Last week the Automotive Manufacturers and Importers Association of Romania monthly report of car sales showed a huge increase in sales of hybrid and all-electric cars in Romania. For the first 9 months of 2018 (Jan-Sep) such cars had a 2.6% market share versus a 1.9% market share in the same period of 2017. The all-electric car segment grew to 648 units during the period from 244 units in the same period during 2017, a growth rate of 165%. For hybrids the 47.6% growth rate was more modest, but based on larger volume (2274 units in 2018 versus 1541 units in 2017).
This is a strong and healthy growth rate for sales of hybrid and electric cars. As I am currently traveling in Romania, on my 3rd trip to this country, I wish to make a few observations on the ground about the status of electric vehicles here.
Few EV’s seen in the flesh
During the four weeks I’ve been here on this trip (primarily in Bucharest) I have seen only one car I could clearly identify as an electric. I’ve seen a couple BMW’s that might have been BMW i3’s, but these were in passing while on the road and I couldn’t verify the model. One day we went to a couple Kaufland locations to look at charging stations — Kaufland being a popular grocery store chain that has installed EV fast charging at several locations. At one we saw this:
This car is owned by Kaufland, has Kaufland logos all over it, and may have been there for some kind of sales purpose. According to the PlugShare listing for this location, the facility is used a few times per day. Other charging facilities in the Bucharest area are also seeing regular usage, going by PlugShare checkins.
Two are this boxy model shown in the foreground, and the third is a Veefil dual-cord (CHAdeMO and CCS) unit that’s in the background. There is a third stand which has what appears to be an RFID card reader. The instructions on the PlugShare listing says to register with e-charge.ro to use the stations.
The e-charge.ro company operates a charging network across Romania and also supplies home charging equipment.
We also visited another Kaufland location which had this single fast charging station. For Americans this station may look familiar as ChargePoint uses it for their fast charging infrastructure.
Huge improvements in EV charging infrastructure
Between 2016 and 2018 the state of electric car charging in Romania has improved in a huge way.
I captured the above map in 2016, and it demonstrates the lack of fast charging beyond a certain line separating Central Europe from Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
The state of EV Charging in Europe has considerably improved in the last 2 years, especially in Eastern Europe.
Focusing just on EV charging in Romania, we see a fairly healthy distribution of fast charging across the country. These stations are even installed in a way that forms travel corridors allowing EV’s to traverse Romania between major cities.
Housing is major hurdle
The primary housing arrangement seems to be communist era apartment bloc’s. These were built when very few people owned electric cars. Primarily there is no assigned charging and no possibility of electricity being installed at parking spots. Some are suggesting retrofitting light poles to provide street-side charging, but the parking situation for most in Romania does not even include easy access to light poles.
Many do live in houses with regular parking spot where it’s possible to install a charging station. I haven’t bothered to look for the rate of folks living in multi-unit dwellings, but it looks to be a very high percentage.
For EV charging to transition to widespread adoption from the few who can afford to own a house, there must be an inventive solution. Fortunately Romanians are ingenious people and will come up with a solution.
Surprising popularity of personal-sized two wheel EV’s
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what looks like widespread use of a different kind of EV. Namely, personal sized two-wheelers. This may be one example of Romanian individuals (not the government) developing an ingenious solution to the problem just named.
I’ve seen several instances of this scooter on the streets of Bucharest. It has wide tires and a beefy construction, with a hub motor in the rear wheel, and a battery compartment below the floorboards. This one had a sticker for “dbsolar.ro” on the front, a company which sells photovoltaic solar equipment as well as a selection of electric bicycles and scooters.
Another popular model is the E-TWOW scooters. E-TWOW is based in Craiova Romania and claims to operate a manufacturing facility outside Craiova, with another manufacturing facility in China. I suspect this is a Chinese product that is customized and assembled by the company in Craiova, but that’s nit-picking. Next time I’m in Craiova I plan to go by their office.
In person these look to be very solidly built electric scooters. I’ve owned several scooters of this sort over the years and there are details in this that I wish earlier manufacturers had implemented. For example there is a suspension system built into the front wheel, and in the rear wheel, that look capable of smoothing out the unavoidable bumps in sidewalks and roads. Thirteen years ago I owned a very excellently built scooter of this size (a Go Motorboard 1500) that did not have such a suspension and was a very teeth-rattling experience.
I’ve seen lots of E-TWOW scooters in both Craiova and Bucharest on this trip. And not just E-TWOW but another brand I wasn’t able to recognize.
