3 Questions For VKW
Why are you participating at the Oslo2Rome initiative?
The Vorarlberger Kraftwerke AG (short VKW) has been one of the leading Austrian energy suppliers when it comes to e-mobility since 2009. The boom of e-mobility in Vorarlberg with a large number of new registrations and a high demand in expansion of charging infrastructure confirm the VKW in what they do. Under the name “VLOTTE”, Vorarlberg made itself a name as largest model region of its kind, both in Austria but also beyond country borders in whole Europe.
We as the leading vendor of e-mobility in the region consider it to be natural that we observe the development in our area of profession and that we also participate in projects when they are interesting enough. The Oslo2Rome initiative is exactly one of those cases: it is a new, very exciting technology with high disruptive potential in a core topic of energy service providers and therefore a “must” for us to participate.
Especially in the border region of Austria, Germany, Swiss and Liechtenstein, we have high demand for easier and cross-border settlement processes. Therefore, we do not only see a possibility from the technical perspective to preserve our leading role by utilizing this technology, but also to expand our existing networks and to strengthen and intensify the European collaboration around e-mobility.
How developed is emobility in your country?
Vorarlberg with its approximately 360,000 inhabitants is the second smallest state in Austria. Its citizens always had a high awareness for sustainability and ecologization. Also, the government is supporting e-mobility and the expansion of the same as part of the “energy autonomy 2050” long-term target. Being the electricity supplier of the state, VKW also has the job to promote e-mobility through providing a better and larger charging infrastructure. These measures show high rates of success as can be seen by the density of charging points (one fast charger and ten Typ2 chargers per 10,000 citizens). The amount of new vehicle registrations that are driven by electricity is quite high with 2% as well.
Tell us something about your business and your current efforts around emobility?
The current and the estimated success of e-mobility, both in our area and beyond, lead the VKW to make the efforts part of its core business. Activities are split into three main parts.
First part is information and clarification: We see it as part of our job to enlighten and advise the Vorarlberger citizens about e-mobility. We do this by organizing events and our offerings of free test rides (over the course of multiple days).
The second part is the building and extension of charging infrastructure. We build and operate publicly available AC and DC charging points. Our chargers are not only accessible by local citizens though, we also provide our charging service to foreigners through a roaming network. Most of our charge points are built together in partnership with hotels, restaurants and other tourism driven infrastructures like skiing regions. In this semi-public charging section, we see very high potential.
And the last (but not least important) part is our mobility services, especially for VKW customers. The VLOTTE Public charging card enables charging not only in Vorarlberg, but also at 1,500 charging stations in whole Austria and the south of Germany.
VKW Oslo2Rome Tour Report
“Oslo2Rome” – The Vorarlberger Kraftwerke AG (VKW) team take the BMWi3 from Bregenz to Mulhouse via Lake Constance
Innovations have already been lived actively for a hundred years at the illwerke vkw concern. The power station construction, new energy services such as the VKW VLOTTE, or the establishment of the illwerke vkw Innovation Lab are a few of these innovations. As such, Smart Mobility is one of the strategic fields of innovation and activity in which innovative mobility projects develop. Precisely these reasons make the Oslo2Rome initiative of interest to the VKW. Our aim on the Oslo2Rome tour: Bregenz to Mulhouse. The challenge for us? Many charging points in Vorarlberg, few charging possibilities en route. We are feeling the suspense.
Our team, the Oslo2Rome route and the singularity of our journey
Nadine from the Innovation Lab and Michael from the VKW VLOTTE will be starting as a team on the Oslo2Rome Tour. The route that our VKW team will be conquering could not be more special. With the BMWi3 they will set off from Bregenz in the direction of Meersburg, then the ferry will take them directly across Lake Constance to Mulhouse in the east of France. A further feature for us will be the minimal amount of opportunities to charge up en route. What has long become normal in Vorarlberg is still rather rare in southwestern Germany - a dense charging infrastructure coverage. This will also make our journey exciting for us. We look forward to crossing frontiers for the Oslo2Rome initiative. Our experience of the route is documented in this blog.
Our experience of the tour? The VKW tour in 5 stages:
Stage 1: Ready - Steady - Go!
