Malta national strategy for the introduction of electric vehicles

A sum of €1.9 million has been secured under Life Plus, a programme co-financed by the EU, allowing the government to step up the plans announced in last year’s Budget to facilitate the use of electric cars with lithium ion batteries.

The programme will provide for 24 electric cars to be used by government departments and the public for promotion purposes. It will also offer car importers the possibility of training staff on such vehicles before importing them and fund a national information and awareness campaign on EVs.

When in the Budget the government unveiled a series of incentives aimed at boosting the purchase of electric cars, it was hoped there would be a breakthrough in the number of green cars on the road. However, according to Transport Malta, no such vehicles have been sold so far this year, which only makes it more difficult for the country to reach the target of having 5,000 EVs on the road by 2020. The fleet of electric passenger cars at present stands at about 35.

Resources Minister George Pullicino is confident the target is “realistic”. “We need people to be aware that the new generation of electric vehicles runs on the same lines as other vehicles, only they are more efficient, less noisy and pollute less,” he said. Thanks to the programme, anyone buying an electric car can effectively get about €4,329 back and also install a complete solar-powered photovoltaic system practically for free.

Although more expensive to buy, with most models selling at over €26,000, electric cars are cheaper to run than conventional ones. An electric car needs a maximum of €3 a week to charge and run, compared to about €30 for a similar sized petrol or diesel car. It is a technology that is changing every day and, so, much like computers, these cars can only get cheaper.

There is not much to save on insurance, however. Most insurance companies contacted do not offer cheaper policies for electric vehicles, which are rated more or less like conventional cars, with the premium based on the lowest cubic capacity.

Electric cars, seen as a means to cutting carbon emissions by 40 per cent or more, are ideal for city driving, which makes Malta the perfect candidate. “It can easily be used as a test lab,” said Mr Pullicino.

His ministry is now studying other possibilities, such as granting a dedicated parking space to EV owners and allowing those with no roof access the chance to install PVs on roofs of public buildings. It is also in discussion with car parks to discuss the possibility of setting up charging areas.

A national strategy for the introduction of electric vehicles is expected to be launched by the end of this year. A call for tenders for the installation of nationwide charging points in strategic locations in Malta and Gozo will be issued by October and the points are expected to be in place by 2012. The cost of the points is not insignificant. In the UK, a typical kerbside charging point costs about €5,000 to install.

At the moment, the Maltese green buyer does not have much choice. Future Cars Ltd, the agents for Reva, has suspended sales as the uptake was slow and the infrastructure lacking. Fapi Motors, agents for Tazzari, are mainly electric car distributors for the UK although they do have cars in stock for anyone who wishes to try them out and buy one.