E-mobility Forum Signposts Way Ahead for Electric Vehicles in Central and Eastern Europe
The CEE region’s states are trailing western counterparts in EV sales – but both are eclipsed by the dominance of China in manufacturing and purchasing plug-in vehicles
Konetik joined some of the leading players in the European EV sector at a high-profile event in its home country of Hungary.
Representatives from Konetik joined colleagues from Tesla, Nissan, LeasePlan and Siemens at the E-Mobility Forum in Budapest to discuss the way forward as demand for EVs increases across the entire continent.
While the development of charging infrastructure in Central and Eastern Europe remains a challenge for fleet operators looking to make a shift to EVs, delegates heard how leading energy firms were beginning to invest more heavily in chargepoints.
According to Reuters, the number of EVs in the region is expected to surge when tighter European Union emissions rules come into force in 2020.
CEZ in the Czech Republic and MOL in Hungary say they are planning to expand networks of fast-charging stations across the region.
CEZ aims to more than double the number of fast-charging stations it operates to over 150 by the end of 2019, focusing on its home market before expanding into countries where it already operates – including Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.
There are 3,128 EVs in Hungary and Hungarian oil and gas company MOL is preparing for an accelerating shift to electric power over the next decade. MOL plans to invest up to 30 million euros ($34 million) by the end of 2020 to build a network of up to 700 charging stations in Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Delegates also heard that ongoing availability issues were hampering uptake of EVs across the continent, although this situation is set to improve significantly in 2020 as more electric vehicles become available.
A briefing from Transport & Environment, highlighted the growing gap between supply and demand in Europe and contrasted this with EV uptake in the USA, where total EV sales volumes now exceed those in the EU – despite Europe making climate action more of a priority.
Tesla dominates the US EV market and after ironing out initial production issues, sales of the Model 3 have soared – making it the best-selling small luxury car in the US in the first half of 2019.
One of the reasons for the Model 3’s soaring sales is that American customers have ‘done the Math’. The Model 3 is the first pure EV that matches internal combustion engine rivals when it comes to Total Cost of Ownership.
And yet both Europe and the USA lag far behind China, which accounts for more than half of global EV production and some 60 per cent of sales.
However, after annual sales of plug-in EVs topped 1.1 million units in 2018, sales figures are sharply down in 2019 – triggered by a sharp reduction in Government incentives for EVs in June.
Only the most efficient EVs with ranges exceeding 250km now receive Chinese Government subsidies and the sharp fall in sales echoes the experience in Denmark, where the Government removed incentives for EVs in 2016 – prompting a collapse in what had been a growing market.
Across the Skagerrak in Norway, where generous tax breaks have been maintained, EVs account for 57 per cent of new car sales – making it Europe’s leading EV market.
Despite the Chinese and Danish experiences, there are continuing calls for EV subsidies to be cut and in the UK, grants for plug-in hybrids and pure battery electric vehicles were reduced last year.
But until more new models become available and European car manufacturers can match the Tesla Model 3’s competitive running costs, subsidies will need to remain in place for the next two or three years in order to maintain the progress made to date in the transition to EVs.
There was one area upon which all the delegates could all agree however: the need for a concerted effort across the continent to educate potential EV customers to the advantages of driving electric.
From cutting costs, to improving urban air quality and reversing climate change, the unanimous view was: there is no going back!