Electric transport in Russia
Vadim Petrov
Member of the Ecological Chamber of Russia

Electric transport in Russia

In recent decades, due to the rapid development of automobile transport, the air motor vehicle emissions have significantly increased. According to experts, in cities, the vehicles can be the source of 20% to 70% of the total air emissions (depending on the industry development in a given city and the number of motor-vehicles). Vadim Petrov, Co-chairman and State Secretary of the Ecological Chamber of Russia, member of the Academic Council of the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute for Environmental Protection (VNII ECOLOGY) under the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia, told EcoTourism Expert about the prospects for the development of the environmentally friendly electric transport in Russia.

- Electric transport saves the environment from exhaust gases. How important can the switch to the electric vehicles be in the struggle against the environmental pollution? How do you assess the prospects for the development of “green” transport in Russia? What is your opinion about the electric transport growth dynamics in Russia this year?

- The electric transport market in Russia is currently at its nascent stage. In 2013, the Russian fleet of electric vehicles was under 1,000 units.

The results for 2020 show that 687 new electric vehicles were sold in Russia, compared to 2019 when only 353 vehicles were sold, the market is characterized by a 95-percent increase.

Unfortunately, there is still no practical comprehensive plan to support the development of the electric transport market in our country. From my point of view, the Strategy will change the situation.

However, it is encouraging that at the level of some federal and regional authorities, targeted incentives are being introduced, for example, the abolition of import duties on new electric vehicles, the free parking lots for electric vehicles in Moscow, the development of electric taxis in Stavropol, as well as the implementation of the programme for the construction of infrastructure for the electric transport by the MOESK company.

Back in 2014, in order to form a consistent approach at all levels of the government, a comprehensive action plan was developed together with several ministries to support the production and use of environmentally friendly vehicles (electric and hybrid ones).

In general, the expansion of the auto market will continue throughout this decade. By 2030, the expected share of the electric vehicles in the sales will amount to 48%. Several factors make the end of internal combustion engines closer, such as much stricter requirements regarding the toxicity of exhaust gases, the hysteria about the anthropogenic nature of global warming and, of course, the electric vehicles. Nevertheless, the mass distribution of electric vehicles is still a long way off, and it is constrained by the lack of large-capacity batteries. In other words, modern lithium-ion batteries cannot ensure the transition to mass electromobilization, and a quantum leap is needed, probably, the development of a new type batteries.

- What are the environmental pollution statistics today?

Of course, you have to look at each city separately. The main contributors to the air pollution are gasoline-powered vehicles and the diesel engine ones, tractors and other agricultural vehicles, as well as the railroad and water transport means. The main air pollutants emitted by motor vehicles (the total number of such substances exceeds 40) are carbon monoxides, hydrocarbons (approximately 19%) and nitrogen oxides. Carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) come to the air only with exhaust gases, while incompletely burned hydrocarbons (HnСm) come both with exhaust gases (which is about 60% of the total hydrocarbon emissions) and from crankcases (about 20%), fuel tanks (about 10%) and carburetors (about 10%); solid impurities come mainly from the exhaust gases (90%) and from the crankcases (10%).

- Which countries are the leaders in this field and what place does Russia occupy in terms of using the electric transport today?

- As for the electric car introduction within a country, Norway remains the undisputed leader (74.8%). In 2020, half of the cars sold in the country were electric ones. The commitment of the Norwegians to the “green” vehicles is unrivaled. The country provides generous government subsidies to their electric car owners first introduced back in the 1990s (tax incentives, no fees when travelling on toll roads, free parking, and so on). Iceland ranks the second (45%), Sweden - the third (32.2%), the Netherlands - the fourth (24.95%), and Finland ranks the fifth (18.1%). The smallest share of the electric transport in the total vehicle amount is in China (6.2%) and the USA (2.3%). As for the electric cars, Russia, unfortunately, is an outsider. However, as for the two most common modes of the electric public transport - trams and trolleybuses, Russia is the undisputed leader in the world (it ranks the first). China is the leader in the number of electric buses in operation, the Netherlands ranks the second, and Russia ranks the third.

- From your point of view, how the approval of the Strategy can help introduce the battery-driven vehicles in Russia?

- Taking into account the international experience, we can say that the development of the electric transport, like any other environmentally friendly vehicles, is impossible without a systemic support from the state based on the strategic planning document (Strategy).

The growth in demand for electric vehicles is being driven by the following activities in various countries:

1. The subsidies to the car buyers (in Japan and the United States, funding is provided at the federal and regional levels);

2. The reduction/complete abolition of one-time taxes on the purchase of vehicles and annual transport taxes;

3. Government procurement of the environmentally friendly modes of transport;

4. Free parking for electric vehicles;

5. The ability to use dedicated traffic lanes and free use of the automobile roads;

6. Subsidies to taxi operators and car rental companies for the purchase of electric vehicles.

As a result of the implementation of the government initiatives for the development of the environmentally friendly modes of transport and new advanced technologies, the electric transport market in the USA, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands and the UK has grown significantly. In 2012, the sales of the electric vehicles in the world amounted to more than 110,000 vehicles, with a significant share of the sales in the United States and Japan. The developing countries (for example, China) have also pursued similar policies to create and develop a “green” transport market, but within a shorter time frame.

- What regions are the leaders in the eco-transport introduction?

- As for the private vehicles, the picture is as follows: at the regional level, Moscow is the leader as its sales of the electric vehicles in 2020 amounted to 240 ones, 69 electric cars were sold in St. Petersburg, and 60 electric cars were sold in the Moscow Region. In the Krasnodar Territory, 36 electric cars were sold, in the Primorsky Territory, the Sverdlovsk and Novosibirsk Regions, 31, 21 and 20 electric cars were sold, respectively. The Perm Territory, the Chelyabinsk, Tyumen, and Irkutsk Regions are also among the buyers. As for the public transport means, Moscow is undoubtedly among the leaders.

- In your opinion, what additional measures should be taken for a more active introduction of the environmentally friendly transport?

- The main directions of the state support for the market development can include stimulating the electric transport producers and consumers, limiting the production and use of the environmentally unfriendly vehicles. Initially, the demand for electric transport can be ensured through the purchases for the government agencies and bodies and for the state-owned companies. To increase the demand from private and corporate buyers, it is advisable to introduce some financial incentives, for example, the subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles, the reduction or abolition of the transport tax and VAT on the purchase and leasing of electric vehicles. Also, the interest in the electric transport from the corporate consumers can be stimulated by the subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles by the taxi operators and electric car rental companies. Indirectly, the demand for electric vehicles may be increased by the introduction of the legislative restrictions on the use of environmentally unfriendly vehicles by the major companies.

The government support for the production of electric vehicles and components can be carried out using several instruments, such as providing guarantees for loans, providing grants and subsidies for the R&D, and the production of electric vehicles.

An important factor in the development of the electric transport market is the available infrastructure for refueling the electric vehicles and providing relevant services. The development of such an infrastructure can be carried out on the basis of traditional gas filling stations of the state oil companies.

At present, the purchase of electric vehicles is viewed by the Russian consumers as a tribute to fashion, and not as a way to fight against the environmental pollution or a way to save money.

In addition to the state support for the electric transport market, it is necessary to form socially responsible behavior among private and business users, including the use of more environmentally friendly and economical vehicles.