hotspot for E-mobility, but luckily, we will not be alone, as the USA is getting back on track now and China continues to move fast towards electrification.

We see that battery-electric solutions are gaining momentum in all types of applications from bikes to long-haul transport including shipping and aviation. This means the world will save enormous amounts of energy as the energy-wasting internal combustion engines are replaced and phased out. It means that we can breathe clean air in cities, avoid early deaths and save on health expenses. And it means that jobs gradually lost in the combustion engine and fossil fuel-related industries will be replaced by more jobs in cleaner industries.

Mobility will also be smarter, and that means moving towards autonomous solutions but also lighter solutions, more adapted to the purpose.

 

2. What is the role of The European Association for Electromobility in the development and implementation of electric mobility?

We are a unique association gathering the eco-system of e-mobility. Our role includes helping policymakers based on the input from our members from industry, academia and NGOs. Our members are part of a unique network which is a place to share views not only on EU policy but also national and local policy, as well as most aspects and issues encountered in the EV ecosystem. Read more about all activities at avere.org.

AVERE is also the organizer of the European editions of EVS, the main EV event in the world since 1969. This year EVS34 will take place in China, next year EVS35 will be here in Europe again, in Oslo, Norway.

 

3. Do you believe in a common approach, focused on European or even world guidelines regarding Electric Vehicles or Electromobility or do you think that each country must follow their own programmes?

All levels have an important part to play.

Globally I believe standardisation is key, standards that are simple and robust will help reduce cost and increase safety.

Europe is now in the driver seat for climate leadership, including electrification. The Green Deal that is being strengthened now and the Battery Initiative for Europe that was launched already in 2017 are among the most important efforts by policymakers impacting the near future. EU can ensure that no one, country or carmaker, is allowed to be lagging too far behind.

There is still a lot that needs to be done on the national and local levels, electrification is a big disruption, and barriers, as well as solutions, exist at all levels. For the most efficient and least painful climate policy, all politicians and leaders need to embrace electromobility, but how they do it will vary.

I would also like to give a shout-out to all the EV drivers enthusiastically pioneering and literally paving the way for the future

 

4. Do you think that there are big differences between European countries concerning electromobility policies? Can you give some examples of such differences (mindset, global policies, market growth and market opportunities)

The future is here, but it is not evenly distributed. We see clearly that sales of EVs depend a lot on national policy as well as local incentives. To get the market started from zero the only way has been to have very strong incentives like in Norway or the Netherlands. But as EVs become popular with customers, they will also eventually get popular at the car dealerships. We see EV ownership is spreading like flowers through what we call the neighbour effect. One happy EV driver inspires multiple others to follow. Knowing that EVs are better than combustion engine cars and they will soon be cheaper to buy also without incentives, it is easy to predict that there is no turning back. The end of the ICE-age (Internal Combustion Engine) is near.

 

5. Probably Norway is one of the European countries with the most significant number of Electric Vehicles. Dou you think that this a result of a “green mentality “or it was just an opportunity raised by local governmental incentives?

I like this question because the answer gives me hope. The short story goes like this. Norwegians are not saints. We are world leaders in electrification, but this started with policies that were meant to help our industry. But then we didn’t manage to help our own little car industry, instead, we knowingly kept our incentives as climate and environment policy – in support of the zero-emission transport industry globally. Similarly, most EV buyers in Norway buy their first EV because incentives make it the best choice financially. But the amazing thing that has been found through research is that after buying the EV, the average EV owner will develop a greener mentality!

As mentioned, EVS35 will take place in Oslo in June 2022, this will be the perfect opportunity to visit the worlds test market for electric vehicles and see in real life how the future will be also in the rest of the world.

 

6. Do you think that the level of development of electric mobility in different countries, is directly linked to the number of financial incentives granted by governments?

Yes to begin with it is definitely a question of the price tag. We need people to get into an EV the first time and then decide to buy it. In Norway, a VW Golf Diesel had the same sales price as the E-Golf after taxes. But in 2025 price parity is expected without taxes, which means that incentives required will be less and can gradually be reduced until there is no reason for the car buyer to consider an ICE vehicle anymore.

 

7. It is impossible to make an interview without mention of the Corona pandemic. Do you think that it has a global impact in terms of Electromobility trends or do you considered that this an opportunity to reflect more and take important decisions regarding the future?

I see that for some it is an opportunity for reflection, for others, it is a really hard time with insecurity, loss of income, less freedom etc. But as a society, I believe we should use the crisis to change for the better, and the EU Green Deal is a part of that mentality which so far has impressed me. For electromobility 2020 was not such a bad year. And compared to the fossil part of the car industry, e-mobility had a great year despite shorter periods of slowdown.

 

8. With the charging infrastructure maturing and batteries becoming more efficient, electric cars are becoming more and more popular. How have you experienced the transition so far? Are the cities (architecture, civil infrastructures, services) also changing, addressing the energy and green concerns or they are at completely different levels (Electromobility by one side and city infrastructure’s by other)?

Cars typically last 10-20 years, but buildings should last ten times longer. The pace of innovation is also faster for cars, especially the last 10-15 years with electrification. It is a challenge for construction to keep up, but the smart charging toolbox is filling up with products that make it easier to roll out efficient and inexpensive charging infrastructure. But also in construction industries, some push from policymakers may be required to make new buildings “charging-ready” and renovation taking electrification into account.

 

9. What changes citizens, cities and politicians must still address to have a brand new mobility system, green, smart and future-oriented ?

I don’t pretend to have the full answer to this, but a big part of it, in my opinion, is to electrify everything, to make a circular economy, to make wholistic solutions that also reduce transport needs. Shared vehicles are on the rise and have the potential to reduce cost, increase quality and have the right size vehicle for the right use.

 

10. What are particular trends in e-mobility battery technology or markets that you are interested in?

I am fascinated by the establishment of green gigafactories producing batteries with close to zero-emission also in the production phase, and the plans to recycle the raw materials for re-use in the next-generation batteries. This is showing us the way to a zero-emission society.

I have also seen the envelope of applications expanding, where battery-based electrification wins over all other alternatives. When I first started working for EVs 15 years ago, we all believed that just electrifying some small city cars with 50 km range would be great. Today I think there may be no limit to where we can go – All combustion engines will go away, and it will happen faster than we think.

 

11. What would the ideal city look like for you? Does it include cars?

The ideal city for me includes several modes of transportation. The ideal city for me also has room for cars, but I believe most big cities will have less need for cars than they do today. Since pollution goes away with the combustion engine, I would also be happier to take my bike to an emission-free city.

 

12. In Portugal, as in Europe, there are many operators in the EV charging network, with numerous payment systems. This is a complex and ineffective situation for users. What is being considered and what is planned to be done to change this situation?

It is a frustrating situation everywhere. EU solved a similar situation with high prices and a lack of transparency for mobile phone roaming some years ago. For charging the problem is even bigger. The charging industry is still young and there are reasons to believe this will be improved rapidly. The problem has already had the attention of EU policymakers for some time and legislation is on the way.

 

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