The Slovenia Times

Static electricity?



At the end of October, a host of experts in electric vehicles gathered at the Austria Trend Hotel in Ljubljana for the International Electric Mobility Conference. Organised by staff at Slovenia's National Institute for Chemistry - in cooperation with other Slovenian academics and managers at leading local automotive firms - the event saw discussion of some of the most pressing issues surrounding electric transportation. Speakers from as far afield as Israel, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Belgium detailed everything from the latest advances in vehicle batteries to the sociological impact of electric mobility to the experiences of those who use electric cars.
The event is indicative of the extent to which electric mobility is becoming part of the national conversation in Slovenia. In the past year it is an issue which has often made the headlines, whether through the launch of a consortium of Slovenian companies seeking solutions in green transport or the opening of an electric bike shop in BTC City.
Even the outgoing prime minister seemed to get on board. Speaking at a debate on environmentally friendly transport held last May in Ljubljana, Borut Pahor hailed electric vehicles as a key part of building a low-carbon society in Europe.

Talk is cheap

It all sounds good but some fear that the increasing prominence of electric mobility as a topic of debate does not reflect increased action. Andrej Pečjak, a keen electric vehicle enthusiast who has converted multiple vehicles to run on electricity alone, is blunt when summing up recent events.
"Pahor is an actor, like most politicians are," Pečjak argues. "What he says are just words without meaning."
He feels the same way about the SiEVA consortium. The collaboration between Hidria, Cimos, Kolektor, Iskra Avtoelektrika, Iskra Mehanizmi, MLM, Polycom and TPV aims to develop a "Synergetic, environmentally friendly, safe car" (hence SiEVA) but Pečjak fears little real action is taking place: "It's a lot of talking and no actions," he argues.

Behind the scenes

This is not to say that the man who is arguably Slovenia's biggest private champion of electric vehicles feels the situation is hopeless. Pečjak says that there have been several initiatives going on behind the scenes which "really push EVs in Slovenia".
"One of the most important changes has been the granting of EUR 5,000 and EUR 4,000 subsidies for new and converted electric vehicles," he says. "This was the work of Jernej Strith and Jure Leven of the government office for climate change and it will definitely boost not just sales of new vehicles but also workshops that convert used vehicles."
Pečjak is particularly enthusiastic about the latter since he points out that car conversions are actually more environmentally valuable than new electric vehicles: "When you convert a used car it does not end up at a car junkyard and it stops burning fossil fuel."
"There are also many mayors in small cities that are pushing for electric mobility," Pecjak says. "So I think we are moving forward, inspired by enthusiastic people and companies."

Enthusiastic individuals

Many of those enthusiasts are members of Slovenia's Association for Electric Vehicles (DEVS). The organisation counts around 330 individual members as well as notable corporate participants such as energy company Petrol and state electricity company Elektro-Slovenia.
"Slovenia is quite advanced concerning electromobility," contends DEVS vice-president Miha Levstek. "We have electric aeroplanes produced by Pipistrel, electric ship Greenline 33 from Seaway and the small electric car Chebela EV produced by SŽ Oprema Ravne. In addition, Etrel, Elektro Ljubljana and Elektro Maribor are involved in several electric car research and development projects and other advanced mobility projects. And we have a strong sector of original equipment manufacturers and producers of electromotors."
The clear hope is that politicians will move away from big words and towards proactively supporting the work being done by such companies and individuals. It will be yet another item on the "to do list" of the new government.


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