Estonia goes electric with new car charger network

TALLINN (Reuters) - Estonia has become the first country in the world to install a nationwide system of fast chargers for electrical vehicles, the manager of the new system said, as part of European efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

The 165 chargers were produced and installed by engineering group ABB ABBN.VX, and construction was financed from the government's sale of 10 million surplus CO2 emission permits to Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation 8058.T.

The 2011 deal with Mitsubishi also provided the government with more than 500 electric cars and the financing of a subsidiary system for people to purchase electric cars.

“Now is the time to really press the pedal and move forward in electrical mobility. We have proved that there is a real possibility to set up a network in a country, and there are no technical barriers,” Jarmo Tuisk, head of the programme which has run the scheme to set up the network, said in an interview on Wednesday.

Estonia and other countries have seen weak take-up of electric vehicles due to high driving costs and their short range from a single charge.

The network of fast chargers strategically placed along roads and in towns means that users need not worry about running out of power during their journeys. It also features a nationwide unified payment system.

Estonia, with a population of about 1.2 million, has 619 all-electric cars, of which 500 are used by public authorities and about 100 by private people and companies.

That amounts to one electric vehicle for every 1,000 cars, second only to Norway, which has four per 1,000. The Netherlands is third at 0.6 per 1,000.

Tuisk said that with the national charging network in place he hoped the number of electrical vehicles owned individuals or companies would double to 200 this year. (Reporting by Patrick Lannin; additional reporting by David Mardiste; editing by Jane Baird)