Complete update on the deployment of charging stations in France

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy dependence and improving air quality in urban areas: this is what the development of clean vehicles is all about. This sector is also a major industrial challenge for the automotive sector. Hence the interest for the government to take up the issue…

Pending a ministerial reshuffle which will not change the identity of the people who are in charge of the device, in particular at the Ministry of Ecological Transition, Tesla Mag questioned at length Mr. Claude Renard, coordinator for the deployment of charging stations for electric vehicles on French territory. Exclusive interview.

State of play and findings

The starting point is necessarily an inventory of sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in figures. Here are the latest figures transmitted by the Ministry of Ecological Transition:

Registrations in France in 2019:

42,763 private electric cars (versus 31,055 in 2018)

18,582 plug-in hybrid vehicles (versus 13,439 in 2018)

i.e. an increase of +38% for each of the two segments.

Progress continues in 2020.

Registrations in France in the first quarter of 2020:

25,914 private electric cars, an increase of +146% compared to the first quarter of 2019.

9,487 plug-in hybrid vehicles were registered, up +143% compared to the first quarter of 2019.

As of April 1, 2020, there are therefore 312,767 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in circulation (including 245,964 electric vehicles).

2020: the turning point of the electric vehicle

Since 2020, despite the health crisis, registrations of electric vehicles have experienced strong growth, contributing to a profound change in the composition of the French vehicle fleet. Sales of electric and hybrid vehicles represent 37.6% of the French market in June 2021, compared to 21.7% in 2020.

In 2021, around 140,700 plug-in hybrid cars (90% increase compared to 2020) and 165,000 electric cars (54% increase compared to 2020) were registered.

In April 2022, the share of electric car sales was around 12% and that of plug-in hybrid cars was around 9%, making a total of 21%))

When asked whether the deployment of electric charging stations is following market growth as expected, particularly in terms of fast charging stations on motorways, Mr. Renard is very clear in his explanations: “Half of the service areas on highways now equipped with fast charging stations (164 service areas), we had less than a third of them at the start of 2021 and still sometimes equipped with only one or two stations. All areas of the motorway network under concession will be equipped with charging stations for electric vehicles by the end of 2022 (with an average of nearly 8 charging points per area).

At the same time, the equipment of the non-conceded national road network will continue thanks to the mobilization of State services. The exceptional financing of 100 million euros for the recovery plan strongly contributes to these results. Overall, France has nearly 6,000 high and very high power terminals in May 2022 (it is necessary to specify the dates clearly because the figures are changing very strongly, in particular several dozen areas will be equipped by July, anticipating summer departures) which allow recharging in less than 20 minutes.

Since January 2021, the number of very high power terminals of 150 kW and more has been doubled. The 150 kW terminals meet the needs of the new models that manufacturers are bringing to market”.

A response to a need

If “between 80 and 90% of the charges are made at home or at the workplace”, underlines Mr. Renard, some EV drivers still need to be able to recharge their vehicle at terminals open to the public. Either because they travel long distances or because they don’t have one at home. Several million French people do not have a dedicated parking space…

Nevertheless, the government has taken the measure of this need by supporting the installation of charging points, there are more than 60,000 in the territory. Admittedly, “this is not the quantified objective of 100,000”, but it is not a failure either, the curve of the deployment of terminals follows that of the EV fleet. It should be remembered that these terminals open to the public have a complementary use to the terminals at home and to the private terminals.

The latter also make it possible to increase the total number of terminals on the territory to nearly one million terminals on the territory. This development remains very important, even if some consider it insufficient.

Remember, however, that “this network makes France one of the best-equipped countries in Europe: more than 20% of the terminals installed in Europe are located in France”.

The importance of the user experience, not to be overlooked!

“If the terminals are now present on the territory and allow a correct mesh, we must not omit the importance of the power. It tends to be fast on the main roads, but less so in more rural territories… Which can create disparities within the territory.

In addition, the terminals must not only be “present AND functional”! Especially since the infrastructures are insufficient if the car manufacturers do not follow in terms of authorized power by their EVs…

Promoting interoperability – including at European level

You also have to consider the ease of recharging. The operators are numerous, “some 200 terminal operators for more than 300 mobility operators”, and, consequently, the terms of subscriptions are too.

The goal ? “Improving the user experience through agreements between charging operators”. For example, since 2017, it has been mandatory for any user to be able to pay on all terminals in France by the act without having to have a specific subscription. The credit card is one of the means but a mobile application via a website or a QR code can also be one.

The issue of cards and preferential rates is just as crucial. But the government cannot regulate too strongly or be too prescriptive in the face of new uses of payment: “it is not the spirit”. Finally, the ultimate simplification of recharging is based on the “plug and charge” principle.

What are the government’s priorities?

“Facilitate charging in the right place and at the right power, thus the creation of large charging hubs on the territory allows roaming, charging in collective residential was very complicated, several measures make it possible to facilitate installations, in particular via the law guidelines for mobility and more recently the climate and resilience law, the implementation of the IRVE master plans will also make it possible to define priorities at the local level. Finally, it is necessary to support investment projects, without forgetting electrical connections”

In addition, it is necessary to limit as much as possible the problems of traffic jams at the level of recharging. Countries like Germany remain well ahead, but France remains on the podium of all Member States thanks to the deployment of charging points.

Breaking down the barriers to electricity

Company fleets have notably boosted the use of EVs, as have local authorities with the obligation to green vehicle fleets.

“Government communication has contributed, along with that of companies and the media, to reassuring potential interested in this mobility. Democratization is underway, even if certain brakes persist. The EV is more ecological over the whole cycle, but it induces a change in behavior, generally positive, which must be accepted. Indeed, roaming remains different from thermal: you have to plan breaks and the charging time is longer. But the barriers are falling! concludes Mr. Renard.

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