Opening of an electric charger station by the residence of an ex-president Viktor Yanukovych in Mezhyhirya.
Number of electrocars in Ukraine increased by +400% in 2015. Euromaidan Press spoke with the co-founder of ElectroCars company that sells electrocars and promotes electrocars as a lifestyle choice.
Two years ago Oleksandr Kravtsov’s car was smashed by Yanukovych’s “Berkut” riot squads during one of the raids against Automaidan activists.Today he is one of the most active proponents of electric cars in Ukraine, which promise to change the rules on the automobile market very soon.
Kravtsov’s blue car emblazoned with the EU flag has never been repaired, but the activist took this as an advantage: jumped onto electomobile himself and later co-founded ElectroCars Company.
An activist, visionary and a dreamer, Oleksandr describes how after 5-10 more years the whole of Ukraine will run on electricity as his PR manager interrupts his and asks him to “not to speak too futuristically”.
This man knows how to achieve the impossible: in 2013 he was banned from entering Yanukovych’s palatial residence in Mezhyhirya with his fellow driver-protesters. In 2015 Kravtsov put an electrocar charging station right where he was stopped in 2013 – a symbolic act meant to show the irreversible changes to Ukraine.
The increase of number of electrocars in Ukraine reached +400% in 2015. How is that possible?
In 2014 there were very few electrocars. Last year up to 500 new ones entered Ukraine in addition to 45 000 standard automobiles. This way electrocars made up 1%, which means we have reached matched the world standard, percentage-wise. This is even larger than in the US, probably like in China. I believe that as soon as the crisis lifts, this will become a huge trend for Ukrainians.
You were an Automaidan activist, and you are now advocating electrocars. Is that somehow connected?
I came to the idea of electrocars immediately after Maidan. To me, electrocars are a peaceful revolution “on wheels”. It was a change in philosophy and for ecology that is two steps forward.
After Maidan activism became just another part of life. You have to be active so that your country never goes back to December 2013 or January 2014.
An activist in me saw how electrocars can change the country. Businessman realized that the money that we can turn back billions by stopping to invest in Russian economy. But the most important was that electrocars were a nail in the coffin of Russian aggression.
Russian aggression and electrocars? What is the connection?
Let’s say an average Kyiv driver making up to 50 km per week on 95th gasoline. 52 weeks in a year, turns out to be over 50 000 UAH. A Russian tank takes 4l per 1 km, which means 75 UAH. Let’s divide 50 000 UAH to 75 UAH. Looks like one Russian tank financed by one Kyiv driver will make all the way from Moscow to Brovary right by Kyiv and then gets stuck (laughs).
This is, of course, an emotional comment in the context of the ongoing political events and military conflict.
Two factors speak to Ukrainians the most: the fact that an electrocar runs on electricity (which allows saving money on fuel) and also opens up opportunities to develop new market and create new business.
For many electrocars are a manifestation of changing attitudes to consuming in general. The change in attitude is a result of the revolution and the war with Russia.
But the ecological argument isn’t taken seriously yet.
Calls to green solutions are not taken as jokes any more. This is a swift change of conscience that the country is in our hands. Earlier everybody would laugh at the statistics about the gasoline pollution in Kyiv and statistics that 10% of the emissions in Ukraine comes from automobiles. Now people realize that this is significant. So they started buying solar panels, for example, just small ones located on their balconies.
Sounds like a great social initiative. But why will your business be profitable?
This business is between profitability and very high goals. You aren’t just importing goods from China, you are trying to persuade the clients to change Ukraine together. Electrocars and the accompanying infrastructure are our chance to go on the Western level and stop begging for a pittance from the IMF.
Do investors share your optimism?
Big Ukrainian businesses are not ready for the risks. Volunteers, people on Maidan, guys in the ATO are risking their lives and investing their last resources to change the country, but the big business would rather stand idle than invest in their own country.
Then why should foreign investors come?
We have a cheap workforce and (cheap) electric energy. Whoever bets on our market gets to be the first one here as soon as the crisis ends.
Charging electric cars in Ukraine will result in a high margin since the price (of electricity) is extremely low.
Electrocar sales will boom very soon because the sale of diesel and gasoline cars are now around zero. As soon as Ukraine gets out of the crisis and people decide to get new cars, they will chose more and more electrocars.
From the point of view of electrocar culture, can Ukraine be compared to any other country?
Slovaks have better infrastructure but are weaker car-wise. We can be compared to Poland or the Czech Republic – with similar attitudes and infrastructure. We are more like the Eastern Europeans now.
We’ve been comparing ourselves to Russia, but now they only have couple hundreds of electric cars per their 130 mln population. Regarding the infrastructure, it won’t get you far out of Moscow. We have recently made it to Monte Carlo in an electrocars marathon from Kyiv. Moscow-Monte Carlo is impossible.