EVs are in high demand. Are European charging stations up to date?

As oil prices soar and governments crack down on combustion engines to curb global warming, more drivers are considering switching to an electric vehicle (EV).

For the first time, more than half of car buyers surveyed globally want their next purchase to be an electric or hybrid model, according to Ernst & Young’s latest Mobility Consumer Index.

For many people in the European Union, going electric may even become an obligation very soon, as the EU moves closer to ban the sale of new petrol or diesel cars from 2035.

But for now, with the summer holidays approaching, new and future owners may still be nervous about taking long EV journeys, with a nagging fear of running out of energy before driving. reach a charging station.

According to Electric vehicle databasethe average battery range of electric vehicles currently sits at 200 miles, which is enough to allay so-called range anxiety when it comes to everyday use.

But a cross-border European road trip would require refueling along the way, and infrastructure across the continent remains spotty in many areas.

Not only are the charging stations very unevenly distributed, but the providers and payment systems also differ.

Here are three things you need to know about Europe’s electric vehicle charging landscape.

1. Electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Europe is very uneven

The EU has more than 330,000 publicly accessible charging stations, and the number is growing, but their uneven deployment means that “getting around the EU in electric vehicles is not easy”. The European Court of Auditors warned in a report Last year.

Only three countries – Germany, France and the Netherlands – account for 69% of all charging points in the EU, while 10 European countries do not have a single charger per 100 km of road.

The European Commission has set a target of reaching 1 million charging stations by 2025, but the ECA report warned that the target risks being missed “if deployment continues to follow trends”. current”.

He estimated that around 150,000 new points would be needed each year – nearly 3,000 per week – to close the gap.

There are also disparities within countries, with cities being much better covered than rural areas.

Half of Slovakia’s electric vehicles, for example, are registered in the capital Bratislava, a city that’s also home to a third of the country’s charging stations, said Aaron Fishbone, director of public policy at GreenWay, which sells and operates chargers in Slovakia and Poland.

“It serves the vast majority of users the vast majority of the time. But that’s not good enough for long-distance travel and people who live in villages,” Fishbone, who also heads communications for business group ChargeUp Europe, told Euronews Next.

Adding to the confusion, there are dozens of charging station operators across Europe, alongside Tesla’s proprietary network, which is barely begins to open up to non-Tesla vehicles.

Many top-up operators work with subscriptions, but non-members can pay roaming charges to use other networks.

2. There are apps and maps to navigate the jungle of charging stations

Luckily, there are dedicated apps that help drivers navigate this jungle and map their journey, like PlugShare and Chargemap.

The CEO of Chargemap compares the service to a “TripAdvisor of charging stations”, where users can rate charging points and flag those in need of maintenance.

With a card costing just under €20 per month, Chargemap users can access over 600 operators (including Ionity, Fastned, EVBox Allego and New Motion) and some 230,000 charging stations across Europe.

These top-up operators all have different prices, but the unique badge makes it easier to track the bills caused by each top-up, and you don’t have to juggle between subscriptions.

It can also help companies control the costs incurred by their electric fleets. Chargemap already has some 400 corporate customers who use its badges as corporate fuel cards.

Chargemap is well placed to describe how patchy the charging infrastructure in Europe is.

“I would say it ranges from the Nordic countries which are very well equipped, to the southern countries which are much less equipped,” Yoann Nussbaumer, CEO of Chargemap, told Euronews Next.

“So if you’re going on vacation to Spain or Portugal, it’s going to be a bit tricky,” he said, advising EV drivers to prepare well for their trip.

3. The European charging station landscape is changing rapidly

Still, there are reasons to be optimistic. The market is starting to consolidate, and as more electric vehicles hit the roads, more charging stations are appearing and infrastructure investments are recouped faster.

One in 11 new cars sold in the EU in 2021 was fully electric, a 63% increase on 2020, according to data of the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA).

Meanwhile, according to ChargeUp Europe, the number of charging stations available to the public alone has increased sixfold since 2015. These are the chargers found on motorways, car parks or in supermarkets and shopping centers.

These public stations actually represent only around 15% of the total number of charging stations in the EU.

The vast majority of electric vehicle charging happens in private residential or commercial buildings, and that’s where ChargeUp Europe sees the most growth opportunities.

Since electricity is so ubiquitous in the EU, the EV charging industry would like to see regulatory barriers removed so that charging points can be set up much more easily in more places, including in older European neighborhoods with strict planning regulations and fire codes.

“So you charge at home, you charge at the office,” Fishbone said.

Charging anywhere more often, he added, would help “balance” the economics of EV charging, as it is generally cheaper to charge an EV at night at home or during the day at the office. only at public ultra-fast charging stations.

The “good mix”, he suggested, would be to charge 75% of the time at low-cost, low-energy charging points, and the remaining 25% on the move, with more powerful chargers and faster.

In the future, smart charging will help owners know when is the best time to tap into the grid to charge their car – and some vehicles are already able to feed electricity back into the grid.

For now, industry players disagree that charging an EV should be as easy as refueling a car.

“We’re pushing back on that metaphor because it’s the old paradigm,” Fishbone said.

“No, it should be like charging your phone or laptop. It fills up. You kinda plug in wherever you are”.

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