What is the current state of the European EV charging infrastructure?

May 20, 2024

Electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure will play a crucial role in the electrification of the European automotive industry. Tom Hooker, Autovista24 journalist, explores the sector.

More electric vehicles means greater pressure on the European charging infrastructure. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), there were 632,423 public charging points available across the EU at the end of 2023.

At the same time, there were approximately three million battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on the road. Between 2017 and 2023, BEV sales increased more than 18 times, expanding the network of charging points sixfold.

The trade organization predicts that 8.8 million charging points will be needed by 2030. To achieve this, 1.2 million chargers would have to be installed annually. This target is almost ten times the current growth rate. In 2023, only 153,000 new public charging points will be installed.

Take the lead

The European Commission wants to have 3.5 million charging points in the region by 2030. This is to support the electrification required to achieve the proposed 55% CO2 emissions2 emission reduction for passenger cars.

The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR) oversees the rollout of public charging points across Europe. It was introduced as part of the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ package, a set of policy proposals drawn up in 2021 that aim to help the region reach 2030 carbon emissions.2 goal.

The regulation stipulates that from 2025, fast charging stations of at least 150 kW must be installed every 60 km along the EU’s main transport corridors.

However, it is not binding for market parties, such as EV charger manufacturers and grid operators. The EU Member States will be bound by this, with the requirements being transposed into national laws.

“For the member states, this mainly means that they must provide a draft policy framework, a national policy framework, by the end of December this year,” CMS Berlin partner Gerd Leutner explained during electrive live.

“It’s not as clear in all respects as you would like, but I think this is due to the fact that the industry is evolving, the technology is evolving and it’s difficult to define or use very detailed concepts,” Leutner said .

Regional performance

According to ACEA, some countries in Europe are leading the way when it comes to charging infrastructure. This includes Germany, France and the Netherlands. These three countries account for 61% of all charging points in the EU, while covering only 20% of the region’s surface area.

Although they cover around 80% of the bloc’s area, the other 24 EU member states have only 39% of charging points.

Analysis by the European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO) shows the different approaches being taken in the region. Countries in Western Europe, including Germany, France and the Netherlands, have widespread networks that support a large EV base.

Moreover, these regions are also investing significantly in high-capacity units. However, their average charging capacity per plug-in point is lower than in some other countries in the EU.

Infrastructure is now making more consistent progress in southern European countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece, despite delivering lower energy levels on average. The Nordic region has also seen stable infrastructure growth, without a large amount of average charging capacity.

Countries in Central and Eastern Europe offer a higher charging capacity per point. Yet they have a smaller network due to reduced adoption of electric vehicles. This includes Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

Operator insight

One competitor in the EV infrastructure market is Ionity, a charging point operator (CPO) that operates in 24 countries. It currently has 628 charging stations throughout Europe.

Since its founding in 2017, the company has focused on long-distance locations along highways. It is expanding into metropolitan areas, providing access to taxis and delivery services that need to connect between routes.

‘The plan is to expand the network to more than 1,000 places and around 9,000 charging points, at least until 2027. We would do this by having new locations, but also by adding capacity to existing locations where we see good utilization, where we can extend the contract and expand the location with more charging points,” said Ionity managing director and COO Markus Groll during electrive live.

Source: Ionity

The company’s three largest markets in terms of revenue are Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Ionity currently has 137 active charging stations in Germany and a further 19 locations under construction.

With 157 locations, France has the highest number of active stations, while six new locations are being built. However, Britain is a much smaller market, with only 28 live locations and 16 under construction.

‘The market shows a lot of potential. We will grow this market to approximately 80 to 100 locations over the next two years,” Groll said.

Growing markets

Despite having one of the largest EV market shares in Europe, Ionity only has 40 active stations in Norway. This is due to the country’s smaller passenger vehicle fleet and highly saturated CPO market.

“It doesn’t make sense to build 200 locations for us in Norway with this kind of market potential that we currently see,” Groll said.

On the other hand, electric vehicles have a much smaller share in the larger Italian and Spanish markets.

‘The countries are of course large. To have a good network, you have to cover quite a distance. That is why we will continue to grow the network to fill the gaps,” he said.

“We must not forget that the future potential is enormous because the countries have a large fleet of vehicles. We will have to monitor the market and then invest selectively and also build the right locations for these countries,” Groll said.

Network challenges

Operating a charging network across Europe poses complex challenges, such as taking into account different energy laws and currencies, as well as the recently introduced AFIR.

Another hurdle to overcome is the regional climate. With varying temperatures across Europe, some chargers may be exposed to extreme heat, while others may experience harsh winter conditions.

Source: Ionity

‘We are talking about a temperature of minus 40 degrees in the north of Norway or Finland in winter, and it remains at this level for a number of days. On the other hand, there are also very warm temperatures in the south of Europe, where in some regions it can reach 50 degrees in summer,” Groll explains.

‘So we need heating and cooling systems in the chargers, which ensure that the chargers continue to function even under these extreme conditions.’

Lead times

The time it takes to build and activate an EV charging station can vary depending on the region and lead times for power supply and permits.

Looking at the power supply, connecting to the electricity grid in countries such as France and Austria can take around 12 months, compared to around 24 months in Italy and Spain.

‘Substations have also become a bit of a bottleneck in recent years. In some countries we talk about lead times of between six and sometimes sixteen or fourteen months. Germany and Great Britain in particular pose a challenge in this respect, because many CPOs, but also sustainable production facilities, need substations to supply electricity to the electricity grid,” says Groll.

Source: Ionity

Elsewhere, some countries require operating permits, including Germany, France and Spain.

Construction permits can also slow progress. In countries such as France and Norway, approval can take around six months, while in other locations it can take around 18 months.

‘In some countries, especially Germany and Spain, we sometimes have a really long process to get the building permits from different authorities. We always decide at the individual location level. “We need to decide what is the longest lead time in the process and how we want to build and operate the site next,” he added.

Load competition

With the growth of EV charging points and stations, competition between charger manufacturers and CPOs will become fierce. A growing player in this highly saturated market is EVBee, founded in 2022. Earlier this year it unveiled the public AC charger Lumina.

“It is a charger designed to be as versatile and configurable as possible, with a great emphasis on ease of installation,” Fredrik Eksund, head of product development at EVBee, told Autovista24.

Source: EVBee

As a charger manufacturer, EVBee may also face regulatory issues and other obstacles.

“One of the main obstacles for the public domain in particular when it comes to the installation of charging points is the amount of demands that arise there, either from the public, from the regulatory side or from CPOs,” Eksund explains.

“In order to use electricity readings as a basis for charging people for electricity, you need energy meter readings that are accurate enough and comply with the necessary regulations,” he said. “There are some differences with home chargers, which means that the price tag for these types of charging points is traditionally quite high and sometimes even restrictively high,” Eksund concludes.

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