Russian automaker Sollers says it will inaugurate electric-vehicle production in Russia when it begins building battery-electric Ford Transit vans.
Production is to begin next year at a plant in Yelabuga, Tatarstan Republic, that Sollers acquired from joint-venture partner Ford in late January.
The plant built 1.6L gasoline engines for Ford cars until 2019, when the U.S. automaker discontinued manufacturing operations in Russia.
A Sollers spokesman tells the Russian business publication Kommersant that the Transit BEV will be built simultaneously with the diesel-powered version of the van. Planned production volumes and other details of the project have not been disclosed.
Sollers estimates the share of electric light-commercial vehicles in Russia will grow to about 1.5% by 2022–2023 and to 4% by 2025.
The spokesman says the company already sees steady demand for EVs from a number of its customers in Russia, particularly companies from the e-commerce segment and the international transport business which use LCVs for its local deliveries.
Sollers expects EV use probably will be limited at least initially to areas with the highest population density. To promote EV use, the automaker plans to ask authorities to provide unlimited access to city centers and the use of designated lanes for them, as well as free travel on toll roads.
The automaker believes charging stations should be located in truck parking lots at entrances to cities and along surrounding roads.
Sollers also wants EVs included in the government’s “Affordable Rent” program that offers discounts on auto leases.
Financial analyst Dmitry Babansky of SBS Consulting says the number of EVs on Russian roads may significantly increase within the next several years, as other leading automakers have indicated interest in EV production in addition to Sollers.
One of them is GAZ Group, which last year presented preproduction plans for an EV called the GAZelle e-NN.
Electric vehicles in Russia are a rarity; only 700 were sold in the country last year.
Ford unveiled the E-Transit in November 2020, saying production would launch in 2022. The LCV is to be built in the U.S. and at Ford’s joint venture in Turkey with a focus on Europe.
While the Sollers-Ford JV still exists, Ford has two inactive vehicle production sites in Russia (in Naberezhnye Chelny and Vsevolozhsk). Some of the property and assets have been sold at auction.