The starting shot for the Oslo2Rome tour rings out for the VKW team on the 30.11.2017. In cold and snowy conditions the day is dominated by the motto “Oslo2Rome”. Nadine and Michael set off in the BMWi3 from Bregenz in Austria towards Mulhouse in France for the “Oslo2Rome” initiative. The official starting point for the Oslo2Rome tour: Schloss Hofen Castle in Lochau. A beautiful view over Lake Constance and the snow-covered landscape greets us here. After a quick video shoot for the “Oslo2Rome” initiative and a start photo the VKW team sets off at last. We are insanely excited and raring to go! We set off.
Stage 2: The Germany-Austria border and the BMWi3 on Lake Constance
After only 5 minutes we reach our first European border – the one dividing Austria from Germany. And so we say “Goodbye Vorarlberg, hello Germany”. We drive a total of 58 kilometres around charming Lake Constance until we get to our first interim destination, Meersburg. Why did we choose Meersburg as our stop, if we aren’t even going to charge up here? Meersburg lies directly on the shores of Lake Constance and offers a car ferry service between Meersburg and Constance. The significance of our route: our journey takes us directly over Lake Constance to Constance. The ferry itself does not offer us any charging possibilities. No problem – we just enjoy the fantastic views over Lake Constance. Our first charging station is within sight. In Constance we will plug in for the first time. And that at a semi-public charging station. The ferry takes us to shore at Constance and we make our way to the first charging point. The semi-public charging station is located in an underground car park of a Hawaiian restaurant and hotel. The charging is app-controlled, which works flawlessly. While it is charging we familiarise ourselves with the Hawaiian cuisine and try out the specialities of a local Hawaiian restaurant. Uncharted territory for the VKW team. We are impressed.
Stage 3: Charging at an as yet “unknown” charging station - has it worked?
It is 1 pm and the BMWi3 has charged up from 120 km to 187 km during our lunch stop in Constance. We set off on our next leg to Titisee-Neustadt. There we will find our next charging possibility. Our route takes us through the beautiful woods of the Black Forest in southwestern Germany. After 92 kilometres we reach our charging station in Titisee-Neustadt at 2:30 pm, with a range of 70 km remaining. Here we find a semi-public charging station. The registration and implementation of the charging process runs smoothly here too. While we wait for it to charge we find a pleasant spot for a coffee break. After 45 minutes we return to our electric vehicle in order to continue our journey to France. With a renewed range of 110 km we set off in the direction of Freiburg.
Stage 4: The last border crossing and the end is in sight
It is another 100 km to Mulhouse. As the charge level of the BMWi3 is still sufficiently high we decide to bypass our next waypoint - a further charging opportunity in Freiburg. Despite the cold weather we have been able to drive economically enough to reach the border between Germany and France by 4:30 pm. We cross the border into France and are now a good bit closer to our destination. We can hardly wait to reach the finishing line at last. Our range drops further. Will we make it?
Stage 5: The final destination, Mulhouse, within view
We arrive in Mulhouse at 5 pm and seek out our final charging station. The charging process starts here too after a successful connection from charging pole to electric vehicle. Content with our successful tour we make our way to our hotel and look forward to our return journey to Vorarlberg the following day.
Our 3 most interesting discoveries during the tour:
- Electromobility is less of an issue in southwestern Germany than in Vorarlberg.
This realisation was based on two observations of our tour. For one, we could only find a few public charging possibilities in preparation for our Oslo2Rome tour. As such the charging infrastructure is not yet as well developed as here in Austria. Secondly, we hardly came across any other e-drivers during our drive across southern Germany.
- Charging infrastructure must be made more accessible for e-drivers.
Charging and payment using credit, debit or charging card alone is still not possible everywhere. Especially when it comes to the authorisation process cards often can not be read. There are also private or semi-private charging stations which are not accessible to all. In order to make e-mobility more attractive it is necessary not only to expand the charging infrastructure, but also the transnational charging and payment functions.
- Charging and payment within one region is currently easier than outside national borders.
Particularly within Austria national charging across regional borders has become possible in 2017. In Germany and other European countries there are to some extent larger networks with shared charging cards. Charging and payment is nevertheless still less simple than would be expected. In this matter a standardised solution that works for all charging stations on the market must be found.