Visegrad Electromobility | State, perspectives and challenges
Transport accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the European Union and is the only sector in which emissions have been increasing in recent years. The goal of climate neutrality and the increased reduction target for 2030 will not be achievable without a revolution in transport, as confirmed by the ‘Fit for 55’ package published by the European Commission. Given the years of a lack of effective policies in this area in the Visegrad countries, implementing appropriate measures to reduce emissions from transport becomes an urgent challenge. The hope is in electrification, especially of passenger cars.
Vehicle manufacturing is an important industry in the V4 countries. Appropriate targeting of the automotive industry in these countries can yield tangible benefits for each of them. In the latest analysis prepared within the framework of the Polish-German Int-E-Grid project, we describe the status and prospects for the development of electromobility in the V4 countries, as well as how to use the existing potential of sectoral cooperation in the Visegrad countries.
Electrification is the future of transport
With the adoption of the climate neutrality target by 2050 and an increased emissions reduction target by 2030, road transport will inevitably face decarbonisation. But reversing current emission trends in road transport in the V4 countries will be a challenge. This is primarily due to the continued increase in the number of used and high-emission registered vehicles as a result of their increased availability. This is one of the reasons why a new strategy to promote electrification of transport as one of the dominant trends is urgently needed.
Not only will the vehicles on the streets change but also—or rather, above all—the sector of vehicle manufacturers and components. An electric motor in cars is significantly different from the traditional internal combustion engine because it is simple to build, less prone to failure, made up of fewer components, and relatively cheap. There is a completely new and extremely important component in the supply chain—batteries—mostly produced by sub-suppliers. Software to manage the energy and control all key systems is also an important part of an electric vehicle. All of this means that manufacturers of vehicle parts and accessories will need to adapt to these changes at a rapid pace.
‘Today’s strong position of vehicle and component manufacturers in the economies of the V4 countries may reinforce the belief that the coming changes are still too far away to take action now. This is particularly the case for many smaller companies in the complex automotive supply chains for whom a loss of orders for specific components used in internal combustion engines may simply mean the end of business. Without the automotive sector taking action and without a conscious industrial policy of the countries supporting the transformation in this sector, many automotive companies in our region may soon find themselves in a very difficult situation,’ said Jacek Mizak of the Electric Vehicles Promotion Foundation, the author of the analysis.
The automotive sector is an extremely important part of the economies of the V4 countries
The automotive industry in the V4 countries represents a significant portion of national GDP and exports. Poland stands out with a large share of the automotive components manufacturing sector. While in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, the most important role is played by factories producing vehicles and major components (engines), Poland specialises in the production of spare parts and smaller automotive components.
‘In Poland, over 300,000 people work in the automotive sector. In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, it is less in absolute numbers, but it accounts for more than 10% of employment in industry. A new strategy needs to be built for the automotive sector to enable it to develop further. It is necessary to set national targets for the development of electromobility and to give appropriate directions for their implementation. It will be important to use the fiscal impetus provided by national recovery plans to develop the industry. To not fall out of the market, it is necessary to react quickly and flexibly to changes in the sector,’ Dr Joanna Maćkowiak-Pandera, president of Forum Energii, said.
We can all learn from each other
In our region, electromobility is still at a very early stage of development. This does not mean, however, that we cannot find examples of good practices here. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it has proved effective to locate key points for fast-charging infrastructure along major transport routes and to direct public support towards its construction. As a result, driving an electric vehicle on Czech or Slovak roads is by far the easiest of all the V4 countries.
Poland’s model for electrification of public transport is also noteworthy, as legally binding targets have been set for the share of zero-emission buses and support programmes for their purchase have been launched. As a result, Poland is way ahead of other Member States of the EU in the number of electric buses and is the only country in the region to be included in European statistics and studies on the zero-emission bus market.
An interesting and worthwhile solution is also the implementation of instruments providing national funding for transport decarbonisation. Such instruments have been applied by Poland (emissions fee) and Hungary (funds from the sale of emission allowances). A very good idea in the context of building public awareness at an early stage of education is to update the core curriculum in schools, as was done in the Czech Republic. As part of this, elements about the importance of environmentally and climate friendly forms of transport and mobility are introduced into the curriculum, helping to build public awareness and acceptance of zero-emission transport.
Potential areas of cooperation
In the report Visegrad Electromobility, we propose joint flagship projects that will leverage the existing potential of the automotive sector and positively influence the pace of implementation of the electromobility ecosystem in the V4 countries. These are:
- Creating an Electric Route (EV4 Route). This is a plan to connect the capitals of the V4 member states with a network of multifunctional stations (hubs) for charging vehicles, which would enable the smooth movement of electric vehicles of all types between Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, and Bratislava.
- Establish a Regional Competence Centre for Electromobility, which will strengthen the potential for electromobility development, not only in the V4 countries but also in the entire eastern part of the European Union. The centre should support the education of engineering staff in new fields at technical universities, as well as develop and launch a programme of training for production workers. The Visegrad Fund could play a key role in the establishment and operation of such an institution.
Electromobility is no longer a pipe dream—it is a megatrend that can bring a number of tangible development impulses to the economies of individual countries. The Visegrad countries are facing a huge opportunity, but the question is, will they react fast enough and seize the opportunity?
Jacek Mizak – Electric Vehicles Promotion Foundation
Michał Borkowski – Forum Energii
Date of publication English version:
7 October 2021 r.