The large-scale industrial conversion of conventional cars into electric vehicles is expected to become Bulgaria's new major industry, a special report of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) has found.
The development of Bulgaria's electric vehicle industry is expected to experience a boom in 2012, Iliya Levkov, Chair of Bulgaria's Electric Vehicles Industrial Cluster (EVIC), has told Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) in an exclusive interview.
EVIC, a 100% Bulgarian NGO designed to spur cooperation and coordination between various actors in order to help initiate the industrial production of electric cars in Bulgaria, was formed in November 2009, when a number of industrial manufacturers from the machine building sector, communications and oil industry, and top universities and research institutions came together.
The Bulgarian Electric Vehicles Industrial Cluster has just reached an agreement with Avtomotor Korporatsiya, the official importer of Citroen, for the industrial conversion in Bulgaria of two Citroen models – Berlingo and Jumper – into electric vehicles – a deal described by Cluster Secretary Ivan Kostov as "revolutionary."
According to EVIC, only a handful of countries in the world in addition to Bulgaria, such as the USA and Italy, have the experience and capacities for the industrial conversion of conventional cars into electric vehicles.
"Bulgaria had extremely good positions in the electric vehicles production, and the best part is that we have preserved part of the specialists, not to mention the fact that many of the Bulgarian industrial projects for electric forklifts are still available. A forklift is a precursor to electric cars. I love saying that the new electric cars are actually "tuned forklifts." Their principles of operation are basically the same," explains Iliya Levkov, Chair of Bulgaria's Electric Vehicles Industrial Cluster.
Levkov points out that one of the cluster members, the Di-Ven company based in the Danube town of Lom, has already produced a new electric light truck (unveiled in 2010).
"The analogies with the old electric vehicle platforms are very close. Yes, this is the same thing. Let's not hide it; after all this is something that survived from Bulgaria's older industries. This vehicle is the first manifestation of the rising phoenix of Bulgaria's electric vehicle industry. It is 100% Bulgarian-made so let's give it a chance. It hasn't been tuned, and it doesn't boast futuristic forms but this can be done quite easily, even by students from the Sofia Technical University," Levkov says.
He has stressed that in this field Bulgaria has an enormous lead before the other countries because it has some of the best producers of electric engines and lead batteries.
"We are aiming at the low segment of the market because the lithium-ion batteries are still very expensive, which is why the price of the new electric cars is so high," the Cluster Chair explains.
He emphasizes that while a brand-new electric vehicle costs about EUR 35 000, the conversion of a gas-fueled car into an electric one will cost about EUR 10 000, and Bulgarian companies are already well on the way to launch the industrial conversion of gas-fueled cars.
With a number of initiatives in an early stage, EVIC Chair Iliya Levkov expects decent results from Bulgaria's electric car industry in the near future – some 15 000 conventional cars are supposed to be converted by the end of 2012, in addition to hundreds of new electric vehicles. This will still be a small number out of 3 million registered cars in Bulgaria but a snowball effect is expected to follow once industrial conversion is introduced in Bulgaria.
"There will be a boom of converted vehicles in Bulgaria in 2012. I am convinced of that because parallel to our production talks, we have also negotiated with business clients ready to buy them. These are, first and foremost, delivery, shipping, and logistics companies," Levkov reveals.
Nikola Gazdov, the managing director of Renergy, a Bulgarian company, a member of EVIC which has launched a project to build charging stations around the country in partnership with Siemens, RWE, and one of the Bulgarian power utilities, has told Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) that at least 50 converted and 50 new electric cars will be in use in Bulgaria by the end of 2011.
A few other factors are also boding bright days for the electric car industry in Bulgaria. UK electric car company Zero Carbon 2020 Ltd is starting an assembly line for electric vehicles in Bulgaria's Stara Zagora with an initial capacity of 100 cars, to reach 5 000 in 2015.
"This industry is just emerging, and has an enormous potential, with high added value, investments and highly-skilled labor, it can uplift Bulgaria's economy. This sector should be the number one priority in government economic policies because we have the chance to make it happen right here, right now," EVIC Chair Levkov states with optimism.