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A visit to the picturesque Rhodope Mountains

On the 21-st and 22-nd of June, our team managed to visit two more towns – Smolyan and Zlatograd – deep in the Rhodope Mountains.

There was great interest for the test-drive of an electric vehicle in Smolyan, both before and after the round table, with 6 guests seizing the opportunity – half of all the guests present at the event! The venue for the event was a hall located at the central shopping street and was provided to us by Mr Ivo Tsarev – partner at Rhodo Consult and prominent representative of the local business. Mr Tsarev has already been in touch with a member of the E.VE.CR.I team with regards to identifying suitable locations for the installation of charging stations.

The municipality of Smolyan had already obtained two fully-electric vehicles and was looking to get more! Mrs Evtima Petkova, who is the “Strategic planning, Innovations, Projects and Tourism” Director for the town, asserted that electric mobility is considered a priority for the town’s development hence the great interest in our event and the project. Technical assistants to the municipality have also been organizing events for pupils aimed at raising awareness – through playing a card game – about climate change and the cause-effect links between human action and the environment. The municipality has been working on Horizon2020 projects as well as other initiatives related to the development of clean energy within the region.

Present at the meeting was Mrs Ginka Chilingirova, a director of the local Ford and Citroen dealership, and she shared with us that, despite demand for electric Citroens being yet to pick up (fully electric models AMI and Ë-C4 100% ËLECTRIC have only recently been made available in Bulgaria), the expectations are for an exponential rise in the demand for electric vehicles.

Another notable guest at the Smolyan Event was Georgi Tonkov who is a local politician and, in his capacity as a technical expert, is a member of a commission at the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The event had overall informal tone due to the well-educated and engaged audience who did not hesitate to ask question and share insight.

On the next day, the round table in the small quaint town of Zlatograd was held at the picturesque ethnographic complex. Present at the event was Lyutvi Hadzhiusein from the Organization for Management of the Tourist Region “Rhodope Mountain” who shared with us that his organisation and local hotel owners were looking for ways to increase their competitiveness and attract new customers to this part of Bulgaria. We explained that the development of electric mobility is certainly an increasingly important component to the overall development of any region.

The most notable guest was the mayor of Zlatograd himself – Mr Miroslav Yanchev. As an entrepreneurial and industrious person, evident by the fact that he has been holding office for more than 15 years, Mr Yanchev was visibly kindled by our initiative and assisted us in securing a place for the installation of a charging station on the spot!

Some of the attendants at Zlatograd had certain reservations towards EVs and electric mobility as a whole. In fact, all of their concerns have to already been voiced during our previous events. Mr Martin Zaimov, chairman of BAEPS and presenter at the event, attempted to dispel these concerns:

  • Cost of electric vehicles – Despite most new EVs costing upwards of 70,000 BGN (35000€), price too high for most Bulgarians, there is need to factor in the less expensive electricity, lower fees and taxes and much lower maintenance costs so the overall cost of owning an electric vehicle becomes comparable to the cost of owning a similar conventional car. Used electric vehicle are also becoming increasingly common on the market. Mr Zaimov shared with the audience that he pays monthly around 470 BGN (240€) for his BMW i3, amount that that is affordable for a sizable proportion of the general population.
  • Charging times and small ranges – A person with electric vehicle can reach any point but it needs planning. So the solution charging times and small range is switching to a culture that is planning-oriented and having ‘no rush’ attitude.
  • Sustainability of EV batteries – Some guests had somewhat justified concerns about the environmental impact lithium-ion batteries have – both during their production and after their useful life. And whether EVs really are more environmentally-friendly and sustainable than conventional cars? It is estimated, however, that when all life-cycle processes and materials used are considered electric vehicles are overall much less polluting than internal combustion ones. Lithium-ion batteries are successfully recycled and can also be used in energy storing “farms” following their decommission. Not to mention that the EV technology is relatively new and is constantly developing. For example, recent scientific breakthrough led to development of lithium-sulfur batteries which are expected to be cheaper, more environmentally friendly and have bigger capacity.

The following day another round table occurred in Xanthi, on the Greek side. With last two events in Smolyan and Zlatograd, the total number of round table events in Bulgaria has been brought to 8 with 4 more to go. The last round table are expected to be hold within the next two months. Currently, the focus of the project is switching to the installation of charging stations. Our team has already managed to identify more than 25 points suitable for the installation of charging stations. Negotiations between the owners and network operators are underway so we are expecting the first stations built as part of the project any time now!