AirQon Zoom-in 2: The challenge of addressing a community
As a starting point, there is a true political commitment on the importance of decarbonization and environmental protection for our future as a society. The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 are a clear example of this, with ‘Affordable and clean energy’, ‘Sustainable cities and communities’ or ‘Responsible consumption and production’ among the relevant areas specifically addressed.
In addition to this, it must be taken into account the increasing importance for companies of being identified as sustainable, circular and environment-friendly actors. This is reflected in rankings like the Corporate Knights' index of the world's most sustainable corporations. Indeed, companies listed in the top 100 earned 41% of their revenues from products or services aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, according to the Corporate Knights Clean Taxonomy.
To achieve these global objectives, at least in an efficient and lasting way, not only policies and companies must push forward, but also the compromise of citizens and individual users. An example of this cross-sectorial bet on sustainability is the increasing electrification of transport. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), in 2020, electric cars registered in Europe represented a share of almost 4% of the total. Moreover, the Netherlands outstands with 58,000 new battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and 4,500 new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which represented a 15% and a 1.2% of the new registrations, respectively. These figures put the Netherlands in the fourth position in Europe in absolute numbers considering both electric technologies, behind Germany, Norway and United Kingdom, and in the second position in terms of percentage of BEVs, only surpassed by Norway. And the projections are even more promising for the following years.
Nevertheless, this global context is also reflected at local level. On the one hand, municipalities such as Breda are increasingly aware of the importance of air quality and the livability of their cities. And the bet on the AIRQON project is a proof of this, as a demonstration of “writing policy by doing”. On the other hand, citizens demand at the same time the same level of commitment from their public administrations and service providers, as in the case of event organizers and promoters, for the common benefit of all.
To what extent are people aware of this? And more importantly, are they willing to be an active part of the solutions adopted for more sustainable cities? During the Ploegendienst Festival 2021, more than 800 people from all over the Netherlands, of all genders and ages, were interviewed to see firsthand their impressions of AIRQON. This sample represents almost 5% of those who attended the event, however they were not the only ones that showed interest in AIRQON.
Click here to watch a video about AIRQON in Ploegendienst.
75.2% of people interviewed consider ‘important’ or ‘very important’ that an event organizer takes measures to organize it sustainably. Hence, this kind of actions does not go unnoticed. In relation to this consideration, the perception of cleanliness from the attendees to the event must be taken into account. Dirtless, comfortable events host them better. In particular, 80.3% of attendees considered that the cleanliness in Ploegendienst Festival 2021 was ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
When people were asked how important certain specific actions are regarding sustainable organization, the following results were obtained. The ones that generate the most consensus are using durable cup system, with 47.5% of the people agreeing on rating it as ‘very important’, closely followed by using pocket ashtrays. This fact really draws the attention because using them is an individual action in spite of being promoted by the event organizer. This shows how sustainability begins with oneself and represents, at the same time, a firm respect and awareness for the environment.
They are followed in importance by limiting the amount of food and residual waste, limiting emissions of harmful substances in relation to personal health, reducing CO2 emissions and undertaking measures to reduce air pollution by replacing diesel generators with electricity. 25% of respondents highlighted the latter kind of actions, since they can contribute to greener events by switching to power sources like electricity distribution network supplies, battery packs and, of course, electric cars.
So, do attendees notice the impact of sustainable actions undertaken at the local level? In other words, do people go to an event and perceive the externalities and negative effects that AIRQON intends to mitigate or avoid? Asked about the nuisance of dust, soot and smoke, campfires were listed first by the interviewed attendees, followed by food trucks or food courts, diesel generators and even smoking visitors.
Personal commitment is therefore a reality. And that involvement is a very positive factor for the success of AIRQON as a sustainable power solution: 90.6% of interviewed people would not be bothered if they were asked for some efforts in terms of sustainability as attendees.
Having this proactivity and potential in the festivalgoers’ side, this Zoom-in 2 gathers an important part of the main actors that make AIRQON possible. Sven van Rooijen, Electrical Engineer at ZAP Concepts; Simone Heemstra, Content & Performance Marketeer at PowerD; and Tijn Kapteijns, CEO and founder of Kairos Events, give us a zoom-in about boosting participation, engagement and usability of this initiative and their forthcoming steps.
Sven van Rooijen, Electrical Engineer at ZAP Concepts
What is ZAP concepts?
ZAP Concepts operates worldwide providing an integral energy solution for events. We work with event organizers and promoters, that, in the end, perceive power as a service, and there is where we can go towards optimization. We contribute significantly to the implementation of more sustainable, air quality respectful events by achieving very competitive costs, since economic feasibility is an unavoidable driver for events, in addition to specific regulation or policies supporting that.
Simone Heemstra, Content & Performance Marketeer at PowerD
What is Faraday Keys?
Faraday Keys’ main goal is to speed up energy transition. To do so, we help companies to find new business models or create very innovative startups. This commitment can really help push the decarbonization forward. An example of these is PowerD, a venture of Faraday Keys and LeasePlan, which are companies that are mainly B2B and B2B2C oriented, respectively. Faraday Keys carries out a lot of projects that have to do with electric mobility and, specially, with creating value to others by working together.
