E-Mobility: The “charging stations” bottleneck disappears

It's a chicken-and-egg discussion. Electric cars only really make sense if there are enough charging stations. This is one of the essential prerequisites to ensure that there is a significant demand for vehicles with electric motors. Or is it the other way around? Is the lack of a nationwide charging network because there are simply too few electric cars on the road and therefore not enough money can be earned with the charging stations?  

In order to achieve a reasonable acceptance of e-cars, a network of fast-charging stations is crucial. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there were 7.3 million charging points worldwide at the end of 2019. However, 6.5 million of these can only charge relatively slowly. Most of them are in private hands, i.e. in private households, apartment buildings or at work.

China leads the way

Worldwide, public charging stations only account for a share of around 12%. A plurality of them (37%) are in China and, surprisingly, in the USA (24%). Germany has a share of just 5%. However, there are comparatively few fast-charging stations at public charging points. Most (82%) are located in China with the USA (5%) and Germany (just 1%) ranking far behind. Public fast-charging points are particularly important for large cities as there are fewer private charging options there than in rural areas. They also take away the fear of long-distance drivers that they will have to take long breaks during charging or even get stranded somewhere with an empty battery.

The expansion of fast-charging possibilities is gathering momentum with the number of public charging stations worldwide rising by 60% last year, much more than the number of electric vehicles. It is a positive development that almost a third of the new stations that went into operation in 2019 were fast-charging points. Tesla Supercharger, Ionity (the charging network of BMW, Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen) and Electrify America, in particular, expanded rapidly last year. General Motors has just announced that it is working with EVgo to establish a nationwide fast-charging infrastructure in the USA, with around 2,750 fast chargers in cities and suburbs.

New sources of revenue

Oil companies and utilities also see opportunities for new business here. For example, Royal Dutch Shell bought the NewMotion network in 2017: the company now owns or operates 142,000 charging stations across Europe. Shell also entered the US market last year with another takeover. BP is now also active in the field through an acquisition. This means that Big Oil may be able to compensate for lost future sales once the peak in oil demand has been passed.

Utilities are thinking along similar lines. As industries and appliances become more and more efficient and consume less electricity, selling electricity at the charging points could provide compensation here. The Spanish utility, Iberdrola, and the French EDF have already entered the business.

And now the states are also stepping on the gas when it comes to this issue. Germany, for example, plans to invest 2.5€ billion in the expansion of a modern and safe charging point infrastructure, the promotion of research and development in the field of electromobility and in battery cell production. Even before this, the government had already set itself the goal in its climate package of providing 50,000 new public charging stations over the next few years - there are currently around 33,000. The European Union wants to increase the number of public charging stations fivefold from just over 200,000 to one million over the next five years.

The planned expansion is exactly what the market needs as, according to the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), the expansion of the charging infrastructure is the most important prerequisite for a successful market ramp-up of e-mobility. Without an extensive switch from internal combustion to electric cars, it will hardly be possible to stop further global warming.

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