Author: Miloš Petrović, PhD in Mechanical Engineering, President of the Association of Vehicle and Parts Importers and Director of the Center for Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
A few weeks ago, I was at Mt. Kopaonik, where the Congress of Cardiologists was being held and Prof. Ivan Tasić, PhD from Niš was giving a lecture on premature mortality due to air pollution. Unfortunately, Serbia holds a high second place in the world by premature mortality due to air pollution. Official data shows that 100,000 new vehicles with the Euro 6 emissions and more than 500,000 used vehicles were imported in the past five years, most of which are a serious threat to the preservation of the human environment.
In 2017, only 158,462 used vehicles were imported, of which approximately 100,000 were with the Euro 3 emissions, which began to be used in 2000. Certainly, citizens should be allowed to buy what they want within their means, but it is necessary to bring order to the market for the sale of motor vehicles so that not all waste and polluters end on the streets of cities in Serbia.
For days now, a leading topic in the media is the possible pollution from hazardous waste found in Obrenovac, even as we inhale cancer-causing particulate matters in the streets of Belgrade on a daily basis, which no one takes seriously. In the city center, pollution is several times higher than allowed.
At the Center for Electric and Hybrid Vehicles, we are committed, in cooperation with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, to including the expert public in raising citizens’ awareness of the importance of this topic for their health, while the Association of Vehicle and Parts Importers cooperates with all institutions that have legislative and executive power in this sector. We still have ways to go, but I think that we have now taken the first step and that we are on the right track after the establishment of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Solutions are around us
Almost all of the global vehicle manufacturers are more or less quitting the development of fossil fuel engines (and most of them are slowly abandoning diesel engines) and developing alternative engines only. In a few years, there will no longer be fossil fuel vehicles on the market, leaving only electric and hybrid vehicles, but by then, it will be too late to do anything. All waste from Europe will end up in Serbia and will be driven on its streets. That’s why it’s important to do something urgently, and it does not take a lot of activity and ideas – one merely need look at what’s in the neighborhood.
Hybrid vehicles currently dominate the alternative fuel vehicle segment because a lack of infrastructure and electric chargers makes it impossible to drive an electric vehicle (EV) in Eastern Europe in a comfortable way. Serbia is lagging behind the Eastern European countries because it does not have a developed network of chargers, nor an incentive system. We are working hard to show the significance of reducing air pollution, as clean vehicles are subject to a higher levy than the polluting ones.
The minister of environmental protection has stated that “polluters will pay if they pollute,” and this fact will make such vehicles worthless and motorists will slowly switch to cleaner ones. We cannot prohibit the use of polluting vehicles, but, I repeat, we can bring order to the market.
Let’s make Serbia a better place to live!
The environmental fee on imported vehicles is at RSD 12,000 (EUR 100) per tonne. Unfortunately, in practice, the fee is paid only by companies, while individuals do not pay it, due to a poor interpretation of regulations or the impossibility of quarterly collection.
Since more than 500,000 vehicles have been imported into Serbia in the past five years, most of them by individuals, it is clear how much money the state loses due to this loophole. We believe that individuals should not be privileged and that, initially, electric and hybrid vehicles should be cleared from this levy.
In Western Europe, electric and hybrid vehicles are subject to various benefits, such as incentives ranging from EUR 4,000 to EUR 10,000, free parking, no road toll, yellow lane driving, and free entry to the city center, as is the case with London. There are no incentives in Serbia. On the contrary, electric and hybrid cars are subject to a higher environmental fee because these vehicles are heavier due to their batteries. Never mind the fact that they are environmentally friendly!
We need to comply with EU standards a little bit more and look up to developed countries if we want to make Serbia a better place to live.