Electromobility in South-East European countries
Electromobility is one of the fastest growing sectors in today`s economy. Тhe simple but sustainable development framework for the future of this industry includes most big global automotive manufacturers presenting their own hybrid and purely electric models on the market. The cycle of production covers also the development of batteries and the manufacturing of charging infrastructure in which most engineering companies in the field become active as well. As a result the number of electric cars in use grows every year, consumer and business attitudes are changing in a positive direction, national laws are adapting to this inevitable direction in the development of contemporary transport.
In South-East Europe electromobility is also developing but at a slower pace in comparison to other parts of the continent.
In recent years there are many different projects and initiatives related to the expansion of the sector SEE countries. Both local and foreign companies invest in technical and physical infrastructure, including power stations, service centres, recycling of batteries, suppliers, electricity production, potential renewable energy sources, etc. In parallel, the legislation in EU in terms of e-cars has matured a lot over the last decades, there are many potential partner organizations for e-mobility development in SEE countries and outside the region.
Another important aspect of the successful implementation of electromobility across South-East Europe is the R&D and innovation infrastructure. More and more R&D labs, innovation centres, universities and companies are working in this direction, studying local and global market trends.
For the SEE countries there are numerous opportunities for updating regional and national policies and strengthening common activities with western EU countries. The development of electromobility in the region is not simple and cannot happen fast. It needs to engage the regional and national authorities into the process and perceive the best practices for preparing electric vehicle infrastructure in the near future.
SEE striving to follow common European trends
Electromobility in Europe is expected to continue its exponential growth in the future, with charging stations set to become an integral part of the European road network. By 2025, Europe is expected to sell approximately 6,3 million electric vehicles (EVs). EV battery production in Europe is expected to increase at an annual growth rate of 47%. The market share of newly registered electric vehicles in the European Union (EU) peaked at 1,1 percent in 2018. In the past seven years figures had steadily increased for both battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), a current report by Statista shows. According to their study, as of July 2019, there were 170 149 public charging stations for electric vehicles in Europe. This figure included normal charge under or equal to 22 kilowatts as well as fast charge with over 22 kilowatts. Figures grew consecutively between 2010 and 2019.
A current report “How EU member states roll-out electric-mobility: Electric charging infrastructure in 2020 and beyond” examines the pace at which different EU countries go through the process. The so called “front-runners” in the development of e-mobility in East Europe are most Western and Nordic countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. On the other hand, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia are defined as “slow starters”.
To increase the sales of zero and low emission vehicles (ZLEVs), some countries in Europe have introduced purchase grants to encourage the transition. Examples include Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Slovenia, the UK and Romania.
“Romania’s Rabla Programme provides an example of unsustainable fiscal policy as generous subsidies, approximately equivalent to Euro 10 000, were introduced to encourage new BEV purchases”, another report, based on the IEA Global Electric Vehicle Outlook, informs.
In some vehicle taxation regimes, social policy is evident and perverse incentives to purchase polluting cars exist. For example, vehicle taxes in Turkey decline with the age of the vehicle and increase with sales price. ICCT analysis shows that Turkey’s uptake of EVs is relatively low despite its vehicle taxes being among the very highest in Europe and that restructuring vehicle taxation by linking it to emissions performance would change that.
According to official country reports, Albania is considered one of the best countries in regards to emissions associated with electric cars as it generates all of its electricity from hydroelectric power. Electric cars are currently used by the Albanian Police Force. Saytaxi is the first taxi company in Albania that offers electric vehicles and operates a fast EV (electric vehicles) charging point, and have been operating in the country since 2014. Its goal is to replace 80% of all non-electric cars with electric in the taxi business. On 31 October 2017, Tirana became one of few European countries to use electric buses when they tested a Solaris Urbino 12, with the purpose of reducing pollution. Tirana’s goal is to gradually convert 10 to 20 percent of the bus fleet into electric ones.
