Electric cars – vehicles of future also in Latvia?

With every year electric vehicles earn bigger market shares in the new car market in Europe and in the rest of the world. Development of technologies, government subsidies and environment concerns are the main reasons why more and more customers choose electric vehicles. Do we follow worldwide trends in Latvia?

According to European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO) data, in first 8 months of 2016 electric vehicles had a 1,1% market share in the new car market. In Latvia this number is 0,29%, which equals 29 units. The absolute leader in Europe is Norway with 28%. Norway’s government has led various support programs since 1990 to stimulate no emission vehicles.

There are several benefits for electric vehicle users and owners in Latvia – no first registration fee, no annual vehicle’s exploitation tax, lower tax fee for establishments, also electric vehicles can use bus lanes and have a free parking in Rīga and Liepāja cities. 

“Those incentives are good for motivating electric vehicle users. You can save up to 300-400 euros per month using the car intensively,” says Arnis Bergs, “No emission mobility support society” chairman of the board of Latvian organisation, No Emission Mobility Support Society The organisation’s goal is to promote development of sustainable, emission free transport. 

The infrastructure of electric vehicles is as crucial as government’s support. There are 5 quick charge stations in Latvia that allow the vehicle to be fully charged in 30 minutes. Three of those stations are located in Riga, one in Gulbene and one in Ogre. Riga and Jurmala have 11 charging points together, which is not enough to use electric vehicles effectively.

295 electric vehicles in total are registered in Latvia. Only 29 of them were registered this year. “While we don’t have decent infrastructure and government’s support for purchasing, we will have this kind of a number every year,” says Toms Hartmanis, “Kurbads” logistics manager in the Baltic States.

In 2014 when Latvia sold emission quotas and gathered funding to decrease CO2 emissions, a true electric vehicle boom happened/took place?. Municipalities had 85% subsidies, while establishments had 50% subsidies from full price of electric vehicles. 176 new electric vehicles reduced the average amount of emissions by 2%.

Toms Hartmanis: “Electric vehicles are a tiny part of total car amount handled by our company. Most often we transport Nissan “Leaf” cars to different presentations in the Baltic States, promoting interest in electric vehicles.” Toms thinks that biggest flaw of the electric vehicles’ is their short range: “In reality the maximum range in combined conditions is 160 km. That is not enough to go from Riga to Ventspils.”

Arnis Bergs disagrees with this opinion: “Electric vehicles are indeed effective in cities and close to them. For example, in Estonia there are 50 electric taxis. Also in Riga they are getting more popular.”

13 years is the average age of the cars in Latvia, including a large share of diesel engines and SUVs. It is very important to significantly reduce the CO2 emissions because in 2030 this parameter has to be at the 2005 level. Charges will be applied for exceeding the quota.

“European Union’s new regulations have forced our government to do something. But we need to make active decisions now. First step is to reach the goals of 2020. We have to have 10% of total cars to work with renewable fuel. Also the new combustion engines must have CO2 emissions lower than 95g/km. Today, in 2016 this parameter is around 130g/km,” task for not so distant future is clear for Arnis Bergs.

According to data provided by “Auto Asociācija”, to achieve this parameter, we must have 5000 electric vehicles by 2020. Also the Ministry of Transport demands support from government funds, so in 2017 it could co-finance 7000 euro for purchasing of new electric vehicles. 5000 and 3000 euro in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Arnis Bergs regards that the biggest challenge is to integrate the problem of CO2 emissions in political and economical decisions of the government. It is a factor of economics and health, as 10% electric cars on the roads leads to lower fuel import by 50 million euros and also a much cleaner air in the city. But the main factor is to show EU that we tend to solve the problem.

Can we wait for a new electric vehicle boom in 2017?