Updated: Apr 30
Edited on April 30: with answers to our questions from the Government
The number of electric and hybrid vehicles on the streets in Macedonia is constantly growing over the years, but significantly slower compared to the countries of the European Union and the region.
The data obtained by Skopje.IN from the Ministry of Internal Affairs shows an increase in the number of registered electric and hybrid vehicles over the years.
A total of 3,136 hybrid vehicles were registered last year, compared to 2,331 in 2021. Meanwhile, 476 electric vehicles are registered in 2022, while 274 vehicles in 2021.
There are several reasons behind the fact that the trend of such vehicles is significantly slower. Some of them refer to their price, the insecurity among the population due to the lack of adequate infrastructure of fast chargers, but also because there is no interest or initiative from the government to do something more serious in this field, Oliver Velkovski explains.
Velkovski from the Association for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles "Elektromobilnost Skopje" explains to Skopje.IN that in the past period there has been a certain interest among several socially responsible companies that have realized the benefits and invested, or are in the process of investing in electric vehicles and chargers.
"However, this number of e-vehicles is so small that it is negligible compared to the total number of vehicles in the country", Velkovski says.
Infrastructure is the impetus for increased electromobility
In Macedonia, alternating semi-fast chargers 22kW with Type 2 plug, dominate, most of which are installed by the power distribution and supply company EVN in public parking lots, and in front of several hotels and markets, Velkovski explains, adding that there are about 40 of them.
At the same time, he adds that Procredit Bank, in cooperation with its customers, has installed about 20 such chargers, as well as several other companies, in front of gas stations, hotels, restaurants, and business facilities.
"The infrastructure for charging electric vehicles is one of the main factors and a prerequisite for the integration of electric vehicles in the country", Velkovski is determined.
Such chargers are installed mostly in Skopje, and the rest in larger cities, with their numbers being between 80 and 90.
"When it comes to semi-fast chargers, and regarding the number of e-vehicles that drive through our streets, I currently think that the number is optimal for urban areas, if they are all maintained properly and are available for use", the representative of "Elektromobilnost Skopje" says, and at the same time points out the problem of charging places being occupied by other vehicles, which causes a problem for electric vehicle owners.
According to him, what is very significant when talking about charging infrastructure are fast, one-way chargers above 50 kW, which he says offer the added security of electric vehicle owners to freely move around the country without restrictions.
"The lack of a sufficient number of such chargers is a major problem in our country when it comes to electromobility. Macedonia is a relatively small country - the longest distance is about 200 km, and with one battery charge you can reach any location, but there is still some uncertainty when traveling longer distances. There are currently only two such fast chargers in our country, one of which is located near the Bogorodica border crossing at a gas station - at the entrance to Macedonia from Greece, with a power of 100 kW, and the other location is in the vicinity of the business premises of a vehicle importer in Skopje, where two fast turbochargers with a power of 320 kW are located", Velkovski explains.
According to him, the most important thing when it comes to infrastructure is the installation of fast chargers on the road corridors, that is, on the road routes from the border crossing from Serbia to Bulgaria and Greece in both directions.
"Taking into account the practice in the EU for the optimal placement of chargers on road routes 50-80 km between two chargers, we believe that with 12 chargers in the first phase, the initial needs for electric vehicles from the country would be met, but also to foreign tourists who quite often know how to bypass us with their electric vehicles due to the existence of uncertainty about the method of recharging the batteries of their cars", Velkovski says.
The free parking lots are almost non-existent
Parking spaces for electric vehicles that will be free and without restrictions on time of stay, except for resident parking spaces, is quite often one of the incentive measures provided by local authorities in accordance with EU practices, according to Velkovski.
But he believes that in Macedonia, city authorities usually see free parking for electric vehicles as a loss of profit for their public enterprises, even though, as he says, the number of such vehicles in our country is very small.
"At the moment, free parking for electric vehicles is provided only by three municipalities in the country - Strumica, Bitola and Ohrid. Currently, there is no free parking for environmentally friendly vehicles in Skopje, although until some time ago the Municipality of Centar provided this benefit to the parking lots managed by Parkinzi Centar (POC)", Velkovski says.