Tijn Kapteijns, CEO and founder of Kairos Events
What is Kairos Events?
We are promoters and organizers of public events, mainly focused on the dance industry. Our main activities are 3 festivals that take place every year in Breda: Ploegendienst Festival, with more than 22,000 visitors; Ploegendienst Winterfestival, with more than 10,000; and TrailerFest, with around 5,000. We do some small events as well, some cultural actions, or even performances in industrial places for skating competitions, for example. We play specifically this role of event organizers for AIRQON because we know everyone here in Breda, we can activate networking easily, and, actually, we can help find relevant stakeholders needed to be involved in order to success in this project.
Javier Leiva: Different sizes, different missions, but how do you successfully combine your roles in AIRQON?
Tijn Kapteijns: Our festivals are like playgrounds for AIRQON, the project can use them as a sandbox. An event, specially the bigger ones, are a kind of small-scale cities, a microcosmos with services, providers, customers… And we are organized by our own. Hence, an event can be a small living lab for testing and validating assumptions. We like using our networks to help other partners make connections for AIRQON. In the end, we connect AIRQON with the festival world. It is our job.
Simone Heemstra: We focus on engaging the community, which is a very broad term. We take the electric car as the base and, from this, we think about engagement strategies, identifying barriers and strengths, and help define adoption incentives. That is our role. So, we go together with event organizers and try to reach the community via social media channels, for instance, to contribute to materialize the action of AIRQON.
Sven van Rooijen: We are more oriented to energy planning and the whole energy management of the event, considering any source of power. We also help event organizers to make the best decisions in the pre- and post-event. We are used to working with big clients, able to host thousands of participants and visitors, but we properly approached the scope of AIRQON, which may seem to have a local level design, but has an extremely high potential for urban areas.
Javier Leiva: AIRQON is an innovative powering application. What opinion do you perceive from your customers and stakeholders about it? Do they trust it?
Simone Heemstra: I think companies, event organizers, promoters, etc., are all interested in the AIRQON solution, because everything they do for sustainability is important for their image. But not all the stakeholders we work with are intrinsically motivated. We aim at finding a way to get it. Basically, we think it is very important to have a strong business model behind, so there is added value for these companies besides a positive image impact and they can benefit from all this. If we tackle the barriers they see, they could be more interested in innovations like AIRQON. Indeed, when I talk about the project, everyone says that it is very interesting, but when you start explaining about implementation details, questions arise: “How can you do that technically?”, “How can you arrange that involvement of the community?”. We are here to fix problems, push away all those obstacles and be successful!
Tijn Kapteijns: When I explain the project to a new employee, they say: “This is very cool, man!”. For me, it is how the future will be. Not only for emergency issues it will be helpful to have a battery in front of your house, as in the case of an earthquake or an unexpected general outage; AIRQON has potential for event promoters at sites without electricity access, and we can imagine how it can be feasible.
Sven van Rooijen: From our experience, some promoters may be afraid of losing that false sense of security brought by a huge remaining power. At the beginning, they are quite reticent when we tell them that they have a certain amount of exceeding power, but the point is that we normally could cut it in half. To do this, we measure everything and give them evidence, so finally they want to take the chance and save costs, at the same time they can be more efficient and sustainable. In fact, nowadays this is a must for them, so the service of integral energy management we offer them makes complete sense.
Javier Leiva: So, can we then consider that AIRQON may be an effective alternative to diesel generators to power events?
Sven van Rooijen: We manage batteries, normal electricity grid supplies, off-grid generators, and of course the AIRQON solution as another valid power source. Every energy option is considered by us. And perhaps renting diesel generators can be now cheaper than renting a battery, but it may change sometimes when the costs of fuel are considered, apart from being environmentally friendly.
Tijn Kapteijns: In our case, we have normal access to the electricity grid at our Ploegendienst winter site, and a small part of the event is powered by diesel generators. But our summer festival takes place in a natural space that forces us to have a 95% use of diesel generators. Nevertheless, for the next Plogendienst Winterfestival 2022, we are going to fully avoid the use of diesel, and we are looking for batteries and other alternatives to diesel generators for the summer site. Having such different use cases is challenging not only for AIRQON, but also for us as a company. They imply variable energy production planning, different logistics, a completely new event design, etc. But this is funny and cool at the same time. I love thinking about how to solve all these issues.
Javier Leiva: Engaging the public is key to success. What specific actions are you developing to get that commitment?
Tijn Kapteijns: When AIRQON comes to our festivals, we make a short movie explaining what AIRQON did, or we design disruptive actions such as a free electric vehicle ride from home to the festival and back. We try to explain it in a funny way that anyone from my audience can understand. And we see that people are reacting: before the festivals, they can see us in social media and know more about how AIRQON will be applied; in the festivals, people can charge their phones, for instance. Step by step we are disseminating the idea, having that building a very specific community around this energy solution is tough.
