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Last week saw the opening of the Battery Competence Center at the Automotive Campus in the city of Helmond. In this center, the government and knowledge institutions such as TNO and TU Eindhoven work together with the end-users of batteries, such as VDL Group, DAF Trucks, and Damen Shipyards. The young Eleo, which supplies battery packs for (agricultural) construction machinery, is also among the founders of the center, which works with suppliers such as Heliox (charging systems) and the battery technology companies LionVolt, LeydenJar, and Delft IMP. The goal of the battery competence center is to jointly develop knowledge, share test facilities, conduct purchasing, develop production facilities, and so on.

The acceleration with which the mobility sector is embracing electrification surprises many, and is primarily driven by the rapid advance of the electric passenger car. This was also evident at the opening of the knowledge center. VDL, DAF, and Damen stated that they had not expected this acceleration a few years ago and that it is becoming increasingly clear that also in the heavier segment of mobility the electric battery is becoming the winner. This applies not only to buses, but also to trucks, off-road vehicles, part of the shipping industry (ferries), inland navigation, yachts, and in due course also part of aviation. The battery competence center is the answer to that acceleration.

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VDL has expanded its buses department with a large and new department for electrification of powertrains, for buses among other things, and in close cooperation with DAF for the development of electrically powered trucks. Meanwhile, VDL Nedcar’s factory is preparing for the production of electric cars and battery packs. On the afternoon of the opening, we were also allowed to take a look at TNO’s battery testing facilities and the production of Eleo’s battery modules for the off-road vehicles.

Coincidentally, in the same week, the new Dutch electric bus manufacturer Ebusco went public. I still remember their start, a few years ago, in a small office near me. Now their stock market value is over a billion. Ebusco saw early on that the electrification of buses would happen quickly. They booked sales successes in Europe early on, and have been steadily working on their product ever since. It is the third Dutch unicorn in the field of electromobility in a row to have achieved, or is close to,  such an IPO. EVBox and Allego, both Dutch charging station manufacturers, are planning to go public, Fastned already is.

It is great to see that thanks to a very active stimulation policy, the Netherlands has become one of the frontrunners in Europe. This has created a lot of activity, and so we have already seen some very successful IPOs. I think that a number of them will follow, such as Lightyear, but also the start-ups in the field of battery technology that were mentioned earlier. It is a beautiful combination of sustainability and welfare growth.

Maarten Steinbuch and Carlo van de Weijer are alternately writing this weekly column, originally published (in Dutch) in FD. Did you like it? There’s more to enjoy: a book with a selection of these columns has just been published by 24U and distributed by Lecturis.