Electrically powered cars are quiet and are considered environmentally friendly. But the fear of not finding a plug holds buyers back. Is the charging infrastructure in Germany really that bad? We looked at the numbers – and got a surprise.
Current is the future, and not just since “Dieselgate”. Last year, according to a recent Deloitte study, 35 percent fewer peoplesaid they would want to buy a diesel. However, the number of cars continues to increase, as the Federal Motor Transport Authority reports: At the beginning of 2019, 47.1 million cars were registered in Germany.
More cars and fewer diesel engines – shouldn‘t that mean a noticeable change in favor of e-mobility? In fact, the number of electric cars is growing slowly. What prevents Germans from buying electric?
Infrastructure as a Selling Point
Anyone who engages in the purchase of an e-car looks first at its range, then at its price. In third place comes charging infrastructure. According to Deloitte, around one-fifth of respondents complain about the “lack of charging infrastructure” in Germany.
E-cars can be charged at a standard socket, which every car driver can use at home. In addition, there are thousands of public and partly public charging stations at energy utilities, in parking garages, and in front of shopping centers or hotels.
The Federal Network Agency reports 8.735 charging stations in Germany (as of May 2019). A charging station may contain several charging points, much like a gas station has several pumps. In March 2019 there were, according to BDEW, 17.400 charging points in Germany, 2,000 of them quick chargers. These charging points with higher kW output are especially relevant for long-distance traffic. The Swiss company schnellladen maintains a comprehensive mapof all quick-charging points in Germany – you can see at a glance the distribution along the highways.
Five Cars Share One Plug
17,000 charging stations, of which only 2,000 are quick chargers – that doesn’t sound like a lot. But currently only 83,000 pure e-cars are registered in Germany. That means a public charging plug is shared by just 5 e-cars. Even adding the 341,000 registered hybrid cars, there are still only 24 vehicles per charging point.
Statistically, therefore, the charging infrastructure in Germany is more than adequate. The problem is firstly the distribution – in Dortmund, about 9,000 inhabitants come to a charging station, in Stuttgart, though, only 2,600 – but secondly, the user experience of the new technology. Many different vendors set up charging stations that vary their prices and billing models.
In public discussion, associations and politicians argue for more, and more flexible, e-mobility, better supply, or a rethinking on the part of car manufacturers. However, what is really needed is a common, cohesive approach to so-called technological diffusion. This means a unified user experience no matter where and how you charge your car. Especially for electrically operated hauling fleets and other commercial users of e-cars, this uniformity in availability, charging behavior and billing will be essential in the future.
Conclusion: Structure is Needed
In recent years, the number of electric cars has been slowly but steadily increasing. The number of new charging points is rising at least as fast: Today, five electric cars use a charging point, which is a hundred times better ratio than with combustion engines. Nevertheless, motorists perceive the charging infrastructure as inadequate. One way to counter this is to have a more extensive range on a single charge and better communication. For example, the range of today’s models, such as that of Volkswagen, is 300-500 kilometers and thus more than adequate for everyday use in urban areas.
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A second possibility, which would have a parallel effect, would be installation on existing structures. So far, the placement of charging stations seems random and poorly ordered. In Finland a different model shows how it can be better: There, a start-up has snapped up existing structures – namely sockets in parking lots, which were intended for engine heaters in the Finnish winter – and turned them into smart e-fueling stations. A smart power outlet can be paid for by app and provides electricity in a straightforward way. The solution is simple, universal and consistent.
In the end, it’s clear: There isn’t a shortage of sockets, but of a meaningful framework that unites everything that pertains to e-mobility: driving, refueling, paying. As soon as a common solution emerges from the sea of possibilities, e-mobility in Germany will pick up speed.