Simone Heemstra: We look for different ways to engage the community: how to reach people, how to enthuse them to participate, what kind of incentives they want... At first, we wanted to go directly to electric vehicle drivers creating a specific match-making platform. At this platform, organizers sign up their events, drivers can register to participate in those upcoming and go there, give the energy of their cars with an incentive, and come back home. But the match-making platform is not as powerful as expected; to success with it, by properly reaching the target public, we would need some specific marketing oriented to AIRQON. Nevertheless, we started to think in marketing, dissemination and showcasing through the event itself and its social media channels, because their networking capabilities are normally more powerful than only with the AIRQON website.
Javier Leiva: Event organizers can be one of the closest links with potential participants. How do you work together?
Simone Heemstra: They know the target public, what kind of people are coming and their most desired incentives. Indeed, about these, some festivalgoers may prefer going for free, while others will go anyway to the event, and thus prefer another type of incentive. Once we define the particular strategy with the event organizer, we take the action and go in the technical details. Actions related to free tickets, reserved parking spaces well located or backstage access, to cite some examples, may be designed case by case.
Sven van Rooijen: In close relation with the match-making platform, AIRQON has created a tool, available in the AIRQON website, that represents what we do for event organizers. Firstly, organizers can select the kind of event to be organized, such as neighborhood party, music festival, food festival… In addition to this, they provide other information: name of the event, location, date, duration, etc. And then they can drag and drop some items from our database, representing different combinations of energy sources, in a very illustrative way. Finally, they are informed about the number of cars needed for powering the event, so they can set up their necessities in the matchmaking platform or call for potential participants through any other communication channel.
Javier Leiva: Then, could we say that AIRQON is building up a community, in its broader sense, around event organizers, festival goers, electric car drivers, citizens…?
Sven van Rooijen: AIRQON helps event organizers to comply with regulatory limits and environmental standards. It is also a driver to disseminate sustainability and air quality challenges. And, at the same time, it lets reinforce the link among event organizers and participants, especially for those driving an electric car or interested on electric mobility in general.
Tijn Kapteijns: Where is our community? Who are they? Of course, electric car drivers, but also everyone who wants to know more about this, everyone who is involved in any way. That is our community right now, they all are in some way part of it. And, in the future, today’s festivalgoers may be electric car drivers tomorrow, so this is a long-term awareness as well.
Javier Leiva: How is AIRQON related to other innovative initiatives that you are carrying out?
Sven van Rooijen: We are focused on events, but supplying power to construction sites with AIRQON made us expand our business lines. In fact, both sectors have many things in common. When we set up an event, we are building up a kind of new city, and this help us innovate quickly. Furthermore, we install and dismantle events fastly, and we normally organize them year by year, so we can test different actions and measure their effectiveness clearly.
Simone Heemstra: We are working on other innovative business solutions, like technology that can be used for smart charging electric cars. Smart charging is necessary to prevent the electricity grid from overloading. Based on weather forecasts and predictions in energy demand, and on driver's personal preferences, we determine the best moments to charge electric vehicles. Absolutely, this will match with the AIRQON solution in the future, as well as with bidirectionality in the charging process. This would allow you to supply your house, an event, or your office with the energy of the battery, and later charge it smartly at night. It would be the perfect circle.
Tijn Kapteijns: One of our main values is sustainability. We are committed to zero plastic, we promote reusing items instead of one-use disposable ones, we have 50% meat and 50% vegetarian options in our menus... And we foster circularity, recycling as much as we can, even making decorations for our events, for example. At the end, we try to reuse everything and to consume energy efficiently, not oversizing or wasting it in any aspect of our activity.
Javier Leiva: What are your expectations about the future of the AIRQON solution?
Sven van Rooijen: For big events, from the logistic side, the availability of the community will be a key point to have into account. Smaller events, or parts of bigger ones, can be perfectly powered with the AIRQON solution. And the idea is very practical as well for construction sites. Anyway, we provide power for event organizers and we are open to say that AIRQON is in our business portfolio. We can say it is a beta solution, that has potential to grow.
Tijn Kapteijns: In AIRQON we are finding ways to learn about this sustainable energy solution, about making the most of the electric car and how to decarbonize our cities. We will find deviations in the project, but we need to test all this in reality; it is the only way of finding answers and success.
Simone Heemstra: I think this is the future. I think at some point batteries in a car or outside will become very important not only for events but also for grid or home applications. I don’t see this stopping. And even more in an urban scale, where the impact is so direct.
In conclusion, AIRQON faces the important challenge of engaging the community, understood in its broadest sense: not only electric car drivers or event organizers. The growing technical competitiveness of green energy solutions like this helps to break through in an increasingly decarbonized context, supported by committed policies and public perception on sustainability and environment protection. However, AIRQON struggles with an incipient, but promising, expansion of electric mobility. This makes difficult to rely only on it for powering big events, in spite of being perfectly prepared to be combined with other energy sources or to power small and medium‑sized events by itself. And, at the same time, its appealing and ease of use can help beat some initial barriers that may appear in innovations like this, bringing it closer to the public.