Russia's harsh climate means EVs development is particularly challenging
Russia's startling paucity of electric vehicles means it is at the very start of its alternative fuel journey says the country's Renault operation, although government Ministers underline the country "is not California."
The colossal reserves of oil and gas lying under Russian soil may be a further reason for the reticent uptake of electric vehicles, but so too is the country's extremely harsh winter climate, which mitigates against other early adopters' enthusiasm.
"In Russia we have only 1,000 [electric vehicles] in the country so we are at the very beginning of this road, said Renault Russia deputy managing director, Tatiana Redko at this week's International Economic Forum (SPIEF 18) in St Petersburg.
"It is true for electric vehicles, you need to have charging stations – in Russia we have [only] 250 chargers for 1,000 electric vehicles even though there is a government resolution they should be set up at fuel stations. Companies such as Total and Shell are looking at starting up charging stations at their fuel stations.
"It is important to follow the changes in how electric vehicles are used because [conventional] cars are consumers of gasoline and therefore oil. Things are changing and demand is changing. We have to talk about the future because we will spend the rest of our lives there."
Addressing the same discussion panel in St Petersburg with the title: 'Infrastructure of the Future – How Should Business and Authorities Adapt to the New Environment?' – Russian Deputy Minister of Energy Pavel Sorokin insisted even traditional energy sources in the country could pave the way financially for emerging alternative fuels to be developed.
"I represent oil and gas; it is like a dinosaur in the new digital world," said Sorokin. "Oil and gas in Russia are one of the drivers of investment – [they] are also on of the major components of the digital revolution. In the oil market we are talking about trillions of roubles in production alone. This is the only sector of our economy which can attract such investment.
"Electric vehicles – everybody talks about them – it seems to be a sort of hype. Are you going to build a factory to [manufacture] the spare parts for 1,000 electric vehicles in Russia and charging stations? We are not California here."
But the Renault Russia deputy managing director used the evolution of consumer habits to make a case for adoption of new mobility, citing home ownership and car sharing among several examples.
"The institution of private property has evolved over time," she added. "People have to process a lot of information and people prefer to use things they can throw away. [There is also] globalisation, urbanisation and global migration.
"[Some have said] Every three years people will change a job, a flat, possibly they will transfer mortgages. We have [also] seen Moscow get into a car sharing boom. We are represented in seven out of 13 operators in Moscow."