Higher charging infrastructure targets will prevent two-track Europe in EV shift

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Electric car is being recharged [nrqemi / Shutterstock.com]

Rapid decarbonisation of road transport is needed to achieve Europe’s carbon neutrality by 2050. To ensure that no EU country is left behind in the transition to electric vehicles, ambitious charging infrastructure targets must be applied across the bloc, writes Mathieu Bonnet.

Mathieu Bonnet is CEO of Allego and President of ChargeUp Europe, the representative body for the European electric vehicle charging infrastructure sector.

It is estimated that 65% of all new vehicles sold will be electrified by 2030 and that the share of electric vehicles (EV) on the EU market will grow to 42 million. By then, almost every fourth passenger on the road will be in an electric vehicle.

Going electric is Europe’s solution to decarbonising transport. To accommodate this boom, we need to make sure that people can drive and charge an EV everywhere in Europe.

To make this happen, drivers need to know that they can charge at home, at work, when doing their shopping and when travelling on holidays.

This means deploying EV charging infrastructure in homes and apartment buildings, office blocks, highway stations, and on public streets.

While this is already happening, more needs to be done, and political prioritisation is needed to give e-mobility and EV charging the boost it requires to go from being a growing sector to becoming mainstream.

The proposed Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR) presents the perfect opportunity to set the stage correctly for the next decade. Putting forward binding targets for public EV charging infrastructure rollout across member states puts EV charging front and centre of the move to decarbonise transport.

However, the current proposal lacks the necessary ambition to prepare those parts of Europe that currently do not have a lot of electric vehicles on their streets.

The current targets are based on the EV charging network capacity model concerning fleet size, whereby 1 kW of charging capacity should be deployed for every battery electric vehicle and 0.66KW for every hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) registered in a member state.

This risks inaction on the part of those member states that currently do not have a lot of vehicles with a plug and thus risks creating a two-track Europe.

This low level of ambition could result in an under deployment of charging infrastructure that isn’t keeping pace with EV uptake. It also prevents countries that are just beginning their EV journey to catch up with those already far along the road to widespread electrification.

Case in point and controversially, most EU countries would already comply with the proposed capacity targets that would need to be installed. It is clear that this is not enough if Europe is serious about replacing the internal combustion engine with EVs.

To help Europe prepare for a larger volume of EV’s coming onto the market, we need to make sure that we bring all countries along for the ride to electrification. Looking at the EU as a whole, the EV charging network is unevenly distributed – 75% of the existing charging stations are located in only four EU countries.

Tackling this problem means setting EV charging targets that are linked to the share of EVs in a country’s overall passenger vehicle fleet. These should start with more ambitious targets of installing 3kW instead of 1kW per battery electric vehicle and 2kW for every PHEV when the overall car fleet counts less than 1% of EVs.

These targets should then be adjusted according to the share of EVs in the fleet. Importantly and after reaching a 7.5% EV and PHEV share in the overall fleet, the market should be operating organically, so that binding infrastructure targets are no longer necessary.

This more tailored approach will require higher short-term targets and increased ambition which gives a boost to underserved markets. It can provide the political prioritisation and can push member states to develop long-term planning to attract private investment.

This planning should take a comprehensive approach by mapping out and enabling investment and rollout of private charging. Ignoring the intricacies and proper functioning of a start-up market and moving forward with unambitious targets on deploying EV charging infrastructure risks creating an e-mobility divide.

AS EU Ministers and Members of the European Parliament push forward with their respective discussions on the proposal, they must look at how best to transform the European continent into an EV driver’s paradise and push for ambitious, specific goals that relate to country situations.

With the climate crisis giving us reminders every day that there is no more time for talk, it’s crucial that the right frameworks are put in place now, so that road transport decarbonises.

EV charging infrastructure is a rationally driven business that offers economic opportunities for the EU and its member states. It’s more than high time we grab this opportunity to drive the green transition through e-mobility.

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