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Estonia becomes the first to open a nationwide electric vehicle charging network (estonianworld.com)
134 points by jkaljundi on Feb 20, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

Estonia has impressed me with their forward thinking policies. Everything about their execution of this plan has me impressed. They have executed well in financing the building of this network and in creating a sustainable business model for the future.

Related note: 5 Months ago I remember hearing about their plan to introduce programming into elementary curriculum. http://developers.slashdot.org/story/12/09/04/2136256/estoni...

On the related note: Wolfram announced a few days ago Estonia becoming their first CBM country for computerbasedmath.org to rewrite key years of school probability and statistics from scratch: http://blog.wolfram.com/2013/02/11/announcement-our-first-cb...

"They have executed well in financing the building of this network..."

They have executed well in the building. Financing is kinda easy for a country of only 1.3 million people heavily subsidized by the European Union (which Estonia is a part of).

During the 2008-2009 crisis (which is not done yet but I digress), the Estonian GDP took a gigantic hit: -20% of the GDP. That's what you get when you're taxing the private sector like crazy: the private sector, in usual circumstances, can barely survive. If any crisis happens, then the private sector dies and the economy crumbles (thank you socialism for the crazy high confiscatory tax rates on the private sector).

It's like Poland, for example: I love this country and it feels incredibly more "new" and even sometimes more "hi-tech" (e.g. in big cities malls) than western europe... But Poland is receiving crazy funding from the EU to get up to speed.

As an EU taxpayer, that said, it's good that at least some of money is used to invest in technologies that are bound to become very important in the future...

Agree with your point about both the size of the country and the funding they are receiving. That said, when I visited Estonia in the early 2000s, prior to being in the EU, their broadband infrastructure seemed better than that of Finland and Germany (two countries I spent time in). That may have well been due to it's overall size.

What is interesting to me about Estonia now is the lack of overall diversity in the tech sector there. The biggest tech employers seem to be the government, the banks, and Skype.

Maybe Skype buyout V2 will inject more in the way of a startup culture there.

Estonia has ~15000 people working in the tech sector. There are 1500 tech/IT companies, 26 of them above 100 employees. IT/Tech is ~5.8% of GDP (2010).

Here is one Estonian Startups list: http://hub.garage48.org/estonian-startups - all in all, there are 100+ active startups in Estonia, which I would say for a country of 1 million people is quite a startup culture. Estonia now has I believe 7 or 8 European startup accelerator Seedcamp winners, trailing only UK, Seedcamp's home country.

This is kind of misleading. Many of the start-ups on that list are headquartered (or host major operations) outside of Estonia; they're considered Estonian only because the founders hold Estonian nationality. You wouldn't call start-ups headquartered in the US and founded by Indians "Indian start-ups", would you?

This might not be the case for quite a few Estonian startups though -- with 1.3 million people you're desperately lacking a large enough target market for the niche products that some startups are developing, and looking to other countries may actually be a part of a strategy, not simply a case of 'I happen to be an Estonian living in the UK so I'll just go with the flow and do my startup here'. I would call these startups Estonian.

Which ones do you mean? Most if not all of those companies have majority of the team and original entity in Estonia.

Even then, we as Estonian startup people don't care where the main legal entity is. If it's started and run by Estonians, we consider it Estonian.

"What is interesting to me about Estonia now is the lack of overall diversity in the tech sector there. The biggest tech employers seem to be the government, the banks, and Skype."

I believe that's not unique to Estonia. The biggest tech employers in my country are the government and the banks as well (No Skype here).

> It's like Poland, for example: I love this country and it feels incredibly more "new" and even sometimes more "hi-tech" (e.g. in big cities malls) than western europe...

wow, it's nice you say that, but could you elaborate?

Because 3D is soooo 1st decade of the 21st century..

Estonia is a former Soviet republic and now a fairly poor European country one does have to ask is there not better things to spend this on?

Support for start ups that create long term jobs and values might be a better use of the carbon credits they sold to Mitsubishi.

Off Wikipedia:

"Estonia has the highest gross domestic product per person among the former Soviet republics.[10] It is listed as a "high-income economy" by the World Bank, is identified as an "advanced economy" by the International Monetary Fund, and is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The United Nations classifies Estonia as a developed country with a very high Human Development Index,[5] and the country ranks highly in measures of press freedom (3rd in the World in 2012[11]), economic freedom, political freedom and education."

Then why are there tons of educated Estonians moving to the UK doing the low level jobs then.

And first amongst former soviet states is not exactly knocking it out of the ball park.

