Italy Chooses Fast AC Charging for Electric Cars at H2Roma
There were a lot of people waiting for free EV test drives at H2Roma last week. EV sales are still very low in Italy, but that might be about to change. In October, there were 53 Nissan LEAFs sold—a record number. That volume is not exactly earth-shattering news, when Fiat sold more than 12,000 Pandas in the same period. But it was the first time an electric car made more than 50 sales in a single month in Italy. The Renault Zoe which will be available next year should fare even better. But the star of the show was undeniably the little Smart Electric Drive. Italy has always been a strong market for Smart, and the electric version should be successful there as well. The manufacturer was taking orders at the show, as was Renault for its even smaller Twizy.
With most Italian cities built long before cars were invented, streets are narrow and small vehicles are desirable. So the Twizy could be a hit. With the added advantage that, at least in the Southern part of the country, its lack of windows should not be an issue. But besides those small vehicles, the biggest news from H2roma this year, was the launch of a network of fast chargers. This was long overdue. After more than two years in the making, the plan will install public fast chargers in Milan, Pisa and Rome. The surprise is that no Nissan LEAFwill be able to use them.
That's because Enel, which is behind this plan and which happens to be the largest power company in Italy, has chosen fast AC chargers: 43-kW chargers designed with the upcoming Renault Zoe in mind. The Smart Electric Drive will also be able to use them, though not at their maximum power, because the Smart's inboard charger is limited at 22 kW.
Only the Zoe, and soon all the other Renault electrics can accept 43-kW charging but it's getting clearer and clearer that the French brand is setting the pace for the rest of the industry. At least in Europe where EV fans will soon see expensive DC chargers as useless foreign technology. Buy a European electric car that works with a cheap AC charging station, or get an electric from Japan, a Mitsubishi or a Nissan, which will require an expensive DC charger. Few people will hesitate between the two, and there's pride in the fact that the European technology is much more affordable than the Japanese one.
We know pricing is an important issue for plug-ins and I was shocked to see that the plug-in Prius is 44 percent more expensive than the standard model in Italy. I guess Toyota Italia has no plans to make its plug-in Prius a sales success. Finally, there was something missing at this year H2Roma: the hydrogen cars that gave their name to the show 12 years ago. There wasn't a single one this year, but several people explained they will be back, maybe not next year, but certainly in 2014.
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