Sergey Velchev is the founder and CEO at EcoFactor in Ukraine. EcoFactor is creating an environmentally friendly future in Ukraine and the world. The company designs and produces charging stations and provides management of charging infrastructure, as well as designing and producing motor vehicles.
Velchev has long had a passion for engineering and electric vehicles. Back in 2008, he tested the use of electric motors and li-ion batteries, with incredible results. Instantly, he realised the technology had massive potential. When Velchev saw the launch of Tesla and Nissan electric vehicles (EVs) he realised the world had turned a corner and the future of transportation was undoubtedly electric.
He went to found EcoFactor to create the necessary conditions for the further growth of the number of electric vehicles on the roads Ukrainian. Since 2014 the company has been producing AC and DC charging stations for both home and commercial use. Now there are more than 40,000 electric vehicles in Ukraine and each driver, directly or indirectly, is one of the company’s customers.
From the first day of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the company made charging at its stations completely free for all EV drivers so that they could take their families to safety. Velchev is a visionary with a passion and an incredibly generous person. We caught up with him to find out more.
EDs: Do you drive an EV?
I currently drive a Tesla Model S but I should say that it’s not the only EV in my garage. Over the years I’ve built several unique vehicles with an electric powertrain. I’ve turned a soviet-era Ukrainian compact car ZAZ into an EV with 300+ miles (483+km) of range and took it all the way from Odesa to Kyiv and from Kyiv to Monte Carlo as part of an eco-rally event (nearly 1500 miles/2414km).
There’s also an electric tractor that I’ve built for my dad’s farm and a Mercedes G-Wagon that I’ve married to a Tesla powertrain and called it a G-Vegan. Engineering is my passion and whenever I get a bit of free time I try to spend it in my workshop.
EDs: Why did you enter the EV charging sector in Ukraine?
I guess it all comes down to my passion for engineering and electric vehicles. Way back in 2008 I ran some tests using electric motors and li-ion batteries and was amazed at how efficient the drivetrain was. Back then I was wondering why there were no electric-powered vehicles on the streets of my hometown since it became obvious to me that the technology had so much potential.
As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one concerned with the lack of EVs on the streets. A few years later I saw that both Nissan and Tesla launched their EVs into mass production. From that moment I realised that the world had passed a turning point and the future of transportation would undoubtedly be electric.
Slowly but surely people in Ukraine started to show more interest in electric vehicles. EV sales figures across the country remained low, mainly due to higher cost compared to ICE cars, no official dealerships and the absence of appropriate charging infrastructure at the time.
It was the moment when I realised how I could do my part and speed up the adoption of EVs in Ukraine. I founded EcoFactor to create the necessary conditions for the further growth of the number of EVs on Ukrainian roads. Since 2014 we have been producing AC and DC charging stations for home and commercial use. Now there are more than 40,000 EVs in Ukraine and each driver, directly or indirectly, is our customer.
EDs: What is different about the EcoFactor approach to charge point technology?
EcoFactor was founded by engineers and visionaries. I am working alongside people who are passionate about EVs and many of us drive electric vehicles on a daily basis.
From day one of the existence of our company, we paid great attention to the practical aspects of EV charging. This mindset helped us stay ahead of our competitors. We understand the needs of EV drivers in Ukraine, and we know what would be the next best thing in EV charging, and our engineers then quickly implement that for our customers.
Another fundamental thing that sets us apart is that we treat the community of EV drivers in Ukraine with great care. From the first day of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, we made charging at our stations completely free for all EV drivers so that they could take their families to safety.
EDs: That’s amazing. How much did this cost?
That cost us almost three million UAH (almost £70,500) but who counts banknotes when the safety of our fellow citizens is at stake? Charging at our stations remained free for the entire first month of the invasion.
To this day we keep it free for those who actively help the defenders of our country, including medics, volunteers and drivers, who help evacuate people from the hot spots. Despite the ongoing war in our country, we are working to improve our charging network. Right now we are on a mission to deliver the first fast charging hub in Ukraine by the end of this year.
Located halfway between the two largest cities in Ukraine (Kyiv and Odesa) the hub would allow EV drivers to travel back and forth in an almost identical time as a regular ICE car.
EDs: Do you think emobility has an important role to play in energy independence and a sustainable energy economy?
My country is going through its toughest times in modern history right now. People that waged this war against our country are using profits from the fossil fuel trade to fund missile launches targeting my fellow citizens in Ukraine.
Moreover, they are using their energy resources to blackmail European countries so they would stop supporting Ukraine. Right now, energy security is the hottest topic in the world, and particularly in Ukraine, where it’s truly a question of ‘life or death’.
Unfortunately, today we have to talk about the fact that in order for Ukraine to achieve energy independence, we must first defend our sovereignty as such. We are proud to play our part in this, our workshops are working around the clock, utilising the creativity of our engineers to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine modernise their equipment and make them even more mobile and efficient.
There’s a lot going on that I am not able to share at the moment but everyone at EcoFactor is proud of what they are doing to bring all of us closer to victory. At the same time, we keep working on solutions that utilise on-site electricity generation and advanced means of energy storage. Clean, sustainable power generation in remote locations will open up the path to achieving energy independence and will inevitably inspire more people to switch to electric vehicles.
EDs: What are your future growth plans for EcoFactor?
Despite the ongoing war, we keep getting more and more orders for our charging stations that we try to fulfil. The invasion of the Russian military has forced us to rethink our plans a bit and focus on the safety of EcoFactor’s employees.
To avoid the risks, we’ve added another production facility in Poland, our neighbouring country. The next stage would be to ramp up the development of the EV charging infrastructure in Ukraine in order to speed up the mass transition to electric transport.
Our growth plan isn’t limited to Ukraine only. Our charging stations are already working in 16 countries through a network of our partners. Currently, we are making steps towards raising awareness about our work and our products throughout the continent.
EDs: What is your involvement with World EV Day?
EcoFactor supports the World EV Day initiative because we believe that such a global occasion is a great way of letting everyone know about our company, what we do, what we believe in and how we see the future of our own country and the rest of countries on the continent.
We are working to build a reliable and convenient charging infrastructure in our country to connect the North with the South, the East with the West and Ukraine with Europe. This would provide every EV driver coming to Ukraine the ability to go wherever they want and charge their vehicle whenever they need to.
EDs: Where do you see the future of EV charging in Ukraine?
This is a great topic that’s worth coming back to a bit later. It has now become obvious that the war has acted as a catalyst for the transition to renewable energy sources and electric transport. This is coming from a desire to be more independent from the influence of so-called ‘gas station countries’ and to be less vulnerable during fuel crises.
People increasingly choose electric transport due to its advantages and ease of use, which means that the emobility sector in Ukraine has a bright future. I believe that the growth of the energy sector in Ukraine and the further development of the network of charging stations for electric vehicles will create favourable conditions for us to become the leaders of the emobility movement in our country.
Personally, I am looking forward to working with more partners in the UK and other European countries. We have a lot to share from our own experiences and we’re always happy to hear from people who are working to bring an electric future closer to their countries. Together we will make our future truly electric.