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Charging EVs must be as easy as charging traditional cars

Charging EVs must be as easy as charging traditional cars

Smart Energy Group is a group of companies specialising in the provision of services in the field of renewable energy, including construction and manufacturing, as well as the production of photovoltaic panels. Svetoslav Mladenov is the director of business development at Smart Energy Group OOD. For the past 28 years, he has worked for multinational companies, investment funds and banks in sectors related to investments, energy, pharmaceuticals, logistics and energy diplomacy. Mr. Mladenov is former executive director of the Bulgarian Investment Agency and member of the Supervisory Board of the Fund of Funds under the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Bulgaria.

Mr. Mladenov, considering Smart Energy's experience in the field of green energy, the group's entry into the field of charging stations for electric vehicles seems a natural continuation. Still, how did you make the decision to expand into this area?

When the company was established in 2009, we set clear goals and dreams for Bulgaria, Turkey and Europe. We set out to create a global brand in the energy sector by presenting a new perspective and alternative for future power generation. We have built this company on a solid foundation with our self-confidence, knowledge, understanding of quality and service.

We have been working enthusiastically since the day we started with the first solar park project. Our main goals are to follow the latest technological and R&D-based trends, offer products that protect the environment and human values, leave a greener world and clean energy for future generations.

We want to use modern technologies to build a closed ecological and green system, e.g. green cities, that includes solar farms, storage of the produced electricity and consumption through the sale of produced electricity to end users. It is only natural that we develop our portfolio of products and services as part of our strategy. One of these projects is the development of charging stations for electric cars. We see these stations not only as a profitable area, but also as a social responsibility. With our production capacity and technology, we add value to the world and Europe's Green Deal.

The charging stations in the Smart Energy portfolio actually bear the group's own brand. Tell us more about these products and their development.

The charging stations are assembled in our factory in Turkey and a huge variety is available for both slow charging and fast charging stations. We aim to cover all fleets, from cars to trucks and buses. The high quality of the products is guaranteed by quality certificates, which are issued for each station.

Smart Energy has operations in several European countries, including Turkey. How does the Bulgarian market differ from other markets in your portfolio specifically in the area of electric car charging stations?

Bulgaria reports an improvement in the accessibility of charging stations for electric cars this year, according to data from the European Association of Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA).

The leaders are the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries with a high market share of electric cars and charging stations. The rate of installation of charging infrastructure remains a problem in Europe. While the share of electric vehicles is growing rapidly, the availability of charging stations in many EU member states remains limited. Not only is there a shortage of EV charging stations on major EU roads, but the majority of these devices do not provide fast charging. According to adopted legislation, by 2026 there should be at least one electric car charging station every 60 km on main EU roads. The same requirement will apply to trucks and buses, but only on the main road corridors on the EU network where more powerful stations are to be located. There will be some exceptions to the rules for the outermost regions, islands and roads with very little traffic.

If we are to convince citizens across Europe to switch to electric mobility in the next decade, charging these cars must be as easy as charging fossil fuels today. Particularly in Bulgaria, it is of great importance for the state to offer a more motivating package of incentive measures to the future owners of electric cars. For the time being, there are insignificant stimulating measures, which, compared to other European countries, are not sufficient to propel mass consumption in the sector. An adequate law for the promotion of electric mobility is needed. This law should determine the institutions to be engaged in specific tasks for the development of electromobility; obligate municipalities to provide places for charging stations. Electricity distribution companies should be incentivised to provide easy access to the electricity network and preferential financial instruments should be introduced for small and medium-sized enterprises that invest in the construction and management of electricity charging infrastructure.

In the foreseeable future, the battery will become the core of mobility. It powers the various types of engines as well as all the electronics on board. The future of electric vehicles depends on the development and introduction into production of cheap and efficient batteries. However, mass production of efficient batteries for electric vehicles still requires a lot of effort, serious commitment and a strategic approach.