Electric cars are nothing new. Thomas Parker, an Englishman, actually came up with one that ran on rechargeable batteries in 1884. But dwindling resources of fossil fuels and concerns about CO2 emissions are now forcing us as a society to consider them as a serious alternative. Unsurprisingly INEOS has been quick to explore whether to switch to electric cars at its sites around the world.
Electric cars on their own won’t save the planet. No one disputes that.
But it’s perhaps a start. A move in the right direction, at least, towards lowering carbon emissions and creating a more sustainable world for future generations.
The difficulty, though, is how do you convince people to change their way of life today without paying more?
INEOS’ own journey into the world of the electric car has already begun. At its Antwerp site in Belgium, Köln in Germany and Lavéra in France.
Antwerp is currently deciding which road to travel after trialling an e-car on the site, Köln is currently running trials, but at Lavéra, site policy is now to use an electric car for on-site journeys wherever possible.
In France companies in the Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur region, which employ more than 250 people, must pledge to help reduce air pollution caused by their own staff. And last year Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur made it mandatory for 30% of a company’s car fleet to be electric or at least cars with low
“There were no sanctions at that time so not everyone abided by these rules,” said Bernard de Chanville, general services manager who also led the project. “But INEOS was – and is – considered as exemplary in this region by its community and local authorities.”
Staff at Lavéra actually began testing a range of different e-cars five years ago.
“I don’t remember exactly how many we have tested but it is a lot,” said Bernard. “Every time a new model came on the market, we tried it out.”
Overall the staff liked the Renault Kangoo ZE van, which has been France’s best-selling all-electric vehicle since 2010.
“It is the first really industrial model,” said Bernard.
Despite the limited mileage before the battery needs recharging, staff said the van felt safe and was a pleasure to drive.
INEOS currently operates nine vehicles for use
on the Lavéra site near Marseilles.
“Every time a car lease expires, we now look at whether it is possible to choose an e-car,” said Bernard. “Some of our vehicles, though, are also used off-site so the limited battery range of an e-car then becomes an issue.”
Despite the drawbacks, the trials at its sites both fit very well with INEOS’ ethos as a company which prides itself on seeking out – where possible – safe, sustainable solutions to today’s challenges.
INEOS’ purchasing directors are now investigating what would be needed to equip all its European and US sites with electric cars.
“Electric cars are interesting for our site as we don’t need wide ranges, we have low speed limits on site so a reduced speed is a benefit, not a penalty,” said Bernard.
If the price – and conditions – are right, INEOS could also become one of the first chemical companies to use energy generated by its own Combined Heat and Power processes to move people and goods around on site.
“It is certainly a very innovative idea that would have a positive impact to reduce emissions from on-site vehicles and change attitudes,” said Peggy Gerits, Planning and Logistics Manager at INEOS Oxide in Antwerp, where staff have just finished a lengthy evaluation into the use of e-cars on their site.
It would also be good for business for the chemical industry which is involved in the production of many of the components that are used in today’s e-cars, such as polypropylene for bumpers and butadiene for ‘green’, fuel-efficient tyres.
The cost, though, is one of the main reasons given by the public for not making the switch to electricity.
A two-seater Renault Twizy with a maximum speed of 50mph (80kph) costs about £7,000 (€9,000, $11,000). The short distances that can be travelled before the battery needs recharging is another perceived problem. After about 60 miles (100 km),
it will need charging again.
But Renault says that by 2020, a subcompact electric car will be cheaper to buy, it will go much further – possibly 250 miles (402 km) before it needs recharging – and be quicker to recharge.
Antwerp trials e-car
By Jenny Franken (Intern)
Staff at INEOS’ site in Antwerp, Belgium started on an interesting journey when they began testing an electric car last year.
Back in 2003 Essent build a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant at INEOS Oxide’s site in Antwerp, with surplus power to be fed into the Belgian electricity grid. More recently both companies have sought additional cooperation for using the electricity produced by the cogen unit onsite, to extend the environmental benefits beyond production units on site. Discussions with Essent led to a partnership with 4iS a consulting firm that focuses on electromobility and a trial of electric cars agreed.
For two months they were encouraged to use the car to transport equipment and pipes on short journeys around the site.
“The car was used for basically every journey that could not be done by bicycle,” said Peggy Gerits, Planning and Logistics Manager at INEOS NV.
The trial was a major team effort, involving INEOS, Essent, 4iS, which supports businesses that may want to switch to electric cars, Renault, which offered use of a test car, and Blue Corner, which provided the charging station.
Their mission was to raise awareness of what it’s like to drive an electric car and gather feedback.
And the feedback was largely positive.
Staff said the car was safe, quiet and comfortable, and perfect for the short journeys around the site.
Some, though, were concerned that the car posed a potential safety hazard because it was so quiet. They feared people might not hear it approaching or reversing.
The other downside was remembering to charge the car’s battery, which could take up to an hour.
“Driving an e-car is a different experience,” said Peggy. “It is more relaxed.”
The electric car, tested by INEOS staff, had a top speed of 81mph (130kph).
“That wasn’t an issue for us because there are strict speed restrictions on the site anyway,” said Peggy.
Overall, though, the staff liked it.
Cost is the main issue restricting public demand for this new technology. The high cost of e-cars today and the short distances that can be travelled of “just” 140 km-200 km means they are as yet not widely popular. But things are changing rapidly Renault says that by 2020, the range of a compact electric vehicle could be as much as 402 km (250 miles), the charging time will be significantly shorter and the overall cost to produce will be lower.
Electric cars on INEOS sites would typically travel short distances. They would be parked on site out of hours, when they can be recharged, so they are a very helpful addition to the sites operation. To make these cars more popular and easier to handle the market has to develop. Future challenges will include reliability and durability of batteries and
Antwerp now plans to review their internal car fleet to investigate the possibility of switching to e-cars.
If it makes financial sense, INEOS may go down that road.
What staff liked
- 100% emission free
- Quiet to drive
What staff disliked
- The need to recharge after short distances
- Time-consuming to recharge
- Expensive to buy