There were 560 electric motorbikes and 520 electric cars officially registered in Bulgaria at the end of March 2018. Sales of new battery electric vehicles rose from 21 in 2015 to 194 in 2018. At the first half of 2019, 141 new BEVs were sold, representing 0,7% of the overall sales. The government does not provide grants for buying electric cars, but it also does not apply road tax to them. Parking electric vehicles in central urban parking zones is free of charge as well. In 2012, "green taxi" hybrid cabs went into service in Sofia. In 2017, test electric buses joined the public transport fleet of Sofia and in 2018 and 2019, 35 new electric buses went into service.
As of December 2016, 2067 electric cars had been sold in Croatia. Of these, 224 were EVs, while the rest were hybrids. As of September 2017, 201 free public charging stations operated in Croatia. In 2014 and 2015, the Croatian government initiated purchase incentives.
In Greece sales of new battery electric vehicles rose from 35 in 2015 to 88 in 2018. At the first half of 2019, 104 new BEVs were sold, representing 0,16% of the overall sales.
There has not been much effort in Kosovo towards using plug-in electric vehicles. However ProCredit Bank Kosova, became the first institution in Kosovo to use electric vehicles, by buying 10 new Mitsubishi i-MiEV vehicles.
In Romania sales of new battery electric vehicles rose from 24 in 2015 to 605 in 2018. At the first half of 2019, 456 new BEVs were sold, representing 0,6% of the overall sales. As of June 2019, over 3000 EVs were registered. The number of new hybrid and electric cars registered in Romania in the first six months of 2019 is 50% higher than those registered throughout 2018, according to data from Romania’s Automotive Registry (RAR). The government offered purchase incentives of 4200 for a PHEV and 8400 euro for BEV, although yearly capped (but not reached) and limited in time due to a yearly approval. The electric car fleet in Romania could exceed 300 000 units (in 2030), if both the Government and the private environment will collaborate for the implementation of a multiannual program with a package of specific measures to stimulate electromobility, the country’s Automotive Manufacturers and Importers Association states.
In Slovenia sales of new battery electric vehicles rose from 288 in 2017 to 467 in 2018. At the first half of 2019, 264 new BEVs were sold, representing 0,7% of the overall sales.
Projects and initiatives
During the Smart Cities and Mobility Forum in Sofia in 2019, five electromobility associations from five Balkan countries agreed to cooperate in their efforts to accelerate the adoption of electromobility in the region. Those are the National Electric Vehicle Association of Serbia, the Association for Promoting Electric Vehicles of Romania, the Hellenic Institute of Transport, Electromobilnost Macedonia and the Bulgarian Electric Vehicles Association.
They have signed a long-term Memorandum of Understanding under which they are ready together to address all obstacles to electromobility, influence their respective governments and local authorities for reaching harmonization in the regulation of charging infrastructure and work for the implementation of trans-border charging infrastructure.
The parties agreed that the countries in the Balkans are slower than their counterparties in Central and Northern Europe to adopt electromobility and to gradually shift away from internal combustion engines. They also consented that it is important for the countries in the Balkans to accelerate the uptake of electromobility and the development of charging infrastructure, in order to keep pace with global and regional actors in an expanding market.
The parties have decided to collaborate with each other, in order to support their respective national and local governments – as well as further public and private stakeholders at all levels – to facilitate the sustainable transition to electromobility.
The parties also undertook to work together on creating aligned regulatory and administrative regimes for the installation, operation, commercialization of electromobility charging infrastructure in the Balkan countries and to identify opportunities to collaborate in promoting and accelerating the transition to electromobility in the Balkans.
This initiative became possible with the cooperation of AVERE (The European Association for Electromobility). This is an European organization that promotes electromobility and sustainable transport across Europe. Its member list consists of National Associations supporting and encouraging the use of electric vehicles and electromobility across Europe. It currently includes active members from 17 European countries – Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Finland, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, Austria, France and Germany.
