How is the electric mobility expansion progressing this year?
Still growing strongly. The most recently available figures, for January and February, show that sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in the current year’s first two months almost tripled when compared to the same period in 2018. In these last two months, 1,100 electric vehicles were sold, almost a quarter of last year’s total sales. Portugal is already the fourth European country in terms of share of EV sales compared to overall auto sales, only bested by Austria, Sweden and The Netherlands.
How do you explain Portugal’s leading role, considering the low purchasing power of Portuguese consumers?
Typically, Portugal responds well and is quick to adopt new technological trends. Besides, people take rational decisions, as a rule, and when they confront the price of the vehicle, its maintenance costs (practically non-existent) and the cost of energy, many occasions arise in which the electric car is incomparably more advantageous.
What is the impact of tax incentives? Were there any changes in…
In what regards fiscal incentive to the acquisition of vehicles, we’ve gone from the 2.6 million euros available in 2018 to three million euros in the present year, and now we also support the purchase of electric bicycles and motorbikes. Concerning EVs for private citizens, the incentive increased from 1,250 euros to 3,000 euros. As for exemptions from Motor Vehicle Tax [ISV, in Portugal] and Single Road Tax [IUC, in Portugal], they remain unchanged and continue to apply to companies only. In addition, we’re heavily investing in the electric charging network.
That is actually one of the major complaints of EV users, who point out the inadequate operation of many charging stations e some scarcity of those stations…
That is not a major complaint, because those that do complain are just a few people, and the ratio between charging points and the demand for them is quite good. But we cannot stop. Until the middle of the present month, the Environment Fund will devote 1.5 million euros to provide a 50% non-repayable grant to every operator investing in quick charging
points. This is a very big incentive, which will allow us to have, still in the course of this year, more than 100 quick charging points in the country. Another novelty is that, beginning on the 1st of April, it will be possible to charge EVs in large retailers and malls’ parking lots, following the entry into force of the second stage of the liberalization of the electric vehicle charging market. This means additional opportunities in all regions of the country.
Are we meeting the targets set by the Climate Summit concerning the CO2 emission reduction?
Portugal is even ahead of the goals set for 2030. In terms of the obligations relating to public transportation, we have to reduce CO2 emissions by 26% in relation to the 2005 levels, and we are fulfilling those targets perfectly well. But Portugal goes beyond that, for this country has set the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The roadmap for carbon neutrality, which sets very ambitious objectives, is now being submitted to public debate.
What kind of objectives are those? Will it be necessary to levy a tax on those entering the cities or to impose traffic restrictions inside urban centres?
That is a decision that falls to the municipal councils. That is not exactly the idea, but rather having increasingly more people using public transportation, and also, additionally, that our vehicle fleets come to be more and more decarbonised. Aviation and shipping will be the only means left out. What we do in the next 10 years is crucial. That’s why we want a third of all the vehicles on the road by 2030 to have zero emissions. That is the very reason for the tax incentives and, also, for the joint decree of the Environment and Finance Ministers ordering that 50% of the Portuguese public administration’s fleets be electric vehicles.
What figures do you have of the assessment on the so called new mobility through electronic platforms?
The Act on passenger Transport in Unmarked Vehicles hired through electronic platforms (Portuguese acronym, TVDE), issued in late 2018, has proved to be a pioneering law on a worldwide basis, and it is working very well. We have more than 6,000 certified TVDE drivers, above a thousand operators and four certified platforms. Furthermore, we’ve altered the legal framework for carsharing, bike-sharing, and rent-a-car, including riding scooters, that must now register and fulfil certain requirements, such as having a call centre, for some degree of accountability.
What is the total turnover of this market and its contribution to the Portuguese economy?
We do not possess those figures. But these companies provide even greater assurances concerning tax compliance, because, as each commercial transaction occurs via electronic means, the possibility of tax evasion is reduced.
What changes will there be in the metropolitan areas, this year, regarding mobility?
The most impacting step will be the substantial decrease in travel passes prices for public transportation, which will be more accentuated in metropolitan areas, because that’s where the multimodal passes are in use, which are much more expensive. The programme to support the cuts in transportation tariffs will be providing, starting in April, above 100 million euros for the whole country. This is a decisive step to attract more people into using public transportation. But, overall, we’ve got a 900 million euro plan for improving mobility, ranging from the renovation of 715 buses, rendering them more eco-friendly, to launching a
call for public tender for the expansion of Lisbon and Oporto’s underground networks, and to the acquisition of ten new ferryboats for the crossing of the river Tagus. In the railway department, the plan contemplates the acquisition of new trains – 14 triple-car units –, amounting to 127 million euros. The investment on public transportation has come back.