Estonians, Charge Your Engines …

Feb 22 2013 @ 8:11pm

Estonia has just completed a nationwide infrastructure for electric cars, subsidizing production and building hundreds of “charging stations” across the country. Brian Merchant hails it as the best shot for an experiment in the technology:

[T]he government is making grants available that take 50% off any electric car’s sticker price. Yes, get half-off any electric car (as long as it meets some easy requirements), just for living and driving in Estonia. The average EV price in Europe is 30,000 Euros—Estonia is offering up to 18,000 off. That’s a good deal. Electric cars still only number in the hundreds in Estonia, but this is a comprehensive and unabashed push to transform a deeply entrenched transportation paradigm: This is how a nation paves the way for electric cars, if it’s so inclined.

Walter Russell Mead is skeptical of the venture:

Greens (and the head of Estonia’s EV network) like to protest that only poor infrastructure is keeping electric vehicles from taking off. But it isn’t just infrastructure that makes electric cars a poor substitute for gas-powered cars. A maximum driving distance of 140 km (about 87 miles) is tiny. Stopping every hour or so to charge for 30 minutes is inconvenient. And though it’s still too early to know for sure, one troubling sign for the nascent charging system is the low number of electric vehicles currently in use in the country: 619 electric cars roam the Estonian countryside, but about 500 of these are owned by the state.