The EU partner project e-MOPOLI, implemented under Interreg Europe, aims to contribute to an efficient diffusion of e-mobility and alternative fuels mobility. Slovenia, Greece, Romania, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Norway and Latvia partner in the project and commit to concentrate on several main working areas: charging and tolling policies in favour of e-vehicles; development of charging infrastructure powered by alternative sources; integration of charging infrastructure and charging hubs in spatial planning, deployment and purchase of alternative fuel vehicles in public transport and promotion of e-mobility in niche market fleets.
Development of EV investments through SEE
In late 2019 the Croatian telecommunications provider Hrvatski Telekom, which operates the largest network of electric vehicle charging stations in the country, and Slovenian electricity supplier and trader GEN-I signed an agreement on long-term cooperation in the field of e-mobility. In December 2019 the Croatian electric vehicle (EV) developer and producer Rimac Automobili announced its plans to open a test centre in Slovenia’s Novo Mesto. The Hyper E-Car Lab project is a joint work with Slovenian hardware and software developing company Lastinski inzeniring. Rimac is supposed to receive financing of 3,4 million euro from Slovenia’s economy ministry for this project.
The R&D and battery production company providing new energy solutions for electric vehicles InoBat Auto has recently received 5 million euro to start building a battery research centre in Slovenia as part of a 100 million euro gigafactory project using technology from the US. The gigafactory funding is part of the first 100 million euro phase of the project which aims to provide batteries from a 10 GWh gigafactory for up to 240 000 electric vehicles by 2024.
In December 2019 the Korean-Chinese company Songo Motors and the Italian Hadid Holding announced their intention to invest 200 million US dollars in Bulgaria to build an electric vehicle plant. It is expected that around 2000 jobs will be created in the implementation of the stated investment intentions.
Meanwhile in February this year it was announced by Automotive Cluster Bulgaria (AKB) that Tesla is building its first electric vehicle charging station in Bulgaria. Tesla has said it is expected that the charging infrastructure will be officially opened along with several other stations in Belgrade and Nis. The goal of the US company is to build a corridor in the Eastern Balkans that continues to Istanbul. Tesla’s new charging station will be built in Plovdiv.
Again in February representatives of the Berlin-based eco-public transport company ELO Mobility, the Russian company for energy networks and electrical equipment ORGRES and the Russian company for repair and maintenance of vehicles METTEM-TRANSPORT expressed interest in building an electric bus plant in Panagyurishte, Bulgaria.
One of the largest companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina – the automotive components manufacturer TMD Group, started building a new plant in the northeastern town of Gradacac. The facility will produce spare parts for electric vehicles and is expected to start operating in full capacity in June 2021.
The Chinese bus manufacturer Yin Long Group plans to start manufacturing two e-bus models in Serbia after it completes the acquisition of Ikarbus which operates a factory in Belgrade’s urban municipality of Zemun with a manufacturing capacity of 250 vehicles per year. The Hungarian oil and gas company MOL announced its intentions to launch a project for installation of electric vehicle chargers at its filling stations across Serbia in 2020. Thus MOL will contribute to expanding the network of electric chargers on highways in Serbia.
The first electric vehicles were sold in Turkey in 2012. The Turkish government planned to have a “local brand vehicle” before the 100th year anniversary of Republic establishment in 2023. E-mobility was promoted as an emerging market and many entrepreneurs paid attention in EV in Turkish industry. In December 2019 TOGG presented Turkey’s first domestically made electric vehicle. The beginning of mass production is scheduled for 2022, with the ambition that exports would start two years after that. An investment of 3,7 billion will enable the output of about 175 000 EVs a year.
Recently Dacia revealed its Spring Electric concept car, which the Romanian carmaker claims will be Europe’s most affordable fully electric vehicle when it goes on sale in 2021. Meanwhile the South Africa-based energy storage products manufacturer Metair Investments announced that its Romanian units Prime Batteries and Rombat have completed the installation of the group’s first lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing and assembly plant in Bucharest. This project completes Metair’s 13,6 million euro greenfield development investment program for lithium-ion technology started in 2017. The facility has a production capacity of between 600 000 and 1 million cells per year. Production is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2020.
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