Germany aims to fight EV range angst with more chargers
The German government is disbursing some €1.8 billion to commercial electric car charging station operators in a bid to reduce charging availability anxiety that keeps people from buying electric cars.
The uptake of electric cars forms an essential part of Germany’s climate strategy in its mobility sector, with the government aiming to have 15 million electric vehicles on German roads by 2030.
However, concerns over the need to charge electric cars on public roads during longer trips still make many consumers hesitate to choose an electric model, according to government analysis.
“In order to build a comprehensive and needs-based fast charging network everywhere in Germany at the necessary speed, the market-driven activities of the charging infrastructure operators alone are not enough,” Kurt-Christoph von Knobelsdorff, CEO of state-owned NOW GmbH that coordinates the government’s activities around charging infrastructure, said.
Therefore, the government has started disbursing €1.8 billion to commercial charging station operators, obliging them to build 8,000 new fast charging points at 900 locations in less densely populated areas.
This week, it announced the 10 companies that received the awards for parts of the new “Deutschlandnetz” network, including oil giant Total Energies, power suppliers such as E. On and BayWa, as well as established charging operators such as Allego and Fastned.
The aim was to close “blank spots” in the fast-charging network, to give people confidence they will find a charging spot wherever they need one, even on longer journeys, the German Transport Ministry said.
“Individual mobility is a valuable asset in a free society,” Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP/Renew Europe) commented on the announcement, calling it a “milestone which will ensure that users have a reliably available range of fast-charging options in Germany”.
The road for the subsidies was cleared in December 2022, when the European Commission gave its green light for the subsidy scheme after legacy charging operators complained to the Commission that it might distort competition.
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Car industry fears penalties
Meanwhile, carmakers are pushing for more speed.
“People need the confidence to be able to charge their electric cars anytime and anywhere at fair and affordable prices for the transformation to climate-neutral mobility to be successful,” a spokesperson of the German car industry association VDA told Euractiv.
“Germany still has a lot of catching up to do,” the spokesperson said, adding that “at the beginning of this year, around half of all municipalities in Germany did not have a single public charging point.”
Under the EU’s CO2 standards for cars and vans, carmakers are obliged to significantly reduce average emissions of newly sold cars by 2030, meaning that they need to boost the uptake of electric cars or otherwise face severe penalties.
At automotive trade fair IAA in Munich at the beginning of September, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD/S&D) promised carmakers to work as a “team” towards the uptake of electric cars, with politicians to ensure sufficient charging points and cheap electricity to charge.
Scholz added his government will soon make it obligatory for “almost all” petrol station operators also to provide fast-charging facilities for electric cars.
A spokesperson of German automotive drivers’ club ADAC told Euractiv that “it is difficult to estimate whether the goal of allaying consumers’ remaining fears will be achieved,” but called the 8,000 new points “an important step towards widespread coverage, which is important for consumers.”
ChargeUp, a trade association representing private charging operators, said, “A billion-euro lot of range anxiety comes from people simply not knowing about the existing charging options”.
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No price guarantee for subsidised stations
Despite pumping €1.8 billion of taxpayers’ money into the new scheme, the German government could not set strict conditions for the private operators of the subsidised charging points, such as a maximum price per kilowatt hour of electricity.
Since the subsidised charging points are built in regions with low competition, operators could take advantage by dictating higher prices than what would be charged in a competitive environment.
The government had initially hoped to introduce a price cap of 44 cents per kWh but had to drop the idea during the negotiations with the European Commission, which saw it as distorting competition.
“A price cap would certainly have been desirable to protect consumers and for reasons of transparency,” the ADAC spokesperson said, noting, however, that this “applies overall and not just to the [subsidised] Deutschlandnetz”.
“The ADAC generally calls for more transparency at charging stations, such as through displays during the payment process, charging prices, et cetera, comparable to the market transparency office for fuels,” the spokesperson added.
At his Munich speech, Scholz said he aimed to make charging EVs “as easy or even easier” than traditional refuelling.
A spokesperson of the Transport Ministry told Euractiv that “the selected operators have committed themselves to only charging appropriate and standard market charging fees” and that this was monitored by the government, which would be willing to inform the competition authority if it finds evidence of excessive charging.
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