Prague - ČEZ has announced plans to buy dozens of electric cars by 2012 and test them in the streets of Prague and Ostrava. The state-run power producer on Tuesday presented the first two vehicles and lent them for free to Prague's retirement home Domov Sue Ryder.
In a bid to promote electric cars in the country, the company has earmarked CZK 500 million to buy more vehicles in the next few years for non-profit organisation and to build the needed infrastructure, namely battery recharging points.
"We can see a major business opportunity here," said Martin Roman, director general and chairman of ČEZ. He added that the goal of the programme is also to improve air quality and to create new qualified jobs in the development of new electric cars.
"Electromobility" will be one of the key directions in which the energy industry will move in the future," said Roman. "Hence we want to intensively participate in its development in the Czech Republic and central Europe."
Cheaper to drive, costlier to buy
For an average motorist, electric cars are still close to useless and there are only about 50 of them in the Czech Republic. Electric vehicles lack a network of recharging points and are significantly more expensive than cars burning petrol, diesel or gas.
A small electric van handed over by ČEZ to Domov Sue Ryder on Tuesday cost EUR 40,000 (more than CZK 1 million). Another limitation is the battery, which costs hundreds of thousands of crowns and lasts for only about 100 km without recharging.
"Yet, all carmakers have electric cars in their future development plans," says Roman.
Compared with cars burning petrol or diesel, the costs of driving an electric car are about 40% lower. Another advantage is that the batteries can be recharged at night when lower electricity rates apply. If the car owner then decides to stay at home, they can use the stored electricity for something else.
"You can use the energy from your car battery to, say, cook your dinner," says Martin Cmíral, who is in charge of the project at ČEZ.
Although most Czech electricity is generated in coal-fired power stations, electric cars are still indirectly responsible for much less air pollution than traditional cars. ČEZ assumes that in the future all electricity will be produced in nuclear plants and from renewable resources.
Prague pledges support
ČEZ plans to use a fraction of its profits, worth tens of billions of crowns per year, to buy up to 100 new electric cars. The first ten will be offered to NGOs in the next few months.
Prague Mayor Pavel Bém describes electric cars as "a particularly interesting topic", adding that they could be part of the Czech capital's efforts to improve the currently poor air quality.
Bém says electric cars could pay less or nothing for entering the city centre after Prague introduces a planned congestion charge. Electric cars are on the agenda of practically all large European cities.
Towards more efficiency
The promotion of electric cars is a part of ČEZ's extensive programme entitled FutureMotion - energie zítřka (the Energy of Tomorrow). Its aim is to support research and development of new technologies, including mass storage of produced electricity.
ČEZ also wants to support construction of small, local facilities that would simultaneously produce electricity and heating (or cooling). The company will help develop intelligent networks that will allow a washing machine to automatically turn on when the local price of electricity switches to a lower rate.