Not tons, but just some. In percentage terms, there are probably proportionally the least number of Estonians who have left their country to work abroad compared to most if not all Eastern European countries.

> Then why are there tons of educated Estonians moving to the UK doing the low level jobs then.

Better weather?

> And first amongst former soviet states is not exactly knocking it out of the ball park.

Clearly, they should be ZEROTH.

well compared to Seattle anywheres weather is better :-)

Being an Estonian citizen and all I know that I'm very lucky to have born in Estonia. Blazing fast internet speed comparing to U.S (according to a few U.S friends, not some giant stats machine) and free WiFi in nearly all of the bars, clubs, pubs, coffee shops, restaurants, malls there are. At least in the capital city that is.

That being said, tech might be top-notch, but the economy is sinking. Sure, they raised the minimum wage to 350 EUR / month, but all it really did was increase the number of "officially poor" and since living cost is catching up with Finland (not in houses or apartments as of yet, but pretty much everything else) the ~400 EUR most people get for paychecks around here is not for living, it's for suffering.

So perhaps a better thing to do would be to just fall behind in the tech field a bit (a bit, not die) and actually do whatever the hell is needed to provide companies with enough income to pay decent salaries. I have no idea how the entire "money making" system works and I'm sure it's complicated as hell, but if they have money to make Estonia a tech country that has a ton of poor people who are struggling to collect enough money to get the hell out of here then maybe they should instead invest that money in people - and in return get people invest in the country itself.

I do have to note that Estonia with its 165 chargers is curiously only as wide as the distance between the 'superchargers' in the recent Tesla debacle...

Surprised Vatican hasn't beaten them to a punch with a nationwide charging network, but with their upper management exodus I guess that slipped on the priority list.

Interesting point - I didn't even think the Vatican had roads. Looking at google maps now, it does seem to have some, but I'm not sure if they're public (not that you couldn't have a charger because of that)

Challenge accepted.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6768395.stm says there's a 30km/h speed limit and an accident in 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments_for_Drivers says there are 1,000 cars in Vatican City.

A-ha! Here's a description of the people who drive in Vatican City: http://mes.stparchive.com/Archive/MES/MES03141997p05.php . It's at the bottom, along with a description of the parking problems and congestion. Based on http://www.slate.com/articles/life/welltraveled/features/201... , these roads are not open to the public.

Lol. The joys of automatically generated text. http://www.expedia.co.uk/Compare-Cheap-Car-Hire-In-Vatican-C... claims "However, most car hire vendors will also have pick up/ drop off locations within Vatican City, so if you are staying in the city then you may want to consider this as an option ... If you plan to hire a car and drive around Vatican City to take in the sights, it's worthwhile taking a bit of time out and stopping off and visiting the historical Casina Pio IV (Villa Pia). The big advantage of hiring a car in Vatican City will not only allow you to enjoy the scenery within the city boundaries but will also makes it much easier to explore beyond the city."

Casina Pio IV is "home to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas." I'm pretty sure it's not on the top things to see while in Vatican City.

>http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6768395.stm says there's a 30km/h speed limit and an accident in 2006.

Hm, they could just restrict driving to golf carts and be the first fully-electric-car nation ...

A lot of the people with cars in Vatican City also want to drive in Rome. I suspect most would not like golf carts for that purpose, compared to a car.

The construction of the fast-charging network was financed by using the funds received pursuant to a CO2 emission quota sales agreement entered into between the Republic of Estonia and Mitsubishi Corporation.

Anyone understand what this sentence from the article means?

I believe it refers to Estonia selling off excess carbon credits to Mitsubishi under a mid-long term agreement.

Mitsubishi needs to purchase these credits to stay within regulatory requirements pertaining to emittance of CO2 probably in the EU. Given that Mitsubishi is a large manufacturer they probably produce above their alloted quota of CO2 and therefore must purchase credits from someone/some organization (in this case Estonia) that does not use their full quota.

Estonia is using the income from this agreement to fund the fast-charging network.

This is all educated speculation as to its meaning. Apologies for no links to references to back up my understanding. I am sure a quick search will provide more information.

Apparently Mitsubishi (as well as Sumitomo) bought some of the allowance of emissions - see here - http://www.ee.emb-japan.go.jp/economicrel.html

Apparently that's part of the game with capping the emissions... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emissions_trading#Emission_mark...

As far as I see - way to go :-)

I'm not sure if this is entirely correct, but it seems to me that:

Mitsubishi are giving this network for free to Estonia in exchange for a right to some of their pollution allowance under the kyoto protocol.