A scooter of this sort would be extremely useful here, since they can be easily folded and carried in the elevator into an apartment for charging. I don’t understand how folks can effectively own bicycles in Romania since there’s no outdoor bicycle parking and the elevators are too small to allow one to bring a bicycle into the apartment. Hence where an electric car or even electric bicycle has a problem getting charged, this sort of scooter should be trivially easy to charge even for someone living in a studio apartment.
A variant of this are electric skateboards. I’ve seen at least two skateboards in use, but was unable to catch any pictures. We talked with one electric skateboard rider while on Strada Barbu Vacarescu heading to the Kaufland shown earlier. He told us he’d built his skateboard from a kit, and that it uses a remote control held in his hand. Then the light changed and he smoothy rode off into the traffic.
Not only is this size of electric vehicle more practical for the majority of Romanians, they complement the existing transit system here very well. In the cities I’ve visited the public-owned mass transit system is fairly well developed, and there are ubiquitous taxi’s, and Uber is making inroads. But the public mass transit system is overwhelmed with people, and it seems that most people are turned off because the mass transit vehicles (buses and streetcars) are old and rickety.
While the government is investing in new buses and streetcars, the people seem to be investing in two-wheeler EV’s. The number that I’ve seen on the street indicate a healthy adoption by folks. And riding an electric two-wheeler has a huge advantage of being able to sneak through traffic much like a bicyclist, meaning one can possibly make the trip faster than if riding a bus or metro train.
APIA Press Releases: http://www.apia.ro/press-releases/
September 2018 auto sales in Romania: http://www.apia.ro/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Comunicat_piata_auto_Septembrie-2018.pdf
Pe de altă parte, autoturismele “verzi“ (electrice și hibride), continuă și în acest an să prezinte un inters ridicat, aceasta și datorită stimulentelor acordate prin Programul “Rabla Plus”. Ca urmare, după primele 9 luni din 2018, acestea au o pondere de 2,6% din total, superioară celei de anul trecut, când aceasta era de doar 1,9%. Chiar dacă volumele sunt încă destul de mici (dacă ne raportăm la celelalte categorii de combustibili), creșterea înregistrată în acest an pe segmentul celor electrice (full și plug-in) este una semnificativă, de 165,6% (648 unități în 2018 față de doar 244 unități în 2017 adică, de cca. 2,5 ori mai multe comparativ cu 2017), în timp ce, pentru cele hibride, se înregistrează o creștere ceva mai modestă (+47,6%), dar pe un volum mult superior (2.274 unități în 2018, față de 1.541 unități în 2017).
Aceste date demonstrează, în mod elocvent, interesul tot mai mare al persoanelor juridice și fizice din România pentru această categorie de autoturisme, care, susținute corespunzător (inclusiv prin dezvoltarea infrastructurii de încărcare), au devenit tot mai prezente în trafic, contribuind, astfel, la reducerea nivelului de poluare din marile orașe.
Si ar mai fi un aspect important de mentionat: suținerea de care se bucură în țara noastră autovehiculele electrice, face ca România să înregistreze în acest an cea mai mare creștere procentuală din UE în ceea ce privește achiziția de astfel de autovehicule.
In funcție de culoarea preferată, alb și gri domină în continuare cererea, acestea înregistrând o pondere de 28,5% și respectiv, 23,6% din totalul preferințelor. Urmează albastru cu o cotă 16,9% și negru cu 9,8%.
Translation via Google Translate:
On the other hand, “green” cars (electric and hybrid) continue this year to have a high interstitial, and thanks to the incentives provided by the “Rabla Plus” Program. As a result, after the first 9 months of 2018, they account for 2.6% of the total, up from the previous year, when it was only 1.9%. Although the volumes are still quite small (if we refer to the other categories of fuels), the increase recorded this year on the segment of electric (full and plug-in) is significant, of 165.6% (648 units in 2018 compared to of only 244 units in 2017, ie about 2.5 times as many as 2017), while for hybrids there is a slightly modest increase (+ 47.6%), but on a large volume (2,274 units in 2018 compared to 1,541 units in 2017).
This data demonstrates eloquently the increasing interest of Romanian and Romanian legal entities in this category of cars, which, being properly supported (including through the development of loading infrastructure), have become more and more present in traffic, to reduce pollution in large cities.
And it would be an important point to mention: the enjoyment of our electric cars in our country makes Romania record this year the highest percentage increase in the EU in terms of the purchase of such vehicles.
Depending on the preferred color, white and gray still dominate demand, with a share of 28.5% and 23.6% of all preferences respectively. It follows blue with a share of 16.9% and black with 9.8%.
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