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Basque minister explains Basque Government’s active role in developing the electric vehicle

2010 April 19

Basque minister for Industry, Innovation, Trade & Tourism Bernabé Unda appeared at his own request before the Basque parliament's Commission for Industry and Foreign Action to explain the role of the Basque Government in the implementation and development of the electric vehicle.

Accompanied by deputy Planning & Strategy minister Pedro Gómez Damborenea and the Basque Energy Board (EVE)'s director general, Unda reminded the members of the Commission of the "the region's public -private sector alliance" on the electric vehicle. Unda said that their capacities and initiative had prompted the Basque government to invite Spanish Minister for Industry, Tourism & Trade Miguel Sebastián and fellow cabinet Minister Cristina Garmendia, holder of the Science & I Innovation portfolio to witness the signing of an agreement between the local Energy and Automotive clusters.

Sebastián then invited the Basque government to take part in an informal meeting of EU Competitiveness Ministers held in the city of San Sebastián, where the electric vehicle was high on the agenda.

Unda stressed the fact that Spain, in its turn as president of the European Union, had made the electric vehicle a big topic for Europe to discuss, as a technological and industrial challenge. "And the Basque Country, before this happened", added Unda, "had already made its commitment to the electric vehicle quite clear."

The first step had been taken on 29 October last year, when a protocol was signed by EVE and Spanish oil giant Repsol for the two to cooperate on implementing an electric vehicle battery recharge network in the Basque region. In June 2010 the legal agreements would be defined in detail for a new company to manage the investment. The agreement included EVE and Repsol's commitment to deploying this type of network together in other parts of Spain.

Next, on 11 November, came the signing with Mercedes Benz's Spanish concern Mercedes Benz España of an agreement to produce electric vans at the company's Vitoria factory. The first van is expected to leave the factory some time later this year.

As both agreements state, the two projects have major pulling power on the rest of Basque industry and should prove to be a huge stimulus for the Basque science and technology network. To close the circle, the Basque government has promoted an agreement between the local energy and automotive clusters, coinciding with the informal summit meeting of EU ministers. Present at the signing of the agreement were Spanish ministers Miguel Sebastián and Cristina Garmendia.

Unda said the region had the technological means, the industry and the public sector-private sector cooperation to ensure the Basque Country a place at the forefront in activities relating to electric vehicle worldwide. "This is a new field," he added, "and we've got to overcome a number of technological and non-technological obstacles and we've got to do it fast. If we don't", he concluded, "someone else will and we'll end up falling behind."

The plan to introduce the electric vehicle in the Basque Country has four strategic areas. One involves stimulating the automotive industry through support for the design of a new electric vehicle to be produced in the region and the opportunity for Basque firms in the industry to design specific components. Another objective is to implement a network of battery recharge points covering the entire region, thereby guaranteeing the electric vehicle's mobility throughout the Basque Country. It also involves creating a critical mass of vehicles in circulation, to bring forward the market breaking point and, finally, the regulatory framework, which proposes modifications to enable electric vehicles to come onto the market-and the roads-as soon as possible. The standardization needed for the electric vehicle to get a foothold is already being developed.


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