Estonia has a lot of allowance spare because quotas were based upon the amount of polluting you used to do, and Estonia used to have a lot of heavy industry which fell apart in the 90s.

So really, they got lucky and they got this network for free thanks to a quirk in the Kyoto protocol.

Wouldn't it be great if governments everywhere created solar-based chargers like those of Tesla, with some back-up to electricity for night charging or for when all the power is used at a charger for the day, and then the whole population could buy electric cars much faster?

Not in Estonia. We don't have any sun, except for few days in the summer. Wish we could produce electricity from cold, rain and darkness.

For "rain" see [1] using the mechanical energy of falling rain drops.

For "cold" see [2] the idea of using the potential energy of snow on mountains (or hills). Maybe create artificial avalanches.

For "darkness", no idea. :)


[1] http://phys.org/news120216714.html

[2] http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/eng99/eng99635.htm

Crap, we don't have mountains either :D The highest point is 318 meters ASL.

LOL! It is actually a great idea! If anyone in the world should come up with a system like that it will definitely be an Estonian for sure.

We'd buy it from you here in Ireland :)

And they already beat the US in Internet speed. http://www.netindex.com/download/allcountries/

Know what the top countries on that list have in common?

I could beat the US in Internet speed if I setup a neighborhood network.

If it's "size", #7 Japan is huge and #26 Russia is monstrous and crumbling and still managed to beat US.

That rating is totally humiliating for a country which invented Internet and they should do something about it.

What's the average Internet speed in, say, the Bay Area?

Anecdotally it sucks. The ADSL people generally have in SF is terribly slow. Even my moms internet in the Dutch country-side, 8 miles from the nearest city, with cows for neighbors on all four sides of the house, had faster internet than that.

For the Bay Area numbers: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870395970457545...

On the highways, every 60km a ChaDeMo quickcharger. €18.000 credit if your car is 100% EV. I just wish Tesla sold some here.

I spoke to Tesla about this, they were not interested. Said I'd have to sell a few Roadsters to demonstrate interest.

Mind you I was talking to their sales team in London, who probably needed to offload unsold Roadsters.

Ha! Perhaps try calling them back on the 1st of the month rather than the 27th when they're trying to make quota :-)

Duh! Contact the source :-)

Unfortunately, because Estonia derives almost all of their electrical power from coal, this is a wasteful setback for the environment.


Even if they derived 100% of their electricity from coal, it would be a huge win for the environment. There have been multiple studies done on this, and power plants and electric motors are massively more efficient and clean than gasoline cars. Even when you factor in transmission losses, charging losses, etc. and assume you're using 100% coal power, EVs beat ICEs by a wide margin.

Not to mention, solar is rapidly approaching the point where it will be cheaper than coal, so it's only a matter of time before coal will start getting phased out anyway.

Even when you factor in transmission losses, charging losses, etc. and assume you're using 100% coal power, EVs beat ICEs by a wide margin.

I'm pretty sure it's the opposite. Do you have a particular study/calculation in mind?


Except that it is much easier to replace macro-level power plants with cleaner tech than it is to replace piecemeal an entire citizenry of personal vehicles.

Moving to electric makes you reliant on current means of energy production, but to move to cleaner tech you replace 100 power plants instead of 10,000,000 cars.

First of all, coal plants are vastly^H^H^H^H^H^Hsomewhat more efficient than gas-fueled car engines.

Secondly, the electrical grid acts like a technology buffer. In the future, those coal plants can be replaced by water, wind, solar or something else, without changing the grid or the vehicle charging network.

To be more precise, Estonia burns Oil shale rather than coal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_shale_in_Estonia

The whole idea with electric vehicles is that it is an abstraction layer.

How so? Aren't coal-fired plants more efficient than internal combustion engines?

Not even close. First of all, mining and burning coal is far worse for the environment than oil. Mining is destructive, impacts water tables, and burning coal produces lots of toxic byproducts like mercury and other heavy metals. Further, there is significant loss/waste as you push electricity across the grid.

There's no environmental case for EV-only cars, unless you are powering the grid with solar, wind, or hydro.

>Not even close. First of all, mining and burning coal is far worse for the environment than oil. Mining is destructive, impacts water tables, ...

Sure, but that's a different metric than the OP was asking about and talks about one particular method of mining. On the specific question of system efficiency -- mechanical output divided by heat content input ("well to wheels") -- it is indeed generally right that coal electricity + transmission/battery losses still has a higher efficiency than everyone burning gas in their own poorly-maintained vehicle.

>There's no environmental case for EV-only cars, unless you are powering the grid with solar, wind, or hydro.

