The landlocked nation of Slovakia became the latest nation in Europe to open an electric car rapid charging infrastructure this week, with the switching on of not one but fifteen CHAdeMO quick charge stations between Bratislava in the west and Košice in the east.
Covering two of Slovakia’s main routes, the rapid charging stations are owned and operated by GreenWay, the Slovak electric vehicle leasing company which pioneered a low-cost and practical battery swapping system for delivery vans.
At the official opening this morning attended by local dignitaries and Slovak business leaders, the first charging station was officially switched on before a convoy of ten Nissan LEAFs left on the first cross-Slovak trek.
While the Nissan LEAF has been on sale in Slovakia for a number of months, electric cars have yet to gain significant traction there. That’s partly down to the high purchase price and low average wage in the Eastern European nation, along with a lack of public charging infrastructure.
But as Peter Badík, founder of GreenWay explained to us at the launch, the launch of Slovakia’s first quick charge network means that electric cars are now more practical for businesses and individuals to own.
While it may have made its name through its low-tech but highly effective battery swap technology — where delivery van drivers swap the battery packs out manually rather than relying on automated battery swap technology a-la the now bankrupt Israeli firm Better Place — Badík is keen to point out that GreenWay isn’t just about battery swapping.
Instead, he insists, GreenWay is interested in offering total mobility packages, ones where vehicles are leased, along with the necessary charging or battery swapping provision.
Like a traditional vehicle leasing program where customers pay a fixed fee per month for the use of the vehicle over a pre-agreed annual mileage, GreenWay’s Easy Electric service operates in a similar way.
Primarily aimed at business customers, it not only helps businesses avoid paying high initial purchase costs by spreading out cost of ownership over the term of the lease agreement, but it helps GreenWay anticipate demand for its network and battery swap stations.
The ten Nissan LEAFs which left this morning from GreenWay’s Bratislava swap station will arrive this evening in Košice after having covered some 450 km (280 miles). From there, the brand new cars will be delivered to GreenWay customers all over Slovakia.
While access to GreenWay’s 40 kilowatt DC quick charging stations will be given to GreenWay customers as part of their Easy Electric lease agreement, electric car drivers in Slovakia who aren’t GreenWay customers won’t be prevented from using the quick charge network, Badík says.
In fact, those who purchase a quick-charge compatible car before the end of August will be given free access to the charging stations for as long as they own the car, Badîk promised.
For a country where converting a gasoline car to electric is nigh-on-impossible due to large amounts of red-tape and bureaucracy, that’s got to be a great incentive.
It’s also good news for residents of other European countries who want to visit the former eastern bloc country for business or pleasure, making it possible for the first time to drive from nearby Austria all the way to Slovakia’s Tatra Mountains on electric power alone.
GreenWay provided airfare, meals and lodging to enable us to bring you this first-person report.
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