Moving back west after interviewing some great EV charging leaders in Ukraine (see this interview and this interview), the article below features expert commentary from our friend Jakub (Kuba) Stęchły, who has had multiple roles in the e-mobility transition underway in Poland. You may recognize him as the dude I drove to Paris and back with in a Tesla Model S.
Kuba will be joining us in Warsaw in a couple of weeks for our big Central & Eastern Europe EV charging conference, where we’ll have EV charging leaders coming from the Netherlands, Norway, Costa Rica, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and the USA to advance EV charging and EV adoption. He’s also a core member of the working group that GreenWay and CleanTechnica brought together to create EV charging guidelines for cities.
Even after talking with Kuba for days, I found the answers below provided me with a wealth of new information, insight, and interesting points. I highly recommend jumping in.
It seems that the government is making significant effort while working on the e-mobility act. New regulations are going to remove existing hurdles related to building charging infrastructure or to operating a charging point (selling energy/billing). Another aspect of the act is imposing progressively growing quotas for the share of EVs in central and local administrations, as well as for public transport (the share of e-buses in bus fleets).
I am very glad to see that legislators chose to follow a market-driven approach rather than try to control and regulate the industry. Apart from that, carsharing was defined and EV-based carsharing was given some benefits. I find that extremely important and a smart way to balance carsharing and EV carsharing development — although, I would appreciate more solid incentives for EV carsharing users.
Apart from the e-mobility act, the government is apparently working on launching a Sustainable Transportation Fund. We don’t know much about it yet, but what we’ve been told is that it will support EV carsharing projects, among others.
The sad thing to note is that, while so much good work is being done in e-mobility, the Ministry of Energy seems to neglect the existence of distributed generation, renewables, and battery storage; and keeps steering towards the Great Co(r)al Reef. Many of us can afford to drive EVs AND reduce CO2 emissions, for example, by installing PV panels, but it would be amazing (and beneficiary both for our lungs and wallets) to have a more holistic approach to our energy system. And I bet dollars to nuts that we wouldn’t have a blackout (same as Germany didn’t and all other economies which have made a strong shift toward more green energy haven’t).
1. Polish cities should change their thinking from “public transportation” to thinking about providing the best possible mobility experience for their citizens. What I mean is to not only think how to provide cheap, comfortable, and timely bus and/or tram transportation services, but to try to create a good environment for various transportation modes. After we’ve experienced and adopted bikesharing, scooter-sharing, and carsharing, there is no space for black and white thinking about private and public transport. Obviously, this is a demanding and timely process, but it is also an important competitive advantage to attract people to our cities.
2. A much simpler step is to simply create conditions for new mobility — cities do not need long tenders and precise control over mobility providers, as long as they manage to attract multiple providers to create a market for mobility services and keep the level of previously agreed service or better. There are many examples showing that public transport companies benefit from last-mile problems solved by independent operators.
3. Although the e-mobility act imposes upon cities the obligation to provide public charging infrastructure, deadlines are rather conservative. Since the presence of charging infrastructure is essential for EV adoption, it is highly recommended to cities that they take actions beforehand in order to supply at least part of the required infrastructure.
3. What are the top challenges electric carsharing companies face today?
The two main challenges are:
1. Education — people still don’t know what the benefits of using EVs are, what the benefits of shared mobility are. They often don’t want to acknowledge to themselves what the health/environmental consequences of using ICEs are, and are in general afraid of novelties — such as lack of a manual gearbox and clutch pedal (a real thing 🙂 ), the charging process, and renting a car.
2. Costs — even though EVs are getting cheaper and better (in terms of battery capacity, design, comfort, range of choice), they are more expensive that their petrol relatives (and still will be for some time — pessimistic forecasts put the cost break-even point for EV/ICE at 2025 😛 ).
So, the underlying challenge is to run a business in a way as to be able to survive till the car costs will level out or people will be able to attribute more value to the benefits of electric carsharing (whichever happens first).
4. Do you think there could be a place for electric scooter-sharing and/or electric bikesharing in Polish cities?
No doubt about that. It is already happening and this is something I am personally enjoying very much. The more different modes of transportation are available, the more people become used to looking for different modes of transportation that precisely match their needs at a given time and in given conditions. This leads to using public transport and other means of transportation more, and eventually to reduction of private car use — the main actor to blame for traffic congestion, pollution, and parking space scarcity.
5. Is there any reason bus fleets shouldn’t be electrifying right now?
No, there is no reason.
Obviously, it is not a single-step process. There are some limitations to the local electricity grid, but not anything that could not be overcome. However, there is a significant cost related and in many cases gas buses and hybrid buses could serve as great additions to the mix. We should not forget that we’re in the midst of a tremendous change in mobility, which is fuelled by both technological progress and unsustainability of incumbent mobility solutions. It may happen that before we finish electrification of our bus fleet, we will realise that demand for large (12 or 18 meter-long buses) is smaller and their place can be taken by autonomous / ad-hoc created / on-demand rides provided by smaller buses or minivans.