Latvia gears up EV sector with new testing series

  • 2024-06-17

To evaluate electric cars in different categories and to promote zero-emission mobility, a series of events Latvian E-Car 2024/2025 is taking place for the first time from May to October. Electric cars are being judged by professionals, car enthusiasts and public figures. 

The electric cars will be judged in a number of categories, including winners in the under €50,000 and over €50,000 price categories, as well as awards in several categories: Created for the City, Family Choice, Entrepreneur's Choice, Business Class, Most Beautiful Design and the Sympathy Award, which will be decided by public vote.

Right time, right place

According to Andris Dambis, a renowned automotive engineer and member of the jury, Latvia can become a world leader in terms of driving electric vehicles. "We see more and more electric cars on the streets, and many people are interested in new technologies. If this growth continues, the EV sector in Latvia could grow faster than the world average! I’m a professional and a car enthusiast myself, but I don't get my hands on all the latest developments. That is why I am participating in the new series of events with the greatest pleasure and impatience."

"Transport is the biggest CO2 emitter, and greening it requires both large investments and a change in public thinking. However, this is happening more and more actively, as the number of e-cars in Latvia has increased 33 times since 2015," said Jānis Irbe, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Climate and Energy. State support programs for the purchase of electric cars are already working well. The availability of electric cars to households and municipalities has been increased, resulting in emission reductions. 

Latvian E-Car 2024/2025 was born out of the Tavs Auto TV program, but the production team realized that this was not enough to present all the new products. “So we came up with the idea of a single platform to evaluate electric cars," say television journalists Gusts Kikusts and Roberts Jansons.

More perks for EVs in Riga

Olafs Pulks, Chairman of the Traffic and Transport Committee of the Riga City Council, highlighted the capital's receptive attitude towards electric cars, including free parking and the possibility to use the public transport lane. The municipality plans to step up the development of the city’s charging station network: in 2023 alone, the number of charging points increased by 67%, but there is still an acute shortage, especially in residential areas near apartment blocks.

There are currently only 300 public charging points in Riga, but by 2030 the number could be tenfold and by 2035 it could reach 10 000. Part of the co-financing for the renovation of residential buildings could be earmarked for the creation of charging points. A public auction of plots of land near streets in existing areas is planned; at least 30 such plots are to be auctioned every year.

Faster charging expected

Kārlis Mendziņš, head of Latvia’s branch of the Estonian electric car charging network Eleport, stressed that ultra-fast charging points should be located primarily near shopping centers, large office buildings and at important road junctions, so that charging can be carried out within 15-30 minutes, which will allow a range of 300-500 kilometers.

“As the charging speed of electric cars is one of the most important factors in the development of this mode of transport, more and more Latvian companies are choosing to cooperate with the Finnish super-fast charging technology company Kempower, says Mārtiņš Stirāns, Business Development Manager for the Baltics.

Valdis Bergs, CEO of Mobilly, a transport payment technology company, pointed out that Mobilly already offers convenient payment for electric car charging services at more than 536 charging stations – 415 in Latvia, 95 in Lithuania and 26 in Estonia.

History respected with the future ahead

Aivars Aksenoks, Chairman of the Board of the Road Traffic Safety Directorate, expressed his pleasure at the fact that the launch of Latvian E-car 2024/2025 was held in Riga Motor Museum, as the history of electric cars is quite long. Currently, a 40-year-old Latvian-made RAF car is on display in the museum, while even an electric car from 1903 is being restored.

A. Aksenoks expressed his satisfaction that the first network of EV charging points in Latvia was established under the auspices of his office. "From the traffic safety point of view, electric cars are only positive: they are not only emission-free, but also noise-free, and their innovative equipment and driver assistance ensure a very low accident rate."

First test, then buy

Arnis Jaudzems, Head of Sixt in the Baltics, told us that car rental is a way for everyone to familiarize themselves with the nuances of electric cars by choosing to drive them for a certain period of time. "We are constantly updating our offer in car rental – there are many different models, which means you can always try out the latest models."

"Around one in five people considering buying a car are interested in an electric car. People are rational and approach the process with calculation. Those who have private homes have installed solar panels, we know that many developers of new apartment blocks are thinking about having charging stations for electric cars. For a large number of people, the decision to buy an electric car means a significant change in their daily habits," says Renārs Vīksna, CEO of SEB Leasing.

Ģirts Kubliņš, Head of the Motor Claims Group at If Apdrošināšana, pointed out that sustainability is one of the areas that the company is committed to developing by including special bonuses for electric car insurance in its product packages. "Insurers are looking forward to the new electric car segment with careful advance preparation and confidence in their future plans and activities in this fast-growing segment. Body repairs such as painting and replacement of parts are not significantly different for electric cars compared to cars with internal combustion engines. The main difference is related to electric batteries, which in most cases are the most expensive component of the car." 

As summarized by Aivis Lonskis from the Baltic Sustainable Mobility Alliance events such as Latvian E-car 2024/2025 help to change public perception of the impact of transport on global environmental issues and facilitate the greening process of Latvian transport, which still faces many challenges.

The Latvian E-car 2024/2025 event series is supported by companies active in the field of electromobility, including Eleport, SEB bank, If Apdrošināšana, Kempower, Mobilly, SIXT, Goodyear, as well as the Road Traffic Safety Directorate, Igates Pils and shopping mall Spice.