Because electric cars are concentrated in urban centers, electric cars are sometimes 'locked' in cities as there are few charging stations in the country

Electric car growth in Bulgaria - similar to the EU’s, but without the subsidies

Electric car growth in Bulgaria - similar to the EU’s, but without the subsidies

With electric car registrations going up 82% in the last year, the country is facing a charging station shortage

The number of electric cars and hybrids in Bulgaria has gone up by 82% and 58%, respectively, in the last year, according to recent data from the Ministry of the Interior. While the rapid growth spurt of the sector is in line with trends across Europe, one thing that definitely sets Bulgaria apart from other EU states is the lack of government support for personal sustainable mobility.

As the sector continues to experience organic growth, however, demand for charging stations has risen, according to a report by the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA), and this only creates more challenges for citizens. Furthermore, electric vehicles and hybrids are unevenly spread across the country, skewing the demand for charging stations away from rural areas and locking vehicles in an urban environment.

In practice, this means that many smaller population centres and rural areas are often times left with a single station, making the choice to switch to sustainable vehicles hard to make. This sentiment has been echoed by Bulgarian representative in the EU Parliament, Andrey Novakov.

He went as far as to say that a hasty transition mandated by Brussels could leave many with no mobility options at all, referencing the EU’s push to ban internal combustion engine production by 2035.

Following the trend, without the support

According to a Eurostat publication from this year, the highest growth rate of electric cars in the European Union happened between 2019 and 2020, when their number increased by 83% across the board.

In Bulgaria, the numbers look quite similar, as, according to data from the Ministry, in the last year, electric cars increased by 82%, while hybrids increased by 58%. As of 1 July 2022, there were 4,614 electric cars and 25,467 hybrid vehicles in the country.

This is still a minuscule share of Bulgaria’s private vehicle fleet, however, it's partially due to the fact that citizens do not enjoy purchase subsidies, unlike many of their EU peers. In fact, only Bulgarian government bodies had an electric vehicle subsidy, ranging between 10,000 euros and 20,000 euros, depending on the model and size of the vehicle.

At the same time, authorities have tried to provide regulatory incentives for electric cars, such as free parking in public spaces.

Charging stations as a tourist amenity

According to the BTA report, many smaller towns and rural areas lack access to charging stations for electric vehicles. Yet, at the same time, there is a strong push from local leaders in tourist areas to expand EV infrastructure to accommodate tourists. Moreover, as Bulgaria lacks a national strategy for charging station expansion, many of them are left trying to build public-private partnerships or rely exclusively on private initiative.

One key example is the case of Montana, a small town in the North-West. The city does not have any charging stations, having only four registered electric cars. Montana is a district capital, however, the only stations available are in the nearby tourist town of Varshets. One of the stations is in a hotel, while the other is in a factory.

At the same time, authorities in Burgas announced that they have launched 20 new charging stations. The stations were created through a public-private partnership with Eldrive, the biggest charging station operator in the country.

The city offered municipal parking spaces, while the company provided the chargers themselves. According to Andrey Rumchev, head of the municipal transport company, the city needs to expand charging infrastructure, especially in the neighbourhoods located near the sea. He pointed out that this is because of the tourist influx during the summer.

Andrey Novakov explained that transitioning to sustainable mobility will only be possible if there is sufficient charging station coverage and, crucially, if the energy is affordable enough. At the same time, he pointed to the current energy crisis and highlighted the fact that switching to 100% electric vehicles will raise energy demand to a new level.

Furthermore, he specifically mentioned rural regions where charging stations would probably not be available for some time. This point seems even more pressing when considering the fact that some of these regions still lack a stable broadband connection.



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