Almost every electric car driver is familiar with this situation: You have been on the road for a while on long journeys, and the battery is nearing its end of charge. Fortunately, the navigation system shows a few free columns nearby. But then the trouble begins: The column cannot be unlocked for some reason. Neither by card nor with the hastily accessed link to the operator’s website via QR code. Slight panic creeps into the cockpit: try again? Or would you prefer to continue to the nearest charging station nearby? At the risk of the meager remaining charge in the car being wasted even more and the next one running out of power again?
This can quickly become a test of nerves, especially abroad, when foreign-language instructions are also involved at the column and call center. Michael Lohscheller also knows the problem. In many European countries there are only “a handful of charging stations”. In his opinion, the charging infrastructure for e-cars is still too patchy and prone to errors – and thus the greatest obstacle to the electrification of mobility.
“We take climate change really seriously,” asserts, “when I talk to my children, it’s the only thing that interests them in my work.” Are you doing enough? They asked, so Lohscheller. “Do you build enough electric cars?” But the auto industry cannot solve the problem on its own, says Lohscheller. Others would also have to participate in the expansion of the charging infrastructure. And without this infrastructure, customers would not be switching to electric cars to the extent necessary in the long term. Opinions can be divided as to whether this lawsuit is justified. After all, the electrical pioneer has been showing for years that car companies can also take care of charging stations. -Customers across Western Europe and North America will find a free fast charging station on average every 80 kilometers along the freeways and interstate highways. Why shouldn’t the other, sometimes much larger, manufacturers also succeed?
On the other hand, the comparison is not entirely fair. Tesla has no legacy issues: no pension obligations, no aging workforce whose qualifications are more mechanical precision than electrochemistry. No expensive machines and factories that can only produce internal combustion engines and that have not yet been written off. No politicians and trade unionists on the board of directors. And not shareholders who want to see annual dividends – but investors who are primarily concerned with prospects for the future. And who were ready to accept horrific losses in the present.
Justified complaint or not: – Boss Lohscheller is touching a sore point. If in 2030 every second car is really supposed to be an electric car, as the EU’s climate targets and CO2 fleet limits implicitly provide, then the corresponding charging infrastructure must grow with it. Otherwise, customers will simply not buy the e-cars, no matter how high government subsidies, despite enthusiasm for driving fun and low maintenance. After all, being able to charge properly is not a luxury. And, no question about it, the charging infrastructure still leaves a lot to be desired in parts. It is gradually being expanded and the federal government is funding this expansion with sums of billions, but is now also putting laws in place that are intended to further promote this expansion.
But Europe’s charging network still has major gaps. By the end of 2020, there will be around 200,000 public charging points for almost one million e-cars. Private wall boxes at home and semi-private ones at companies, car dealerships or in non-barrier-free garages and parking lots are not included. Five cars per public column – that should be enough, one might think. But as is so often the case, the mere EU average doesn’t say much. Because the charging stations are very unevenly distributed. Whether you can comfortably get through everyday electromobility depends to a large extent on where exactly you are in the EU.
The European car manufacturers association ACEA found out at the end of 2020 that 76 percent of the 200,000 currently available charging points are concentrated in just four countries. The Netherlands leads the way with around 51,000 charging points – so almost a quarter of the entire European supply is located in the relatively small country. Germany is not doing so badly either: after all, there are now around 41,000 charging points in this country. This is followed by France with 30,000 and Great Britain with just under 29,000 charging points.
“The range is now also very good in Scandinavia, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland,” says Martin Klässner, CEO of Has-to-Be from Salzburg. The company develops software for charging station operators and offers remote maintenance. “It can be difficult in southern Europe, and the further east you go, the more sensitive it becomes,” says Klässner. Unfortunately, the popular holiday countries Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia and Greece are also affected. In Greece, the ACEA counted only 61 charging points. Almost a third of them in the greater Athens area. Then it becomes clear: the trip to the countryside has to be planned here along the few charging points.
“Unfortunately, some regions of Eastern and Southern Europe are still very far from an almost comprehensive car power supply as in the Netherlands or California, or even an all-round supply such as gasoline stations,” says Christian Hahn, CEO of Hubject in Berlin. The company is building a roaming platform for electricity suppliers and charging station operators in many European countries; This means that electric car drivers in the respective foreign country should also be able to conveniently access electricity without having to conclude contracts with local providers. Just like you know from using a mobile phone abroad.
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And after all, there is no longer any proliferation of hardware: In North America and Europe, the CCS connector has established itself everywhere; In the past, travelers also had to check whether a column did not hold the competing Chademo connection that is widespread in Asia. Fortunately, those times are over.