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Why Ukraine Was a Massive Importer of Used Electric Cars?

I have written many stories about electric cars that ended up in Ukraine. The first Chevy Bolt EV that caught fire belonged to Valeriy Laguta, who imported it from the U.S. and saw it burn in September 2019. In August 2021, Sergio Rodriguez told me his Tesla Model X was heading to Ukraine. I had no idea why, but Hans Eric Melin explained that in a sad Twitter thread.
Lemon Tesla Model X that belonged to Sergio Rodriguez was imported to Ukraine 12 photos
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The founder of Circular Energy Storage started it by mentioning cars are a trivial subject in a “terrible war” that can trigger a world nuclear disaster. Nobody can deny that, especially those of us that make a living writing about vehicles. Despite that, cars can help us to tell stories that matter: those of the people involved with them. Melin’s thread helped me finally comprehend why used EVs are such a big business in Ukraine – or at least were.

According to his thread, Ukraine saw a great opportunity with second-hand electric cars. In 2016, the country eliminated customs duty and, in 2018, VAT, which would be equivalent to a sales tax in the U.S. That made used EVs a bargain. Ukrainians began importing the Chevy Bolt EV, Nissan LEAF, Fiat 500e, and almost all Tesla products, such as Rodriguez’s Model X. Too bad it was a lemon. Hopefully, its Ukrainian buyer learned about that before accepting delivery.

Tesla does not sell its cars in Ukraine. Chevrolet never sold the Bolt EV there. Despite these hindrances, people imported them because they could count on several workshops specialized in electric vehicles there, as Belarus and Russia have EV technicians as well. These guys kept electric cars running by doing everything, including replacing their battery packs.

With such an environment, EV chargers also rapidly multiplied around Ukraine. According to Melin, the country had only 5,600 chargers three years ago. Until very recently, it already had 27,300 charging points, and the network was expanding.

What Ukraine did was create a demand for EVs and the infrastructure they need to flourish even without official new electric car sales. In 2021, the country imported 8,541 electric cars, of which 81% were used. It was a 19% increase over 2020. Russia imported 6,000 used EVs, and Belarus around 2,500.

Melin used those similarities in a touching way: it showed that Ukranians, Russians, and Belarusians have more in common than Russians who agree with the war may care to admit. Now Russia is bombing cars and chargers in Ukraine. Ironically, Russia wanted to produce 730,000 EVs by 2030. Economic sanctions have killed that plan, which is the lesser evil in all this. Now, as Melin said, “all of that is gone.” And more, unfortunately.

The destruction of this nascent EV environment is a metaphor for way more than electric cars or charging points. Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian shops made it pretty clear that they can be fixed. Used EVs found a way to keep promoting clean transportation when they were not welcome anymore in Europe or in the U.S.

All they need to keep doing their job is peace. People need that even more: no technician, physician, or dictator ever managed to repair a human life. Once it is gone, it is lost forever. You should never mess with what you are unable to fix.

With that in mind, we can think about used EVs in Ukraine as a sign. When Ukrainians can think about importing them again, that will mean they are back home, living with their loved ones with no greater concerns than thinking about trivial stuff like cars. Amen to trivial. Amen to peace.


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