Today: May 28, 2024
July 15, 2009

An electric test-drive for NGOs

ČEZ will lend 50-100 electric cars to charities over the next few years

This fall, Domov Sue Ryder, the Prague chapter of a healthcare charity for senior citizens, will have two new volunteers. However, instead of helping hands, these volunteers will bring eight wheels and two batteries and will bear the logo of the biggest Czech energy company.

ČEZ is lending two electric cars, a Fiorino Combi and a Fiorino Cargo, to Sue Ryder as a part of a new strategy, Future Motions, that focuses on developing new ways to use electricity. Martin Cmíral, the project’s manager, says this is only the first part of the project that will be used to test the cars.

“For 12 months, we will distribute about 10 to 12 cars – get them out to be used by people – and keep an eye on them,” Cmíral says.

ČEZ presented its Future Motions pilot project at a press conference one week after Parliament voted to provide ČEZ and other energy companies with a third of emissions permits for free from 2013-20. The only condition is that companies promote green technologies. The cars are charged with a regular plug and outlet, and their batteries are supposed to last about 100 kilometers (60 miles) when fully charged. The vehicles will also have electronic chips inside that provide automatic monitoring of the cars’ conditions.

“We will check how many kilometers the car travels, how the battery is doing and whether it has some unexpected problems,” Cmíral said, adding that the exchange is beneficial to both parties. “We can help them by providing these cars, and they will help us by testing them.”

Domov Sue Ryder is the first organization that will receive the cars, and other organizations will be chosen through a competition. Sue Ryder was already chosen because of its well-established presence in the Czech Republic and its proximity to ČEZ headquarters.

“This will be an adventure, and we’re delighted to be a part of it,” said Matěj Lejsal, director at Domov Sue Ryder. “We always need to look for new things to try, and this is the icing on the cake.”

The cars will be a valued addition for the organization, which relies heavily on sponsorship and grants. Domov Sue Ryder currently helps 56 people in the center of Prague, among them war veterans and holocaust victims. Many other clients come to the center regularly for help. Lejsal believes the cars will not only improve the services they already provide, but allow them to provide new ones.

“At the moment, we have one car and one driver that we use for everything: for meal deliveries, clients’ services and health services such as transporting blood samples to the hospital,” he said, and added that there was always a need for careful planning among departments to share the resource. “With this opportunity, we could dedicate one car for transporting our clients who live at home and just commute to our center, or distribute meals to the clients’ homes.”

Both cars are manufactured by Italian company Micro-Vett, which has an exclusive contract with ČEZ for the first phase of the project. According to Cmíral, ČEZ has kept the door open in other phases to cooperate with other companies. After the pilot, ČEZ hopes to increase the number of people using electric cars. Another stage of the pilot project, to be implemented by 2012, will deliver 50 to 100 electric-powered cars to organizations in order to test whether the vehicles could aid the changing infrastructure in Prague and Ostrava.

“Demand is not yet at the level that electric cars are being used by a significant amount of the population, but this is a good start. It’s similar to wireless phones 20 years ago. Back then, it was a risk, just like the electric car is a risk today,” Cmíral said.

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