Smarter Cities

In Germany, Driving An Electric Car Is Still A Drag

E-car charging in Berlin
E-car charging in Berlin
Thomas Fromm

MUNICH — For people driving through Germany in a normal car, things couldn't be easier. With just a single debit card, they can refuel everywhere at anytime.

That is not, unfortunately, the case for people who drive electric cars. To travel, let’s say, from Wolfsburg via Stuttgart and Munich to Berlin and back, that person would need a couple of dozen cards at least if he or she intends to recharge at public places.

What with new energy providers constantly appearing on the market, hundreds of municipal utilities, and completely different access systems — it’s enough for someone to go from one region to another and the electricity provider will change — conditions as they stand now promise technical problems from the outset.

But the makers of electric cars also know that they alone will not be able to determine the success of the alternative vehicles. The last word belongs to those in charge of infrastructure.

To promote and research electro-mobility in Germany, the German federal government set up four "Electromobility Showcase Projects" in 2012 to test how the different systems with their different billing methods and data standards could be better coordinated.

E-car charging point in Cologne — Photo: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The result, according to Franz Loogen, who heads the Baden-Württemberg project, is that "we’re now at the point that a single card will get you through Baden-Württemberg. Beyond that it gets difficult. But still, I’m operating on the premise that Germany-wide roaming with a single card for recharging should be possible by 2016 at the latest. The objective is for the driver to have at their disposal "barrier-free access and billing to recharge their car."

But as with so many things, politics play a role. Big providers mostly hail their own payment system to be the best one. Most of them are already part of bigger, so-called "e-roaming network" that are not unlike telecom roaming networks in that as soon as the user leaves the area covered by one network he enters the network of the area he is now in.

For recharging electric cars there are presently two such networks in Germany, "Ladenetz" and "Hubject." They work separately. "Our goal is for e-cars to be barrier-free," says Loogen. "For that to happen both networks will have to cooperate closely in future."

Even if that happens, there's still the problem of what Loogen refers to as "Gallic villages," areas that belong to no network and that make driving through in an electric car tougher still.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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