Thanks to Karel Beckman of EnergyPost.eu and the enthusiastic crew over at Fastned, I recently got to visit the Fastned headquarters in Amsterdam and interview cofounder Bart Lubbers, as well as other key staff. Don’t know what Fastned is? That’s what I’m here for.
Fastned is a startup (with some initial roots in power and automation giant ABB) that is now quickly rolling out an electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging network across the Netherlands, with plans to also expand into other parts of Europe and perhaps other markets. We have written about the network before (see this and this), but I got a much more complete picture of the story on my trip to Fastned’s Amsterdam offices.
First of all, some stats:
- At this moment, 35 stations are operational Fastned has permits to develop ~200 stations along the highway (note that it takes a couple of years to obtain the permits).
- By the end of this year, Fastned aims to be up to 60 stations.
- ~15 million euros have been invested in Fastned so far, with 3 million of that coming from distributed, small-scale investors who bought certificates of shares for 10 euros a piece.
- Fastned Founders Club: since May of this year, Fastned offers shareholders lifetime free charging. Investors that purchase more than 2500 certificates of shares of Fastned automatically become a member of this club and can charge for free for the rest of their lives.
- Pricing plans are the same like the mobile industry. You can choose to pay per kWh or can go for a subscription: 12 euros/month + 35 cents/kWh or unlimited charging for 100 euros/month
- All Fastned stations are solar powered!
- Fastned expects to be at a “break even” point financially when there are ~50,000 electric cars signed up for the system. The 2020 EV target for the Netherlands is 200,000. Bart and I think there will be far more than 200,000 EVs on Dutch roads by 2020, of course.
And here’s my interview (in two parts) with Bart and a few others, and with Karel initially just there to connect me with them (not for his own work, that is) but also providing several great questions (as he always does):
It was fun learning about the superb customer service Fastned is offering (which reminded me a bit of Tesla), with support always on hand but also often watching the stations to know as soon as possible about any issues — and the support staff will even proactively call a customer in need of help!
It was also nice to see the focus being 100% on fast charging. I know some commenters here on EV Obsession and CleanTechnica have criticized initial decisions to pump millions of dollars in slow-charging stations, with the argument being that everyone should have gone straight into fast-charging, as slow-charging stations are simply sub-satisfactory for the majority of consumers. Well, that’s just what Fastned is doing, and it’s doing it in a big way!
Lastly, I think this is an obvious thing, but it is something that I think is far too often missed: building a piecemeal, haphazard, only moderately useful system or network seldom leads to “success.” You see this with very incomplete bike lane networks in almost every North American city. You see this with EV charging networks across the world. And you see it in many other realms of society. Yes, there is the chicken and egg problem, and it is very challenging to scale up capital-intensive infrastructure before the market is there to help you reach a profit, but there’s a reason leaders are leaders and get the credit they get.
Tesla has of course very quickly developed massive Supercharger networks, and Bart enthusiastically said that they’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from Tesla. However, unless all the other automakers sign on to make their EVs compatible with Superchargers and partner with Tesla, we’re going to need other comprehensive fast-charging networks as well. It’s nice to see Fastned leading the way on this!
To close out, here are some much snazzier videos produced by Fastned describing what they offer (I especially recommend the first one):
*Full Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this article, and am not a Fastned investor — though, I may become one soon!