Visegrad countries fight to keep pace with e-mobility transition

Central Europe falls under the EU average of electric vehicle market penetration.

But it doesn’t want to be left behind by the global trend, leaping into battery production and dreaming even bigger. EURACTIV’s network partners report.

When the news broke that Volkswagen would scrap 3,000 out of 15,000 jobs in Slovakia in 2019, the country was shocked.

The auto industry represents 12% of Slovak GDP and 44% of industrial production. VW has been – until now – Slovakia’s largest private employer. Based on multinational companies assembling mostly cars with combustion engines, the car industry is the backbone of Slovakia’s economy.

VW said the job reduction is due to downscaling of production of several models. But the company did not give clear reasons and rather referred to the corporate strategy approved in at its HQ.

When Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini travelled to Wolfsburg in March to lobby for Slovak jobs, he only came back with vague promises.

Last week, the government approved a new strategy, paying lip service to the industry’s concerns about lack of qualified work force, rising wages and little applied research. But Slovakia’s case shouldn’t be considered as representative of the whole Visegrad Group.

On one hand, the penetration of low-emission vehicles is under EU’s average in all four countries – Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary – which is in stark contrast to their dependence on the auto industry.

And the V4 does face similar structural problems embodied by the low purchasing power on the consumption side and little investments into research on the production side.
Honda’s electrifying Europe plans for 2025

At the Geneva Motor Show, Japanese car giant Honda pledged on Tuesday (5 March) to sell only electric cars in Europe by 2025. It also unveiled its first full electric battery car for European production.

But some in the Visegrad are making progress. Hungary has the highest share of electric vehicles, while the Czechs make their own electric cars and batteries, while dreaming of a Tesla gigafactory.

Poland wants to have one million electric vehicles on its roads by 2025. While the plan may not be realistic, the country is moving forward thanks to a new e-car model and international investments into battery production.

While the Visegrad countries may be challenged by the pace of e-mobility change, it doesn’t shy away from ambition.

The one-million plan

According to a report by NGO Transport & Environment, only Hungary’s 1.5% electric vehicle market share comes close to the EU’s average of 2%. In absolute numbers, only a few thousand vehicles in the V4 are rechargeable, while tens of millions are combustion-powered.

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