Škoda and ČEZ working on electric cars

Two major Czech companies will develop cars and infrastructure

The two largest Czech companies, carmaker Škoda Auto and energy giant ČEZ, plan to work together to develop electric cars and infrastructure. Škoda will make electric cars while ČEZ will develop and build charging stations. The lack of charging stations has often been a stumbling block in the proliferation of electric cars. The two firms will work together to ensure the cars and stations are compatible and that the number of stations can meet the demand from the volume of cars produced.

“Electromobility is a major opportunity,” ČEZ CEO Daniel Beneš told daily Hospodářské noviny. “Škoda Auto for us as a Czech company is a very important partner. Negotiations continue and are progressing” he added.

Even though electric cars have not yet been mass produced, there are already some 70 charging stations in the Czech Republic for just a few hundred electric vehicles. Some 40 more stations are planned along major motorways. ČEZ has received EU funding for the project, as the EU is promoting electric cars to improve the environment. It is the largest network of its kind in the CEE region, according to Beneš.

The number of electric cars is expected to increase and by 2030 collectively they will consume the amount of energy that is put out by a nuclear power block, according some estimates. This makes it an important segment for ČEZ. Neither company wanted to disclose mere details about the project.

Škoda board member Bohdan Wojnar recently told Hospodářské noviny that by 2025 electric cars could make up some 20 to 25 percent of Škoda car sales. Škoda in 2016 sold 183,000 cars in Central Europe, and sells up to 80,000 units annually in the Czech Republic.

Electric cars currently have a high price, which combined with poor battery life and a relative lack of charging stations makes the cars unattractive to potential buyers.

Wojnar says that both battery life and price will improve in the coming years. But customers still require sufficient charging stations or they won't consider purchasing electric cars.

The spread of electric cars can also be boosted by the public sector. The use of electric cars is being promoted as a way to reduce smog, which has been a problem across the Czech Republic this winter. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) recently said the government would seek EU funds for charging stations. The government also announced its intention to subsidize the purchase of electric cars for firms, government offices and municipalities.

Škoda plans to have hybrid electric cars in mass production by 2019, with the Superb for western markets and an Octavia and Kodiaq for China. A purely electric car will be on the market in 2020 based on the VW I.D. concept platform. “We have decided the first plug-in vehicle will be on the market from 2019 onwards, and first battery electric vehicle will then follow quite shortly afterward,” Škoda CEO Bernhard Maier told Topgear magazine in September 2016. “We must focus on our SUV offensive, and then we have to focus on electrification.”

He also says that technology will improve to lower the price of electric vehicles (EVs), but infrastructure is also needed. “We need some technological jumps to cope with the biggest challenges we face for our EV. The first is range, the second is charging infrastructure, the third is weight and overall it is cost,” Maier told Topgear. “In all aspects we expect improvements, and with that it will be accessible for Škoda and its customers to go down the EV route.”

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