Estonia Vies for EV Leadership in Europe

By · February 22, 2013

Estonia: fast chargers map

On Estonia highways, drivers are never more than 37 miles from a high speed charger, while in the cities, chargers are very conveniently located, next to shopping centers, post offices or bank buildings.

Every European country is working in some capacity to develop electric mobility. It's a bit of a race, and like in every race, there are leaders. The clear leader is Norway, by a wide margin. Norwegians have already ordered more than 1,100 units of the Tesla Model S, but right behind is another country from Northern Europe: the little Baltic state of Estonia.

Not many people saw Estonia coming. The first big news about EVs in Estonia was from Mitsubishi in October 2011. The government ordered 507 i-MiEV cars. That's the largest single order Mitsubishi has ever received for its little car, but though impressive, that wasn't enough to prove the country's commitment.

All countries have a large fleet of vehicles for civil servants, and a single person's decision can put hundreds of drivers behind the wheel of an electric car. More was expected, and that came by chance when I happened to meet some Estonians last year in Monte Carlo. They were driving a 1958 Gaz M20. That car, known as the Pobeda, was converted to electric propulsion.

1958 Gaz M20 Pobeda, converted to electric by Estonians

1958 Gaz M20 Pobeda, converted to electric by Estonians.

It was hard not to be impressed. Taking a Russian car more than 50 years old (technology from the 1930s inside), converting it to an electric drive, and driving it nearly 1,800 miles to Monte Carlo? Those Estonians are serious about electric cars. So serious that they organized a rally, with the second edition taking place this May. It goes from Tallinn (the capital of Estonia) to Monte Carlo. It's open to all EVs and longest stage is a reasonable 112 miles, so a Nissan LEAF (with some careful driving) can compete. But only hardcore EV fans will participate. So will average Estonians be supportive of electric mobility?

ABB fast charger in Estonia

ABB fast charger in Estonia.

I think so. Their government has launched the best network of fast charge stations in Europe. This is where it helps that Estonia is a small country. It's a bit smaller than Lake Michigan, meaning that only 165 fast chargers were needed to give the country a respectable network. On highways, drivers are never more than 37 miles from a high speed charger, while in the cities, chargers are very conveniently located, next to shopping centers, post offices or bank buildings.

The government's idea was that EV charging should be fuss-free, fast and uncomplicated. The government succeeded. It's also accessible to most EVs thanks to ABB, the manufacturers of all chargers, which installed dual units. Each charger has a 50-kW Chademo port (for Japanese EVs like the Nissan LEAF) and a 22-kW AC plug (for Renault or Smart EVs). Many people talk about those new dual chargers, but they are already deployed nationwide in Estonia.

Payment is uniform across the whole network, with three schemes to choose, depending on the expecting number or charging sessions per month. The volume package is €30 ($40) for up to 150 kWh. That's not exactly cheap, but Estonia has no plan to give energy away. The charging stations network has to be economically sustainable. The service opened this week, and as of today, there are less than 500 EVs in private hands in Estonia. With only 1.3 million people, there will never be millions of EVs in this country, but it's a reasonable hope that EVs will very soon take a substantial share of the new car market. Again, government's intervention will help a lot since incentives can take 40 percent off the price of a Nissan Leaf in Estonia. Maybe EV fans from Southern Europe should consider moving to the Baltic country.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

26 1/3 cents per kwh really is not bad at all for a fast charge, considering household electricity is 13.7 cents/kwh in Estonia, if any of these worldwide rate charts are to be believed. That is only slightly more than the 13 cents/kwh I pay here in buffalo, New york 24/7.

I also read Estonians get a 50% credit for purchasing an EV. That must be close if Estonians get 40 % off the price of a Nissan Leaf.

Its got to be much much cheaper than the petrol - gasoline cost, so you'd expect EuroZone EV use to skyrocked for the great cost advantange alone, much more so than here in the States.

· · 1 year ago

Yes bill, you would expect the EV sales to sky rocket in Europe...
I don't know about Estonia, but where I live the average annual income is something around 10 000 Euros, while the average USA income is over 80 000 dollars.
So imagine, buying a cheap gasoline car is equivalent of average American
buying model S.

