Following its energy transition strategy, the European Union has announced that the production of petrol cars within the EU market will be halted after 2035, as confirmed by the European Parliament last week.
Overall adherence to this goal among EU member states has thus far been encouraging. In 2021, 19 percent of all newly registered passenger vehicles in the EU were electric, with more than 1.2 million EV cars sold. In some countries, such as Norway, 75 percent of all newly registered cars were electric.
This clearly demonstrates an EU-wide shift toward electric and hydrogen-driven vehicles, as well as automated self-driving, with huge investments centered on these technologies. From July of last year, the EU has allowed the sale of Level 3 cars, with ambitious plans to pioneer the legal sale of Level 4 autonomous vehicles.
Croatia, as an EU member state, has been rapidly building its own innovation ecosystem based on the principles and guidelines outlined by major EU policies as well as by making use of EU assistance in this field.
Perhaps symbolically, a guiding force in Croatia’s focus on innovation is the lesser-known fact that the famous inventor Nikola Tesla was born in the small Croatian city of Smiljan while the country was still under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Even as a relatively small country, Croatia has actively responded to the EU’s sustainable transport goals. Alongside the heritage of Nikola Tesla, Croatia’s two Nobel prize winners in Chemistry (Ladislav Ruzicka and Vladimir Prelog) further ensure that the fields of electrical engineering and chemistry are in the DNA of Croatia’s industrial development. This is particularly exemplified by the company Rimac Automobili, run by Mate Rimac, which has emerged as one of the fastest growing European hyper-electric car companies, with large ownership shares held by both Porsche and Hyundai Motors. Rimac’s EV-car model Nevera is the world’s fastest fully electric hypercar, and can reach 100 kilometers per hour in only 1.85 seconds.
The European Commission has recognized the innovative and business potential of this environmentally conscious company and has approved an initial grant investment to Croatia of 200 million euros ($219 million) in the construction of the new EU R&D hub for EV batteries, autonomous driving solutions and new EV green energy technologies, based close to Zagreb.
As a country of numerous UN-protected cities, highly biodiverse national parks, and with 1,777 kilometers of Adriatic coastline, Croatia is strongly oriented toward the protection of nature and keeping the environment clean and unpolluted.
Indeed, the natural beauty and preserved rich cultural heritage of Croatia attract more than 20 million foreigners who spend more than a collective 100 million nights in Croatia annually.
However, whilst certainly beneficial to the country’s economy, this large influx of tourists, most of whom arrive by car, presents an additional environmental challenge. In response, Croatia has been rapidly pivoting toward increased electric mobility and facilitating research in producing electric vehicles, advanced technologies in the production of electric batteries, as well as in extending the EV-charging network for the increasing number of European electric cars arriving in Croatia.
On their way to the Adriatic coast, thousands of Tesla cars, Kona, Ioniq, Niro, and Rimac, and many European electric vehicles are passing every year close to the village in Croatia where Nikola Tesla was born.
Each year the Tesla Rally brings the hundreds of the EV lovers to participate in the quietest rally in the world, riding along the stunningly beautiful Adriatic coast. And, as a part of the rally route, they make a short stop just in front of the house where Nikola Tesla was born, which today is a museum -- to pay respect and recognize how his visionary mind has made the world better and environment friendly.
2023 marks 80 years since the death of Nikola Tesla. As it is well known, he was a visionary and a pioneer of innovative thinking whose inventions directly supported the future development of renewable energy.
However, Tesla’s tangible legacy would not be as influential and beneficial without the support of industrial leaders and governments of the time, which allowed these global transformations. Tesla is often referred to as the man who lit up the world. Now, with an ever-expanding understanding of the urgency and scale of the climate crisis, it is time to enlighten the world once again.
He would surely be delighted if he might be here in the present time to see how quickly the new trend of e-mobility is taking dominance in Europe. With wide public support, a global commitment toward environmentally friendly and sustainable development has become the mainstream. It is essential for ensuring a cleaner, safer and healthier future for new generations.
A better future is, after all, directly visible at our roads through the dominance of EVs.
Loreta-Bertosa Kusen is minister plenipotentiary at the Embassy of Croatia in London. Views expressed in this article are her own. -- Ed.