Roll-out of public EV charging infrastructure in the EU

Which comes first, electric cars or the recharging points? How to tackle this dilemma has been the subject of considerable debate. This report examines the importance and availability of public charging infrastructure and how to efficiently expand the existing network as the number of electric vehicles on the road increases.

Despite the considerable emphasis on the importance placed on public recharging to drive EV acceptance, the data shows that public chargers are only used for about 5% of charging events. Furthermore, as the market matures this share is expected to decline with a preference for more fast charging over slow kerbside sites. The visibility of public recharging may however be important in encouraging existing drivers of conventional cars to switch to electric options although public chargers are rarely used.  

In western and northern Europe a basic minimum infrastructure is, or imminently will be, available to recharge the EVs. At present there are about 5 EVs on the road per public charging point (compared to the Commission recommendation of 10). With growth in both vehicle and charger numbers there should be about 220,000 chargers by 2020 and a ratio of 10:1. There will also be good coverage of fast chargers along the European motorway network with about 1,000 ultra-fast (150-350 kW) charging sites planned for 2020. These sites will allow drivers to replenish up to 400 km of driving range in only 15 minutes. Additional, 50 kW fast charging deployment will complement these sites with more than 2,500 sites existing today and nearly double this set to be operational by 2020. This translates into one recharging point every 34 km along the strategic TEN-T Core Network – more than sufficient to support the early market.  

In Northern and Western Europe, where 3 in 4 new cars are sold and the chicken and egg dilemma has been resolved, the primary bottleneck in growing the market for electric cars is not the lack of recharging but the lack of cars to plug-in. The study estimates the initial need for public investment will gradually reduce and in the period 2020-2025 the cumulative cost of public charging is estimated at €12 billion, a small fraction of the €100 billion invested by the EU every year in transport infrastructures.

In Southern, Central and Eastern Europe the deployment of rechargers has been much more limited. The market for EVs is expected to lag behind those of the front runners by 5-10 years though investment will be available – the draft European Commission budget for 2020-7 has a commitment to spend at least 60% of the EU’s cross-border infrastructure fund on schemes that help the fight against climate change. This includes €30bn for transport in the Connecting Europe Facility.  

The limited number of charging points today has no significant effect on the current EU market as a whole and future support will be available. Targeting future investment appropriately will be essential and cities in particularly should be able to access these monies. Support for grid upgrades should also be prioritized along with support for startup SMEs.

 


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