However, with a change in the POC regulations, the parking spaces for electric and hybrid vehicles were abolished.
"As an association, we turned to POC, from where they replied that this benefit is being canceled under the pretext that they do not have enough parking spaces in their territory, which in our opinion is not a valid reason for this measure. Regarding this decision of the POC, we also addressed by email to Mayor Gerasimovski, but until today we have not received an answer regarding this Decision of the POC and our proposals that we submitted to him", Velkovski says.
Currently, free parking for electric and hybrid vehicles is only possible at the parking positions where chargers have been installed, but only for the duration of charging, and then the owner must move his vehicle, the representative of "Elektromobilnost Skopje" adds.
The government and institutions should set an example
When talking about how to increase the use of electric and hybrid vehicles, the finger should be pointed at the Government and the institutions it manages, according to Velkovski.
He further adds that the European Union has been working intensively for a long time towards drafting regulations for the integration of electric vehicles and setting up an appropriate infrastructure of chargers in the territory.
"This regulation is part of the EU's climate package, entitled Fit for 55, whose goal is to reduce climate-damaging emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The next step for the oldest continent in the world is to achieve full carbon neutrality in terms of climate by 2050", Velkovski adds.
At the same time, he is determined that in order to enter the EU, Macedonia will have to incorporate such regulations into the domestic legislation and start applying them, Velkovski says.
"For which it is necessary to react immediately and start applying the EU recommendations when it comes to electromobility. Here we will list some directives and regulations to make it clear what we are talking about: Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28), Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30), Clean Vehicles Directive (2009/33), Regulation of pollutant emissions, Regulation of CO₂emissions, the Directive 2014/094 on the deployment of infrastructure for alternatively fueled vehicles...", Velkovski explains.
To to make electric vehicles more accessible to citizens, the state should take measures.
In the context of this, Velkovski points out that to see a real effect of reducing air pollution from traffic, it is necessary, according to him, to first reduce the import of used vehicles below the EURO5 standard.
At the same time, he says that the biggest polluters such as public transport buses, taxi companies, distributors, postal services and the like should be motivated and supported to replace their old vehicles with low emission standards with electric powered vehicles.
"The government and state institutions need to be an example and be the first to start the process of replacing their vehicle fleet with electric vehicles, but more from the point of view of functionality, not luxury. If we recall the 83rd session of the Government in June 2021, information was reviewed with a comparative analysis of import duties for the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles, compared to import duties for the purchase of vehicles with diesel or gasoline engines, prepared by the Customs Administration", Velkovski says.
"Based on such an analysis, the Customs Administration suggested that when purchasing vehicles by state institutions, vehicles originating from countries with which our country has an agreement for the use of preferential rates for the import of new vehicles of 0 percent duty should be taken into account, as EU, Turkey or Great Britain. At this session, a conclusion was reached that all government institutions must plan offers of electric or hybrid vehicles or vehicles that use the least polluting fuels in the next purchases. The Government has indicated that it will recommend these conclusions to the local self-government, as well as to all administrative institutions, judicial authorities and other budget users, as a future practice in the procurement of motor vehicles. We honestly have no information on whether anything has been done regarding this conclusion, and if there was something, it would have been presented in the media", he adds.
The announced subsidies were never realized
Although they were announced, subsidies for the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles were never realized, Velkovski claims.
They were announced in the proposed measures by the Government in 2018 as part of the Clean Air Plan, in conditions when Macedonia was one of the first-ranked countries in the world in terms of air pollution.
Velkovski is determined that, from this perspective, after 5 years, they were just a populist measure to alleviate the citizens accusations about air pollution.
"Otherwise, we will only remind you that the Deputy Minister of the Environment at that time gave a promising statement: 'The clean air plan is a strategic priority of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia for joint action and a healthy future' which gave us hope as an association and supporters of electromobility that things will finally move from a deadlock", Velkovski says.
In addition, he explains that in accordance with the Plan, the Ministry of Economy a year later drafted a draft law to amend and supplement the Law on Vehicles, which provided a subsidy program for the purchase of electric vehicles.
