This article is part of the Killing the Combustion Engine special feature, presented by SQM.
It is only a 150 kilometer journey through Cyprus; well below the distance an average electric vehicle can travel on a single charge. Range anxiety – a major barrier to switching to electric vehicles – shouldn’t be a thing.
“Because it’s so small, we don’t have those problems,” Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said.
But the island’s share of battery electric vehicles is among the lowest in the EU – in 2021 just 0.06% of cars on the road were battery electric vehicles, down from 0.8% – or 2 million out of 270 million cars – for the entire bloc, according to the EU’s Alternative Fuels Observatory.
Cyprus has been slow to build public charging stations – the country had just 57 last year – and there are complaints that an incentive scheme aimed at boosting sales of electric vehicles has been wrong target.
This is shaping up to be a major problem for Cyprus as the EU steps up its climate efforts; transport accounts for 21% of the island’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Commission warned in a report earlier this year that Cyprus “still has a long way to go” when it comes to green mobility. Public transport is underutilized, increasing private car use, and the market for zero-emission passenger cars is “still at an early stage of development”.
“You can imagine the burden the transport minister of Cyprus has in meeting our environmental goals,” Karousos told POLITICO.
But Nicosia is aware of its delay. It hopes to inspire more people to ditch their often aging petrol and diesel cars for electric vehicles with its first electromobility strategy to promote clean cars, buses, taxis and bikes.
The country has a national target of making all new car registrations electric by 2035 – the same target that is being drawn up by the EU.
money for cars
To get the ball rolling, the government has used pandemic recovery funds to offer grants of up to €9,000 for the purchase of an electric vehicle, plus an additional €1,000 if owners scrap one. polluting car, with separate programs for plug-in hybrids, vans and taxis and another support program for the installation of a solar energy system at home.
The idea was a huge success, with 8,000 people – or about 1% of the population – applying within hours, Karousos said.
However, the transition to electric vehicles is running out of steam.
The grants portal operates on a first-come, first-served basis, and those who set foot in the door had two months to claim their money. If they did not, the grant passed to the next round of applicants. It is now in its fourth round, said Alexis Anninos, president of the Association of Motor Vehicle Importers of Cyprus.
“It basically shows … that people weren’t exactly ready to exercise that option and buy the vehicles in that year,” he said.
Indeed, many people who applied for a grant thought it would make an electric vehicle cheaper than an internal combustion engine car – rather than just closing the cost gap – “which is a mistake”, he said. he declared.
There were also other doubts, he added, including the cost of charging and the state of the charging network, which is “in its infancy”.
On top of that, the supply shortage that continues to hamper auto deliveries also means that Cypriots who have purchased an electric vehicle will have to wait months to get their cars.
Charalampos Theopemptou, leader of the Cypriot opposition Green Party and MP, argued that the €10,000 reduction in the price of a new electric vehicle still leaves them out of reach for many.
“How many people have the money to buy such an expensive car?” “It’s good to promote electric cars, yes, but who are we subsidizing with this device?”
There are also concerns about the appropriateness of switching to an electric car on an island where the vast majority of electricity is generated by burning oil.
Cyprus’ electricity supply “actually will make you think twice, because you’ll be charging an electric car with expensive electricity, produced by heavy oils,” Theopemptou said.
He argued that the money should have been invested in the island’s charging infrastructure or to get authorities to electrify their fleets. “You have to do this to feel comfortable buying an electric car,” he said.
Company-owned cars and municipal vehicles are a good place to start the electrification process, said Oscar Pulido, fleet electrification manager for Spain at the Green Transport & Environment group. Increasing the fleet of electric company cars would add to the used market and make them more affordable.
Instead, individual consumers were responsible for 94% of battery electric vehicle purchases in 2021 – the highest rate in Europe, according to the International Council on Clean Transport.
Theopemptou, of the Greens, said successive governments had failed to follow through on green transport plans drawn up a decade ago.
Greening transport in Cyprus must go beyond car-centric policies and focus on public transport and incentives for cycling, he said.
“We could be the greenest country in the world. We have everything: we have the sun, we have the knowledge… We have everything, but we don’t,” he said.
Nektaria Stamouli contributed reporting.
This article is part of the Killing the Combustion Engine special report, presented by SQM and was produced with complete editorial independence by POLITICO reporters and editors. Learn more about editorial content presented by external advertisers.