Estonia increasingly eager to drive electric

Kõige enam on toetatud Nissan Leafi oste.

PHOTO: Allikas: Kredex

In April 29 electric vehicles were registered – all by private persons. It used to be the state agency thing, rather.

Over the first four months of the year, consumer interest towards electric cars has risen remarkably. While last year saw a monthly average of 15 cofinancing applications for Kredex support via ELMO electric mobility programme, this year’s initial four months show more than double of that – an average of 40 applications a month.

According to Road Administration statistics as at end of April, a total of 791 electric cars have been registered: 466 of these belong to state agencies, 155 to physical persons and 170 to legal persons. During the first four months of 2014, 86 electric cars have been registered, 29 of these in April.

As elsewhere in the world, so in Estonia electric car popularity has been boosted by the US saloon Tesla Model S. Road Administration data dating beginning of May says Estonia already has five such, two of these were registered in April.

«For many, Tesla has totally revolutionised the attitude towards driving electric; these vehicles command respect. In Norway, for instance, Tesla S is one of the big sales hits,» explained Marko Kiisa, head of car division at Swedbank, in his monthly commentary.

As also underlined by Mr Kiisa, none of the electric cars registered in April were related to the public sector – meaning we have private sector interest as driving force for popularity.  

«As an absolute number, this is tiny of course, but still remarkable: quite common are the months when not a single electric car is bought,» noted Mr Kiisa.

Still, there’s the danger that consumer interest will slow down towards the end of the year, as – at this tempo of applications – the Kredex support money will simply run out. Kredex supports electric car purchased up to 50 percent and by €18,000 max. According to the foundation’s communication specialist Tarmo Seliste, Kredex is able to take on some 200 electric cars more.

Regarding further state support plans, Postimees was unable to get a single comment from economy and communications ministry during two working days. 

Since hitting the Estonian market in spring of 2012, Nissan Leaf is firmly the top electric car in Estonia. As at end of last week, Kredex has passed 232 positive decisions to support Leaf purchases. All in all, 411 applications have gotten a Kredex «yes», 330 payments have been made to car buyers.

According to Nissan Nordic Europe Estonian unit marketing manager Henri Daum, several competitors have models in the pipeline, soon to arrive in Estonia; thanks to that, the local electric car market will hopefully go into a higher gear of development.

«We, at Nissan, rather expect them to arrive. While the electric market only has one or two serious models it’s hard to develop the market, to raise awareness, and to instil in people the faith that there is no need to always ineffectively burn the fossil fuels, that an environmentally-friendly and effective electric car may be a serious alternative,» thinks Mr Daum.

By electric car market and infrastructure, Estonia has pulled far ahead of the other Baltics.

«Latvian electric car market is only just starting; it’s like Estonia three years ago. For many years, the Latvian state has been planning support measures for electric car business, and this winter they took their first steps,» explained Mr Daum, adding that the Latvians split a total of €5m worth of support measures into three equal parts. One is for legal persons to buy the cars, the second one to develop the infrastructure, and the rest to develop public transport. Projects to use these means were collected over 1.5 months and by July, thinks Mr Daum, it ought to be clear how many of these projects will get the support.

«So, starting the second half of the year a considerable amount of electric vehicles, say 100 to 200, ought to be arriving in Latvia, and the infrastructure to be developing,» said Mr Daum regarding Latvia.

With Latvia showing signs of initial advancement, Lithuania is yet to take decisive state-level steps towards electric cars. «To my knowledge, no state-level activities worth mentioning are planned to develop Lithuanian electric car business, and thus in reality no such market exists; it is also unclear when and how it will happen,» observed Mr Daum.