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5 Factors That Prove Belarus May Become The Leading Electric Car Nation In Eastern Europe

President test drives a Tesla, the nuclear power plant is coming in less than two years, IT sector is growing bigger and bigger… Can all these factors boost a new tech craze in Belarus?

Because why not!

Amid a lot of latest news on the topic, BelarusFeed has summed up the five obvious factors that can influence – directly and indirectly – the future of electric cars in Belarus.

Factor #1: Lukashenko Calls Tesla A Super Car

Few presidents and other heads of state are car people, experts note, but it appears Belarus’ President is a huge fan of the automotive industry.

We’ve seen Alexander Lukashenko driving a Mercedes at the opening of a new motorway near Minsk, we’ve seen him heading a column of bikers on a Harley. Now the stakes are up!

Last week the head of state drove Tesla – and appeared more than impressed. He called it a “super car” and compared it to a rocket.

“It accelerates so fast it left all combustion engine German cars we’ve tested way behind,” the president said speaking about Tesla Model S P100D experience to high-ranking Belarusian officials.

Alexander Lukashenko compared Tesla to a rocket as he spoke about his test drive experience with top-ranking Belarusian officials. Screenshot from a video by BelTA

“They couldn’t catch up. The Tesla Model S goes off like a space rocket and even harder. 0-60 within 2.5 seconds.

I was curious about traction. It turns out its traction is ideal,” the state media quoted Alexander Lukashenko.

Sceptics would say that Tesla can easily impress a first-timer. But we have a good rebuttal – Alexander Lukashenko appears to be comfortable with electric vehicles.

Alexander Lukashenko test drove Tesla Model S P100D. Photo: BelTA

Alexander Lukashenko test drove Tesla Model S P100D. Photo: BelTA

In fact, according to Belarusian president, this wasn’t his first experience of an electric car. Besides, automobiles have been the President’s “hobby for a long time.”

The Tesla test drive was part of a larger event focused on the automotive industry of Belarus.

Judging by how much attention was paid to the American electric car brand and knowing how decisive Belarusian leader is about the things he likes, one can expect the “Tesla-issue” to be brought up again.

Factor #2: Belarus’ Own NPP – And Electricity – By 2019

Officials expect to commission the  first power unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant (BelNPP) at year-end 2019, the second one – in 2020.

Information sign in front of BelNPP construction site. Photo: TUT.BY

If things go according to the plans, in about two years Belarus will get its first nuclear power plant generating 18 billion kWh of electricity, or 50% of the total volume of energy the country is consuming at present.

Will Belarus be able to export this energy? Although it seemed possible before the construction of the plant had started, it is unlikely now – both for political and technical problems.

According to experts quoted by TUT.BY, Lithuania is boycotting BelNPP for political reasons whereas deliveries to Latvia and Poland won’t be possible because of the lack of large power lines.

Hence, the most viable option as of now is to look for new ways to consume the energy inside the country. For example, by replacing Russian gas with Belarusian electricity.

electric car belarus

Tesla car is seen next to a charging station in Minsk. The first Belarus-made charging station is free for drivers. Photo: TUT.BY

This may result in the reduction of electricity tariffs for enterprises as well as growth of affordability of electric cars for Belarusians.

Not by chance the Ministry of Industry has started working on the state program of popularization of electric transport.

Factor #3: On The Way To IT-Country

Since the beginning of 2017, a new term “IT-country” has been used by the officials in relation to Belarus more and more often.

In March President Lukashenko appointed a new head of the High-Tech Park and visited several major IT-companies in Minsk.

After that, the creation of an IT council was declared and President himself announced a ground-breaking decree that would “turn Belarus into IT-heaven”. In May Hi-Tech Park was negotiating about self-driving cars with Uber.

This new strategy is aimed at changing the vector of the country’s IT industry from service to product.

It is logical: Belarusian universities are strong at technical education, Belarusian IT sector has a good reputation abroad, Belarus has proved it can generate projects of global scale.

Seems like a good time for something much bigger.

Factor #4: New $250 Mln Car Plant

In August first shiny cars will roll off the production line in a new plant in Minsk region.

The capacity of the plant at the first stage is projected at 50,000 vehicles a year; at the second – at 120,000 vehicles.

It’s logical to assume that the high-end industrial facility could be used to manufacture new car models, including electric ones.

Factor #5: Compact Geography

The least obvious but no less important factor for the spread of electric cars is the country’s geography.

The territory of Belarus is rather compact: 560 km from north to south and 650 km from west to east.

Considering the average lifetime of an electric car battery – over 500km for Tesla Model S, over 450 for Model X – one can easily calculate that it’s possible to cross the whole country on one charge.

Road trip from Minsk to Mogilev on Google maps

Batteries in more affordable models of Chevy and Ford, that last for an average of 200km, will allow the driver to arrive from one big city to another.

For instance, get from Minsk to Mogilev, not speaking of trips within one region.

Very handy!