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Future Europe features a podcast episode from each of the EU’s 28 Member States. Each episode tells the story of a project that illuminates the way Europeans will live in the future. All the stories are told through the voices of people involved in the projects.
“We put the infrastructure in place because we thought that once we do so, the market will open up. And that is exactly what has happened! The sales of electric vehicles has doubled in just a few months, and this shows this thing is gaining momentum!”
Alberto Piglia is excited. Piglia heads up electronic vehicle mobility at Enel X, an Italian company based in Rome which has been installing electric car charging facilities throughout the country.
Enel X’s efforts have indeed broken the deadlock around e-mobility – that without the infrastructure car makers won’t produce the vehicles, and without the electric cars there is little incentive to invest in charging stations. Up until recently the Italian market was slow to adopt e-mobility. But thanks to Enel X’s efforts that looks set to change.
Rather than address existing demand, the aim of the project is to encourage future electric car use – to influence motorists contemplating their next car purchase.
One key issue this project deals with is eliminating what is called ‘range anxiety’.
The fact that the network will be spread across towns and cities the length and breadth of Italy helps counter the view that electric vehicles are only useful for short journeys in metropolitan areas. Now chances are slimmer than ever that you would get stranded with an empty battery in the middle of nowhere.
Gilda Conzuelo, an EIB loan officer based in Rome, says the project will help drive down pollution and meet tougher regulations on emissions. “As European legislation moves towards reducing CO2 emissions, car manufacturers will have to produce more electric vehicles in order to meet the targets,” she explains. “That is exactly why you need an infrastructure in place and ready to be used so that we can meet these targets.”
In addition to the installation of a network of 14 000 new charging stations throughout Italy, including rural areas allowing for long-distance travel, the project also includes the development of accompanying technology. Most notable: the Enel-X smartphone app, which enables users to find the closest available charging station.
Setting up such infrastructure is a huge and costly undertaking. The EIB will lend Enel X EUR 115 million over a ten-year period. In order to make the project work Conzuelo says the EIB sought a partner with great expertize and reach. “Enel is basically the leading domestic energy player in the market - in order for a project of this scale to be deployed you need someone like Enel to be behind it, because you need the resources they can put into this project,” she explains.
Alberto Piglia says that the EIB was also a great match for Enel X. “The financial power of the EIB was not the only important factor. You also need a strong partner that believes in something innovative, and something new and something that has a component of uncertainty,” he says.
Thanks to the collaboration of the EIB and Enel X the future of e-mobility in looks promising, and not just in Italy. “If you develop a countrywide network, not only will you be able to travel throughout Italy but, in time, throughout Europe. This project is about all the things and all the possibilities that it opens for the future,” says Conzuelo.