Spain hopes to revive electric car industry with EU funds

Daniel Snchez is one of Spain’s luckiest electric car owners. With a free charging station less than a mile from his home, just north of Barcelona, ​​he can keep his Tesla ready to go.

I can’t imagine stopping at a gas station again, ”said the 41-year-old transport company owner.

“We feel like these people who got out of a horse-drawn carriage and got into a car. There is no turning back.

Other Spaniards are much less enthusiastic. The dearth of places to plug in, compared to Western and Northern Europe, and the price of electric cars have left Spain behind as the continent rushes to become greener.

Now the government wants to bring the whole country into this new paradigm.

The ruling left-wing coalition plans to use part of the 140 billion euros ($ 166 billion) Spain is expected to receive from the European Union‘s pandemic stimulus package to revive its car industry electric.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is due to travel to Madrid on Wednesday while Spain awaits approval of her plan by Brussels. She will meet Prime Minister Pedro Snchez, who compared European Next Generation funds to a new Marshall Plan.

Spain’s Secretary of State for Industry, Ral Blanco, told The Associated Press that the government aims to spend around 5 billion euros ($ 6 billion) over the next three years on its initiative on electric vehicles.

Spain produced 2.2 million cars and trucks in 2020, just behind Germany in Europe. But only 140,000 of them were electric or hybrid, according to ANFAC, the Spanish Association of Automobile and Truck Manufacturers.

What we’re doing is accelerating a change that’s already underway, Blanco said.

It is a unique opportunity. The automakers are on board, and there are resources to make the investments.

A leader in high-speed electric trains, Spain wants to put 250,000 additional electric vehicles on its roads within two years, in addition to the current 96,000.

The push for electric cars is expected to cut CO2 emissions by 450,000 tonnes, according to government projections, as Spain aims to convert completely to renewables by 2050, in line with EU targets.

Spain can conduct these industrial activities with green energy, Blanco said. Compared to other Central and Eastern European countries which still depend on fossil fuels, or other countries which use nuclear power, Spain can rely on renewable energies since it has wind and solar power. .

Spain relies on its robust automotive industry and the key lithium deposits for the production of batteries for electric vehicles that it shares with Portugal.

The aim is to establish a supply chain by encouraging private investment to build a battery factory, as well as assembly and software design factories, all with the aim of bringing out production lines of more climate-friendly cars.

The success of the plan, however, faces obstacles.

Spain has less than 2 public connection points per 100,000 square kilometers, compared to more than 10 in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, according to a 2020 report from the European Court of Auditors.

It’s a snake biting its tail, said Salvador Ejarque, president of the Spanish Association of Electric Car Users, or AUVE.

People don’t buy cars because they can’t charge for them, and those who can invest don’t do it fast enough because the bureaucracy is complex and slow,

The government wants to increase the total number of charging points nationwide from 11,500 to 100,000 in three years.

ANFAC, the group of automakers, said more may be needed.

We need to overcome drivers’ anxiety about autonomy by assuring them that recharging their cars is as easy as filling up with gasoline, spokesman Jos Lpez-Tafall told the AP. It is necessary to put in place a timetable with set targets to reach 340,000 charging points by 2030.

Price matters too. The average annual income in Spain is 15,000 euros (18,100 USD) below the EU average. Luxury cars are a rare sight in Spanish cities, where economy models and motorcycles reign supreme. So, while electric vehicles may attract wealthier Europeans, they come as a shock to many Spaniards.

To remedy this, the government has already spent 400 million euros (484 million dollars) in discounts of up to 7,000 euros (8,400 dollars) on purchases of electric and hybrid vehicles.

It must also convince carmakers that Spain is their best investment bet, while Germany and France have the advantage of having large manufacturers based in their countries.

Spanish automaker SEAT, part of the Volkswagen Group, has pledged to produce an electric car in the € 20,000-25,000 range which Blanco says will hit prices for domestic buyers.

Ford President for Europe, Stuart Rowley, spoke with Prime Minister Snchez in April about Ford’s battery procurement strategy and the importance of the Spanish government’s support for funds from the ‘EU Next Generation, the company said in a statement provided to the AP.

Renault has also reaffirmed its desire to manufacture hybrids in its Spanish factories.

The unions hailed the huge public investment in an industry that provides 10 percent of Spain’s GDP and 9 percent of its jobs.

Garbie Espejo, general secretary of industry at the CCOO trade union confederation, said Nissan’s recent decision to close factories in and around Barcelona was a warning about what could happen if the private and public sectors do not give in the hand.

The Spanish auto industry is in good health, Espejo told the AP. But if we do not seize this opportunity to transform Spain into a leader in new technologies, the impact on industry and employment will be disastrous.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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