Getting ready for our big EV charging conference in Warsaw in a few weeks, I’ve been interviewing leading EV charging execs and entrepreneurs who will be presenting, participating in roundtable discussions, and contributing to our white paper on EV charging guidelines for cities.
In this article, Lyubov Artemenko, COO of To-U and Strategic Planning Director of Tesla Club Ukraine, and Nazar Shymone-Davyda, CEO of To-U and owner of Tesla Club Ukraine, answer a handful of questions I toss their way. Well worth the read!
1. What do you see as the 3 city policies that are most effective for stimulating quicker EV adoption?
It very much depends on the city and country. From our experience, free parking, bus lanes for EVs, and free chargers (22 kW) in the city center are the best options the city municipality can offer.
EV drivers would love to see the privileges. These and other incentives are a very important message to both: actual and potential EV drivers.
2. You have an interesting feature in your charging network that allows people to reserve a charging spot. This seemed interesting but not a huge deal before I got an electric car, but now that I have one, it seems huge. Can you say more why you included this feature, any challenges you’ve had implementing it, and your own thoughts on why it’s so important?
The Go To-U network is built as a result of our own experience as EV drivers.
We travel often and know very well what driving range anxiety is.
With all respect to the biggest aggregators of charging stations (you don’t have to name in the interview PlugShare), we were never sure if the charging spot was working, if someone was parked there, and if yes, for how long? If not, can we be sure it will stay free by the time of our arrival (5–7 minutes)? We experienced situations when we literally had 5% and every meter (not even kilometer) was on the VERGE of anxiety.
There were also situations when we had to operate with multiple mobile apps to figure out
1. if there was a charging station somewhere around,
2. if we needed access cards to charge (this is crucial if you are traveling abroad) and
3. what services we could use at the charging spot.
We’ve spent a lot of time learning about early EV pains and decided to transform them into EV privileges.
3. Ukraine has had abnormally fast growth in electric car adoption. This is especially surprising since it’s not a rich nation like other leading EV adopters — Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, etc. What is going on in Ukraine that electric cars have become a big deal faster than in almost all other countries?
We think A LOT depends on the early adopters and the social stars. We were the first who brought Tesla Model S to Ukraine and our mission has always been to show that EVs are much more than fancy tanks. EVs are environmentally friendly and offer a better driving experience. It is a lifestyle. So we think a lot depends on early adopters and the message they bring. We see an amazing trend: every EV owner successfully “sells” the EV idea to his/her friends by simply giving them the opportunity to try driving. So, the next Tesla owner, our good friend and a well-known businessman, continued this trend and, further, supported us in developing a free charging network.
Yes, a network is a must. So this became our next step. We were working to make sure every EV driver could charge. So we ensured free charging spots all around Ukraine, working with an Austrian brand, KEBA, to guarantee safe and secure charging.
The idea of EVs takes time to diffuse and penetrate the market. There are many factors which have an impact on EV adoption, but we must remember that early adopters are driven by the idea. So first there is an idea, then the price.
You may notice that the majority of EVs in Ukraine come from the USA. They are second-hand cars with an average price of €15,000. The most popular model is the Nissan LEAF.
4. Your To-U charging network is more heavily focused on business links than I’ve seen almost anywhere else. Can you further explain what I’m referring to? Also: A) How has that connection to the business community helped your network to grow and better serve customers? B) How has that connection presented challenges to your business growth and development?
Yes, business in Ukraine was and continues to be our key partner. Many businesses decided to join us and develop the network, even though at the beginning there were very few drivers. But, as we mentioned, the idea comes first. Guess who was our first biggest partner? The gas station networks. These days, we are very much focused on the HORECA (Hotel/Restaurant/Café) sector.
But it’s not only about installing chargers — Go To-U is about EV driver satisfaction, loyalty, and trust. So we want EV drivers to be happy, and to be sure that the charger is booked and the best services are there to make him/her enjoy traveling without harming the Planet. Simple 🙂
5. Do you expect next-generation electric models like the Tesla Model 3, 2018 Nissan LEAF, 2019 BMW i3, and Opel Ampera-e to dramatically change the Ukrainian EV market? If so, what does that mean for EV charging infrastructure in the country?
We are very happy to see new models, better performance, better driving range. It’s inevitable progress. So we’ll continue developing our network accordingly 😉
In the end, EVs bolster electricity use and help to balance the grid (NEO Bloomberg). There is huge potential in the future for vehicle-to-grid solutions.
If you are wondering whether we are afraid that no one will charge in the future, we don’t. We like to compare 22 kW chargers to Wi-Fi. It’s additional service for clients. So far we see everyone is happy to use this model.