If you make the question black-and-white, perhaps. But hopefully we can recognize that e.g. oil-derived electricity powering cars is a step up from millions of aging ICEs using that oil in refined form;

- and that natural gas-generated electricity is a step up from that

- and that it's easier to change the (ultimate) power source on an electric car than a gas-powered one, which has a very "picky" engine.

Do you have any numbers for these claims? (Not agreeing or disagreeing, just interested in some evidence either way.)

> Further, there is significant loss/waste as you push electricity across the grid.

Trucking hydrocarbons around to thousands of endpoints doesn't actually compare favorably to line loss.

Your data is a bit outdated, currently about 20% of the electricity produced in Estonia comes from renewable sources (biofuel, wind) and the figure is growing rapidly.

Plus the electric cars can only buy renewable energy, it would nullify the point of selling CO2 quotas if they used fossil fuel to produce that energy ;)

Other comments aside - just glancing at the graph in your link - seems like the % is on a steady decline... LGTM.

What happened to hydrogen cars? I was expecting them to come out on top, but it seems electric charging stations are growing much faster than hydrogen refill stations.

Burning hydrogen is but one step in the whole "well to wheels" chain that's needed to get your car moving. That single step appears very appealing - it turns into water! - but all the other steps along the way are extremely difficult.

How much energy can a car have with a "full tank of hydrogen", and what would that tank look like? Remember, a bucket of gasoline contains more hydrogen than a bucket of liquid hydrogen, and the gas kan be reasonably safely kept in the bucket, but the hydrogen requires very special equipment.

How will you get the hydrogen into the car? Gas can be poured into the gas tank, how would you transfer liquid hydrogen safely? Remember, chain-smoking stressed out soccer moms with three screaming kids in the car have to be able to do this without blowing themselves up.

How will you get hydrogen to the gas stations? How will you manufacture the hydrogen? You can't mine it or collect it, so you would have to create it by splicing water, a process which consumes a lot of energy. Where will you get that energy from? And if you're going to use electricity anyway, how much of that energy is lost in the process?

What's the "well to wheels" efficiency of a hydrogen vehicle? I'm pretty sure it's smarter to just charge a battery in the vehicle directly, through the electricity network, rather than going the roundabout way of creating volatile hydrogen at special plants, transporting that hydrogen to gas stations, having equipment for allowing people to fill up their cars, and finally combust the hydrogen in the car to make it move.

So what happened? Someone did the math on the whole chain, instead of just handwaving the massive infrastructure problems away.

The benefit of hydrogen IMO is not needing to mine tons of potentially hazardous or toxic minerals to make giant swaths of batteries, not to mention that you can actually fill up the fuel tanks just like you would with gasoline, rather than needing to wait 30-60 minutes for a "supercharger", and the overall range of existing hydrogen vehicles is generally on par with or better than the range of gas-powered vehicles.

They've already "solved" most of the problems you mention; the "problems" are with scaling that sort of infrastructure. Scaling EV chargers is just much simpler.

Once the number of EV's get high enough, we can have recycling stations for them. Another benefit of having an Electric car is that you don't care about the source that produces the electricity. So tomorrow when cold fusion is feasible, we just build a bunch of them and power all our vehicles with the electricity that they produce.

However, I am interested in hydrogen as a fuel from a long term perspective. In the future when we have vehicles that need to run on other planets, presumably hydrogen will be the fuel; however I'm not sure those engines will be IC; maybe miniaturized jet engines? :) edit: probably not, since jet engines need oxygen which may not be available on other planets

>Remember, a bucket of gasoline contains more hydrogen than a bucket of liquid hydrogen

I don't know what you mean by "contains more hydrogen", but if we look at the calorific value (energy per unit weight) then hydrogen has almost 3 times that of gasoline [1]


I meant it in the most literal sense possible. The density of liquid hydrogen is around 70kg/m^3, but the density of gasoline is around 700kg/m^3. This means the despite all the carbon atoms, there are still more hydrogen atoms in a bucket of gas than in a bucket of liquid hydrogen.

You are correct in that liquid hydrogen has more energy per weight than gas, but gas is ten times denser, so it has around three times more energy per volume, and both are important when it comes to designing a safe fuel container that fits in a car.

It does not occur naturally on earth, takes energy to make, takes energy to compress, is prone to exploding, and is only liquid at extremely low temperatures. Or that's what Musk keeps saying every time he's asked, I'm not sure what the general consensus is among scientists and engineers on the subject. As things stand right now it does not appear to be a useful fuel source for cars.

It'll be an interesting test, Estonia can get bitterly cold.

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