There has been an unprecedented increase in demand for electric cars in Ukraine: according to data from the Interior Affairs Ministry, 231 electric cars were sold in the period of January-August 2015, compared with 59 in the corresponding period of 2014. That represents a 361% increase. According to projections by the electrocars.com.ua website, an additional 170 electric cars will be sold before the end of the year, i.e. there will be about 516 electric cars in Ukraine before the New Year.
According to Oleksandr Kravtsov, a Ukrainian electric-car owner, the reason is the opening of public charging stations. In particular, many of them were launched last November, when the OKKO chain of gasoline filling stations opened 38 charging stations at its gasoline filling stations in partnership with the Tesla Club (in total, the club has 50 such charging stations).
According to world statistics, one public charging station usually leads to the emergence of 10 electric vehicles. "We currently have about 60 such stations in the country, and this means that more than 500 electric vehicles may appear," said Kravtsov.
The available charging methods (based on the example of Nissan Leaf electric cars)
- Sockets. The time required to get a full charge: overnight. This is most forgiving charging method for a battery. It does not overload the network.
- Level-two charging stations. The time required to get a full charge is three hours. The battery practically does not suffer. Installation requires a three-phase line and a mini-project. The cost is EUR 1,500.
- Superchargers. The time required to get a full charge is 80 minutes and the time required to get a 50% charge is 20 minutes. The battery becomes unusable 1.5 times faster if it is charged regularly, but the negative effect is minimal if a car owner travels out of the city once a month. The cost is EUR 30,000-45,000.
Demand for the services of gasoline filling stations is not yet very high because the majority of motorists charge their cars at home. "I know several people who live in high-rises and cannot install charging facilities near their buildings. They leave their cars at the OKKO gasoline filling station in Chernigovskaya, for example, every night. The rest charge their cars mainly in their garages or on in parking lots," said Kravtsov. He estimates that he consumes about 60% of the electricity used to charge his car at home and the remaining one-third at public filling stations.
"I have traveled to Lvov in an electric car five times and I no longer feel like doing it. I call it Electrostop: you spend two hours traveling and three hours charging. The trip takes the whole day"
The majority of electric cars - 65% of the electric cars in Ukraine are Nissan Leaf - are used mainly for traveling around town. "Of course, I am very grateful to OKKO for launching a network of charging stations, but I have traveled to Lvov in an electric car five times and I no longer feel like doing it. I call it Electrostop: you spend two hours traveling and three hours charging. The trip takes the whole day," said Kravtsov.
In addition, it is quite difficult to drive out of town in the winter because the capacity of a battery decreases by approximately 1% when the temperature drops by one degree below zero. That is, the range of a fully charged car will decrease by about 20% when the temperature drops to -20 degrees.
Heating an electric car depletes its battery even faster. That is, more charging stations must be located on the highway for a person to travel in the winter.
The fact is that only "slow" charging stations are still being bought in Ukraine and nobody has bought “superchargers" so far, said Roman Stepankov, the head of the design department at the Sofit-Luxe limited liability company, a distributor for Schneider Electric. He expects sales of fast chargers to begin when there are least 3,000 electric cars in the country instead of 300. Then, gasoline filling stations and energy companies will begin to invest actively in infrastructure for electric cars.
At the same time, judging by European experience, charging at gasoline filling stations will remain free for a long time. In the European Union, development of charging networks began five years earlier, but most of them still do not charge money for charging electric cars because they are focusing on creating demand. Paid-for superchargers are have begun appearing only in some countries, such as Austria. A one-year subscription for the services of some supercharger networks is about USD 300.
Superchargers not needed?
OKKO declined to comment on the plans for development of its own network of superchargers, but it is possible that nobody will install superchargers. Dmytro Borysov, the owner of several restaurants in Kiev, views the development of a network of superchargers very differently. A few months ago, he complained in an interview that he was not yet using his Tesla Model S60 to travel to Odessa and Lvov and that he preferred to use his wife's conventional car. Now that he has bought a new Tesla Model SP85, he has changed his mind.
"My new automobile has a range of 550 kilometers. In addition, the new batteries … take in current 3-5 times faster. The essence is not the speed of superchargers but the speed of intake of current. The new Renault Zoe, for example, charges for a distance of 350 kilometers from a conventional 220-volt socket in 60 minutes," he said.
According to him, nobody will adapt to the "technology of the last century" like the Nissan Leaf with a battery capacity of 150 kilometers and build an infrastructure for them. "It is like the owner of a 486 computer asking for a quick MS-DOS to be produced for him when the MacBook Pro and Windows 8 exist," said Borysov.
That is, Ukraine may have "slipped through" the stage of development of electric-car infrastructure in which superchargers were necessary thanks to the fact that it lagged behind. It is like bypassing the third generation (3G) of mobile telecommunications services and immediately launching the fourth generation.
Can the cost of an electric car be Recouped? (based on Oleksandr Kravtsov’s experience)
A Nissan Leaf electric car costs the same as an ordinary mid-range car like the Volkswagen Golf (USD 20,000).
Its mileage in less than one year is 40,000 kilometers.
The amount paid for electricity is UAH 2,000 (less than USD 100), compared with the USD 3,000 that would have been paid for gasoline.
Additional savings on oil and maintenance total about USD 600.
Contrary to myths, its battery’s capacity reduced by only 5% during this period. That is, it can be used for a few more years.
A new battery costs USD 4,000 (gray, for example, during "disassembly") or USD 6,000 if new.
Thus, one can easily recoup the cost of a new battery in 1.5 years and continue to use the battery for at least 5 years, saving an additional USD 12,000-15,000.
The electric car as a form of reform
Facilities for servicing electric cars are also being established gradually, with many service stations ready to service them. According to Yurii Hres, the head of the service department at the Kyi Avto Holding company, owners of electric cars contact him 1-2 times per week. "There are more requests related to the chassis and fewer about batteries. Our specialists do not need additional knowledge for this, basic maintenance, and lubrication,” he said. “Regarding the traction part (battery, electric motor, built-in charger), we plan to send one person to France for training. We will definitely do this because the market is promising."
Electric cars are sold mostly without the participation of major automobile dealers: Currently in Ukraine, it is only possible to buy Mitsubishi i-Miev officially. However, several "clubs" can help to order an electric car and deliver it from the United States two months after taking a deposit. Purchase without delay costs about USD 2,000 more.
"Ukrainians perceive a switch to electricity as a form of reform. Therefore, we have such growth rate. Meanwhile, there is fatalism in the EU: we will switch to electric vehicles sooner or later, so why rush?" said Kravtsov. Therefore, according to him, the market will grow in the coming years at a pace that is no slower than the current place.