Greece is setting itself up to make strides in the sale and production of electric vehicles, which are expected to rise in popularity as the European Union moves towards attaining carbon neutrality by 2050. Tesla, run by Silicon Valley success story Elon Musk, has been planning to open an R&D plant in Greece since 2018 – lending a much needed vote of confidence in Greek business and infrastructure even before the Mediterranean country successfully exited austerity in 2019.
Now, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Greece has unveiled new financial incentives to consumers who purchase electric cars and hopes to boost the electric mobility market to a third of the automobile sector by 2030. As of April 2020, the electric vehicle share of the market stands at only 2.6%.
The first phase of the plan offers financial benefits to both individuals and corporations who go green, and the government has set aside €100 million to use as subsidies over the next 18 months. The subsidy will cover approximately 25% of the total purchase of 14,000 new electric cars.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also has large tax breaks in store to make such big ticket purchases more attractive, with electric vehicles exempt from the road tax for two years. The cost of recharging the car is set to be tax deductible as well. The tax break stands at €1,200 for an individual and €2,480 for company cars. In combination with already present incentives for low-emission cars, companies that choose green vehicles can save a total of 3,500 euros a pop.
In addition, Mitsotakis also wants every new building constructed to have infrastructure capable of charging electric vehicles in order to make their use even more convenient. This dovetails nicely with Tesla’s plans to create a European supercharger highway, a €70 million project consisting of 1,500 charging ports at 50 stations stretching across routes from Portugal, through Spain, then to Greece, and ending in Turkey.
With demand growing, other automakers like General Motors are also looking to cash in on the boom in electric vehicles. But Tesla is particularly interested in Greece’s market and is already looking to fill multiple positions for a planned Athens office in preparation for selling vehicles in the country.
Demand for electric vehicles is expected to increase as the economy recovers. Tesla owner Elon Musk has said that, “Demand is not a problem, definitely not. We do have some production supply chain challenges we’re trying to solve right now…So, yes, don’t worry about demand. That’s not the issue.”
The company hopes its expansion in Europe will make electric vehicles the norm across the continent. Tesla also plans to manufacture car battery cells in its Giga Berlin factory, which is still under construction. According to Jörg Steinbach, Brandenburg’s Minister of Economics, the new battery cells are not only smaller but possess greater energy density, which will allow for fewer recharging stops.
Going Green in Greece
Greece has a 10-year plan to slash carbon emissions in order to keep in line with the EU’s broader goal of reaching carbon neutrality over the next 30 years. But the country has a lot of catching up to do in the automobile sector, where electric vehicles account for only 0.3% of the total fleet. By comparison, northern neighbour Germany’s electric vehicles make up a full 10% of its fleet. Greece aims to have electric vehicles make up one-third of their fleet within 10 years – a huge increase that Prime Minister Mitsotakis hopes will be spurred by the financial breaks the government is rolling out.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has offered the Greek government a chance to see what happens if traditional petrol-powered cars are removed from the road. Recent studies show that carbon emissions in Athens dropped by a whopping 40% during the lockdown from March to April, during which commutes were all but eliminated.
Now that the lockdown has been lifted, Greece needs to find a more permanent way to cutback on emissions, and has since vowed to shut down all but one of its coal-fired power plants by 2023. These plants rely on lignite, a highly polluting type of brown coal. To make the switch less painful, Mitsotakis announced tax breaks to factories that switch to producing electric cars without the use of coal.
In order to reduce cars on the road and lessen overcrowding, the country is also increasing public transportation services, including the addition of buses and trains on existing routes as well as the creation of new transportation routes altogether. This will also help to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus and depress the likelihood of a second wave in Greece, which has so far beat back the pandemic with only 205 fatalities.
Greece is also investing heavily in solar and wind power to generate electricity, with solar power recently hitting record low prices. Next, the country hopes to introduce a new digital licensing regime that will apply to the next tender to hit the market, in a bid to increase the number of solar projects eligible for participation. Currently, the permit regime offers an estimated 18-month wait time for new licenses due to a massive backlog.