People have no chance in world to buy nissan leaf for 40 000 euros, or Opel ampera for 47 000 euoros. Actualy, even the lucky 5% earning more then average have no chance to buy even a flat in the Capital, they cost around 100 000 euros.

Car makers don't even bother advertising them here...

A big shame indeed, I'm currently looking around for cars, but even with my over-average income I can't hope to afford one. Most of the "green people" cars here are LPG/CNG conversions (like me)
Maybe a Renault Zoe, for 15k plus battery rent, that could be possible.

For the same price i could buy new Fiat Panda natural power (powered by cng) which has 2 cylinder turbo charged 900 ccm gasoline engine, 59 kw of power and eats 3.1 kg of cng per 100 kms (1 kg of cng = 1.2 euro)
Very low emissions, no cancer inducing dust (like from diesels from everywhere around here, this country is diesel infested and believe me, the air is bad around here)

· · 1 year ago

@Teq

Not sure where you heard $80,000 but I think its 30,000 and dropping. Maybe its total household income you're thinking off (husband, wife, and older kids)..

EV's are priced out of range of many American families.. The deindustrialization of the USA is continuing. We are working toward the old Feudalism of the "Haves" and "Have Nots".. Unless people wake up and decide they don't like it before its too late to change.

Italy I know is very big on CNG. What with Natural Gas' very high (110-130) Octane, a more efficient ICE engine could be built here using existing technology. Surprisingly, the only reasonably priced home refueling stations are 2 different Italian models. There is even less CNG infrastructure car wise than there was 8 years ago. Either the petroleum industry has such a lockhold on things here, or the powers that be don't want it.

Meanwhile, I spend a significant amount of my spare time fighting the Horrid Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing where it permanently ruins our fresh water supplies, mainly Well Water. I'd gladly pay a bit more for CNG and have absolutely NO "Fracking".

· · 1 year ago

Every European country ? No, Poland not. We have slow charging points (about 20 of them) located in main cities since three years. And nobody could use them - they need access card that cannot be obtained anywhere. One company took EU funds to build them, then went "bankrupt". Really great. At least EV fans created "ecomoto" page and they're sharing 230V sockets across whole country. We support ourselves, our goverment not.

· · 1 year ago

Yes bill sorry, you're right, the number was average houshold income :) didn't quite notice that.
Still, even when I put my income+ my soon to be wife income, it would take 2 years to earn for an EV (if we lived under a bridge, didn't eat or drink )
That's way more then for an average american. There are lots of people around me (espacially at my workplace) that love concept of EVs and know suprisingly much about them, but have no chance in hell to ever hope to earn enough for one.
And like you said, we really could use it, we are chocking in diesel fumes made by old german cars that everybody soo much loves to buy.
And the average price for gallon of gasoline is 5,67 Euros for diesel 5.382 (I live in Slovakia btw)
LPG costs me 2.76 for gallon, average mpg is 33 for my car.
I hope that in 2 or so years i will be able to buy an EV...

· · 1 year ago

I love the irony of Norway being the EV capital of the world. They made all that big money to buy Tesla Model S cars by selling oil. As I like to put it, they are drug dealers that are wise enough not to get addicted to their own product.

· · 1 year ago

At least the Norwegians spread their oil money out around their people they have one of the highest standards of living in the world and one of the lowest poverty levels.

The spend almost 1% of their GDP on aid (highest in the world)
They are one of the top users of green energy and have the highest commitment to electric cars

First drug dealers to put their money to good use

· · 1 year ago

I agree with Teq about trying to buy an electric car outside the US. We have a pretty high standard of living here in Australia but I for one just can't afford to pay over $50,000 for a pure electric car and over $60,000 for a volt. I probably will get one eventually but the kids will all have left home buy then and it will take a few years of saving too.

· · 1 year ago

I agree with Teq about trying to buy an electric car outside the US. We have a pretty high standard of living here in Australia but I for one just can't afford to pay over $50,000 for a pure electric car and over $60,000 for a volt. I probably will get one eventually but the kids will all have left home buy then and it will take a few years of saving too.

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