Electric cars are gaining popularity around the world and in Bulgaria. As of the end of February this year, in Traffic Police 785 cars are registered, that are only driven by electricity. But what are the reasons their number to be still too low and how can this change? With these questions, Money.bg turned to Martin Hajstojikov, the founder and CEO of eCars, which manufactures and assembles charging stations and now also offers electric vehicles.
– Mr. Hadjistoykov, one of the main problems with the introduction of electric cars is the lack of charging stations. In the beginning of 2019, what is the situation in Europe and Bulgaria and how do we present ourselves to the rest of the continent?
The word “lack” could be used somewhere in 2014-2015, even 2016. By the end of 2017, in one of the leading markets, the Netherlands, there were registered public and private total of 107,000. It is clear that we can not talk about lack. At European level, the stations are now several hundred thousand – I’m talking about smaller stations. DC stations (with a higher power rating) are up to 15-16 percent of the total number in Germany, for example.
There are between 150 and 200 public stations in our country, which shows a lack. We do not have private data, as registration is not required by regulatory order. In the last months and weeks, however, the different manufacturers and operators in Bulgaria are working very dynamically. Most likely, in the coming months, there will be serious upheaval, which will result in at least several hundred stations being installed.
Bulgaria’s number is significantly lower than the rest of Europe, but this year we are going to make serious growth. In the next 2-3 years – 2020, 2021 – there will be very intense growth and we are talking about 5 to 15 000 stations in our country. We are talking again about smaller devices that are easier to install and are more suitable for more places.
There are several issues: a slower technology penetration, thanks to the fact that the allowances for electric vehicles go more to foreign markets, more developed markets like the Netherlands and Norway. When there are no cars, there is no way the underlying infrastructure can be developed so quickly.
In recent months, there has been an activation again with dealers, there are larger allowances and the numbers are beginning to be visible. Which means that the two things will go step-by-step: importing more cars will bring a bigger installation of stations.
Regulatory there is no incentive to buy electric cars, as in Italy, Germany, France, and even Romania, where there is a subsidy of about € 10,000. There is even greater in other countries. This is one of the stumbling blocks because it is seen that prices are higher and one of the temporary mechanisms is by subsidizing prices to be reduced, to increase purchasing power, and hence the market, hence the charging stations, and so on.
– Based on what data is the forecast for this serious increase in the number of stations?
Based on the activation of our companies and other companies in the branch in Bulgaria, as we have only made 5-6 meetings in the last two or three weeks, which will result in partnerships; from which we understand what the activity of other market participants is. And we can now set more realistic quotas that we could not even imagine in previous years.
– Can we distinguish a sector as the largest customer of your company and what is the share of private individuals?
For the moment, the market is so small that it is still difficult to assess. By way of example, we can say that half are corporate clients and half private individuals. There are not yet large corporate clients yet, as big companies are still starting to focus on this. And because there are no allowances for electric vehicles, a big company like a logistics center, for example, could not buy 40 and replace the fleet because there are no cars available. When this happens, these customers will begin to appear and see if they will prevail.
– And are there any regulatory problems or other barriers to installation, including the electricity distribution companies? How long does it take from order to assembly?
I would not say problems, perhaps the word is sluggishness – there are no criteria and rules to be followed and for some shortened procedure to run. If you go to the municipality to issue a document, it can be issued for 3 leva for one month or 15 leva for tomorrow. But when installing it is gone. If it’s a public place, you have to go through the whole procedure, which for most people is absolutely unclear and full of mess: transport department, project, designer, drawing, plumbing, fire, police – all experts to coordinate. As this procedure takes 45 or 60 days, many people say, “I’d rather you do it, I’ll pay.” This is the obstacle: that there is no uniform procedure to follow, it is relatively short. In the case of the EPC, we can speak not of obstacles but of long deadlines again. If you buy an electric car, but you do not have a batch, you buy your car and then you wait a month and a half to be able to use it. If you know it in advance, you say, “By doing this, then I’ll get my car.” But there are cases in private properties where the installation is very fast.
– eCars manufactures these stations in Bulgaria. How many jobs does this process create?
Yes, here is the production station, electronics is also our development, design is ours – everything from scratch for two years with very hard work we have reached this premium product. Of course, metal parts and other components we use subcontractors in the country. At the moment we have four people. With more market and need, we will add more people.
– How is the company financed and what are your next steps? Would you invest in electromobile sharing?
Funding for the company has been self-sufficient so far – we have never received any assistance – neither from European programs nor on investors or banks. We have completely developed ourselves. The company was set up in 2010, registered in 2016, because then it made sense and business realization began to emerge. The first 5-6 years we spent investing a lot of money and working to promote electric mobility. For the moment, we are not targeting the sharing of electric vehicles, but there is some direction with a partner company to work on this line. Our plans are to continue to make more events and increase production, and this is of paramount importance. We have already announced the import and supply of electric vehicles.
– In addition to the ones mentioned so far, are there any other obstacles and necessary incentives for electric vehicles to enter our country?
At municipal level there should be more demonstration of real activity – creating parking spaces, lightening construction procedures. Even as it is in the United States, individual states have a separate purchase subsidy. But especially the ease of the rules and the facilitation of entry will make a significant contribution. The municipalities of the National Trust Eco Fund program themselves purchase cars, which is a good example, but it needs to be expanded. There is talk about the new program of the Ministry of Environment and Water, but in the part about electric cars it says “we will try”. We should not try, we should do it. There must be agreed funds to help buy electric cars.
In Bulgaria there is again a boom in construction. There are already plenty of modern complexes managed by Facility managers. One of the most important things and we have already begun organizing courses with a partner organization – Facility managers to be informed about the importance of building an electric vehicle infrastructure at the sites they manage. Under construction, it is extremely far-sighted and important to have infrastructure – perhaps not the charging stations themselves, but at least the infrastructure to make it easy to add. When buildings are massively prepared for electric cars, purchasing will be much easier. We have already made many meetings with builders, but we see a short-sighted attitude towards the investment needed. But it raises the value of the building and every apartment, but needs to be realized. The costs are not great if they are made at the construction itself. But this can be solved because people ask themselves how to buy an electric car, how they will load it. There is already a regulation that every new public building should have a number of charging stations.