Latvia on the road with e-mobility transport

  • 2013-02-20
  • By Charo Navarro Mateo

RIGA - The international debate about energy sustainability has been in the public eye for many years, emerging already in 1987 at the United Nations. But it is today when the first political measures are effectively being implemented and making the term “sustainability” stick.

One of the first issues in the debate has been the quantity and quality of the emissions and pollutants released into the atmosphere. This is mostly attributed to traditional fuel vehicles. From the European Commission, the current regulations are designed and are very tough in pushing for the development of greener transport in Europe.

The different participants related to the implementation of greener production and sustainable consumption in transport had the opportunity to share new ideas during the event ‘Clean Drive in Latvia and Europe,’ organized by Riga Managers School (RMS Forum) at the Transport and Telecommunication Institute of Latvia, in Riga, on Feb. 15.
The aim of the different speakers was to share experiences and new ideas which are being implemented according to the new regulations. With this in mind, the event started off with a look at the development of the project Clean Drive, a marketing campaign to promote cleaner vehicles in Europe, and how it affects Latvia.

“We want to make the car dealers become the ambassadors of the greener Europe,” said Jonas Loof, coordinator of Clean Drive Action at the Energy Agency for southeast Sweden. The Clean Drive campaign is focused on car dealers, who have the challenge to sell more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. The campaign is also aimed at car rental and car leasing companies and similar businesses.

New opportunities for the greener business
Nowadays not only do new European regulations take effect, but so do circumstances that make green transport a good economic and social opportunity. Increasing fuel prices and the rise of alternative fuel production are the most influential ones. “People still pay attention to money; if they are concerned that being green will be more environmentally and economically profitable, then they will change their mind,” says Nellija Kocanova, head of the board at SEB Lizings.
For the moment, the dividing line is regulation. The White Paper of 2011 wants 60 percent of transport emissions to be cut, which, if followed, means that there will not be an increase in conventionally-fuelled cars in cities by 2050. This means that the green transport sector and e-mobility (electric vehicles) must rise in the coming years.
“We are promoting information about e-mobility though exhibitions, meetings among groups in the field and public institutions, pilot projects and groups of enterprises of innovation,” says Boriss Strausovs, head of the board at Eltus and coordinator of the association Green Cluster.

The newest idea exported in the Clean Drive Event was the strategies to follow and how countries, especially the Baltics, are progressing. These strategies include the technology improvements and customer psychology.

Green technology and infrastructure
“One of the biggest challenges is to support the production and technology through cooperation [among institutions and companies], (…) and [keeping in mind] research and innovation,” says Aivars Rubenis, partner at Ivory Group, involved in e-mobility consulting.
The idea of innovating in technology and new infrastructure for the production and promotion of e-vehicles is on manufacturers’ minds as this new business sector develops. For manufacturers, this is a good time for investment, as the production of technology is economic, and returns a profit.

“This is a good opportunity for small manufacturers, (…) the technology is pretty simple to build, and it is good for countries to trust small, local companies,” says Laurinas Jokuzis, head of the board at Lithuanian electric vehicles association. Flexible manufacturing and the small quantities of devices are two of the factors highlighted by the major companies growing in the sector.
Some Latvian companies are already moving up. One of the most significant is Blue Shock Bike, which started to monitor green taxis at United States of America. Their most important product is the e-bike: 150 electric bikes are already produced and are starting to be sold.

Speaking on the main cost component, says Neils Kalnins, a representative of Blue Shock Bike said, “At the moment 60 percent of the price of an e-car is just the battery, that is why it is very important for the future to know how big these batteries can be and what potential they have, because it affects the final price.”

Changes in demand
The Clean Drive marketing project also has as its focus customer awareness. The aim of sales dealers is to give customers who buy a new car the most conclusive information about the benefits that they receive.
 Sweden is one of the best examples, a country where e-vehicles drivers can benefit from lower taxes, an economic bonus and less costly running cost per kilometer. There the marketing campaigns are being implemented faster with collaboration between the government and big companies like IKEA.
In Latvia, the services of e-mobility consumption are more related to the rental sector. “After the economic recession, we started, since 2012, the leasing services again,” says Kocanova.

The surveys made by SEB point out that 13 percent of the population are moved in their decision-making by non-economic reasons, such as an eco-friendly conscience at the moment of purchase of a car.
“In Latvia more environmentally friendly car buying is becoming more popular. More eco-friendly cars were purchased, a sign that people start to think greener,” says Kocanova. In Latvia, the number of purchased environmentally friendly vehicles increased 20 percent between 2011 and 2012. The same is happening in the eco-friendly leasing sector, where the figure was 51 percent.

Latvia’s green contribution
The speakers at the conference shared the idea of the necessity to concentrate public resources in the “green economy” sectors, to increase to opportunities for the new entrepreneurs. One of the ways to do this is the stimulation of new transport technologies and innovative inter-modal solutions. The Green Transport system of the Baltic sea region is an important public promotion of green transport.
The project consists of a network of European and trans-national multi-modal transport corridors for better external accessibility in the region.

“Latvian transport development is based on platforms for cooperation between public administrations, the research and business sectors to identity potentials and pave the way for the future investments,” says Igor Kabashkin, president of the Transport and Telecommunication Institute of Latvia.
According to Ilze Pruse, director of the Climate Policy and Technology Department at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of Latvia, in preparation for October this year is a new plan to analyze the most important preconditions for e-mobility in Latvia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport.

Thinking green
New thinking will also be part of the solutions in terms of changing the mindset. “It is important to understand that it is impossible to spend and use resources all the time (…) after 2050 there will not be resources enough for such a current rate of wasting natural resources,” says Aleksejs Milovskis, a consultant at Riga Managers School.
Milovskis insisted on the promotion of a green lifestyle through political campaigns. In this sense, the Estonian case has been put up as one of the best, as Estonia is the country with the largest, per capita, electro-mobile vehicle quick-charging networks in Europe and has moved rather fast compared to the rest of Europe.

“Such a sector is not only the responsibility of the industry to develop, but it follows the government initiatives and incentives (…). You need to orchestrate a lot of stakeholder to build up the full eco-system,” says Jarmo Tuisk, head of the electromobility program ELMO at KredEx in Estonia.

The program implemented by the Estonian government is the so-called ELMO, which includes an advanced charging infrastructure network, grants for those driving e-vehicles and car sharing points in Tallinn and Tartu.
“We have changed and everything is in our hands to get green (…), we can do activities for this, not just studying, but participating in the idea,” adds Milovskis.