According to him, every country that has a clear goal of bringing electromobility closer to its citizens, needs to have its own policy and strategy on how it plans to implement it and in what period.
"Electric vehicles and charger infrastructure in most EU countries are already adequately regulated in their legislation, and the way they motivate citizens to replace their old vehicles with electric ones is very various, starting from direct subsidies for the purchase of vehicles and chargers, reduced import duties, reduced registration costs, free parking lots, free tolls, privileged movement in central city areas where the movement of internal combustion engine vehicles is not allowed, movement on fast lanes, and similar measures", Velkovski explains.
Subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles, he says, are one of the main incentive measures to motivate citizens to replace their internal combustion engine vehicles with electric ones.
"No one from the central government has shown interest in talking to the civil sector about subsidies or any other topic from the point of view of how to bring electric vehicles closer to becoming more accessible to citizens. Why is that so, we honestly could not answer, although we regularly send initiatives through which we would provoke the authorities to think more about this topic and with the hope that they will invite us as a civil society sector to meetings and debate", Velkovski is determined.
He does not agree with the view that the state does not have funds for such projects, and points to the environmental fees for vehicle registration and the fee for financing environmental activities for every liter of fuel used by citizens and companies.
"The funds that are collected from the owners of internal combustion vehicles because they somehow contribute to air pollution, it is logical that they should be directed to environmental projects that will contribute to improving the situation with air pollution from traffic, such as electromobility. Why this is not the case should be asked by the authorities in the respective Ministry. In this direction, the Association for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles 'Elektromobilnost Skopje' appeals to the Minister of Environment and Physical Planning and the Government as soon as possible to direct such funds collected from citizens under so-called environmental fees into a fund with the help of which the electrification of transport in our country", Velkovski is determined.
At the same time, the Association also submitted a proposal-initiative for the Government's annual work program for 2023, where they requested within the framework of the Law on Value Added Tax to enable a preferential tax rate that would be an additional incentive for citizens who would decide to replace their old vehicle with an electric one.
This measure, Velkovski says, was submitted due to the still high price of electric vehicles, and in order to provide additional support to citizens when importing electric vehicles, but they have not yet received a response from the competent institutions, although the proposal was submitted before the end of last year.
"What we are constantly trying to point out to the Government, institutions and local authorities is that some of these proposed initiatives and changes in the legal and by-laws are temporary until the goal is achieved and until such vehicles become financially available to the citizens ", Velkovski points out.
Skopje.IN sent questions to the Government, and we did not receive a response until the publication of this article. However, a few days later, we received answers to our questions.
The Government confirmed that, according to the 2018 announcement, the Draft Law on Amendments and Supplements to the Law on Vehicles, which provided a subsidy program for the purchase of electric vehicles, was changed in a parliamentary procedure and the program was removed from the text.
At the same time, they also indicated that the Ministry of Economy has submitted to the Government a Proposal for their Annual Work Program for 2023 - "Program for subsidizing the purchase of new hybrid and electric vehicles for 2023", with hope that the Law on Vehicles will be amended, and it will incorporate the said Program - but it was not approved.
"The program provided funds in the amount of 240,000,000 MKD. It was planned to subsidize an amount of 3,000 euros in denar equivalent for the purchase of hybrids and an amount of 5,000 euros in denar equivalent for the purchase of electric vehicles", the Government adds.
"We point out that the benefits are in the area of taxation of such vehicles upon their importation, in accordance with the Law on Motor Vehicle Tax, which is the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance (Customs Administration). According to the Law on Motor Vehicle Tax, electric motor vehicles are exempt from motor vehicle tax", they point out.
At the same time, they say that through the Ministry of Transport and Communications they are considering all the options and opportunities offered by the use of electric vehicles to design and introduce a network of plug-in charging stations on Corridor 10 for the protection and improvement of the environment.
The Government says that EBRD consultants are working on the preparation of a feasibility study for "plug-in" chargers on Corridor 10 and Route 6, after which, as they add, they will have an insight into what it will show.