EV charging points in Europe

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On different EV forums, a question comes up rather a lot about where you can charge your car up when driving across Europe. In some countries, you don’t have to travel very far at all, while in others you may find one or two throughout the whole country. Let’s consider the issue as a whole.

EU variations

A chart of EV charging points by country on the European Union website shows that in 2015 while some countries were really getting their teeth into EV charging infrastructure, others essentially had nothing. While the Netherlands has some of the best EV charging infrastructure in the world, Cyprus didn’t have a single charger.

The Netherlands has plans to get rid of all ICE cars from their roads in the next 10 years. As it is you can find an EV charging point with at least 50kW of output every 50 miles on its major routes and far higher densities in the major towns and cities. While travelling through the Netherlands, you can find Fastned, a network of fast chargers, primarily located on major highways, perfect for intercity travelling.

An article in the engineering magazine E&T showed that Norway has 7632 public charging points across the country, and these are free to use in Oslo. This massive investment in green energy and infrastructure has ensured a surge in people buying EVs – if a government really wants to make EVs attractive it can.

The UK isn’t at the top of the league tables with regards public charging points but the government is actively putting the infrastructure in. This article in E&T said: “In January this year, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced £2.5m of funding to encourage more people and businesses to buy electric vehicles. The plan includes a zero-emission zone in one borough’s town centre, more EV charge points, EV-only parking bays and taxi ranks, and loans of EVs to local businesses.”

In addition, the website stated, “Last autumn, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said that charging infrastructure installed by companies to support electric vehicles will be eligible for 100 percent write-off against tax. There is also a £600 subsidy for companies to install double charging points at business premises.”

This move by the government and the EU has ensured that EV charging points are growing in number by 30-60% a year. Even at the slower rate, this means that the infrastructure should double in reach every three years. The EU has just announced the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive that forces all new build homes to have an EV charging point from 2019, and it is estimated that these new-build homes will account for 10% of all housing stock by 2023.

Chargie

A new company called Chargie plans to enable people visiting a town to use residential charging points through a mobile app. This should tackle range anxiety for some, but should the Brexiting UK decide to follow the EU directive above then there could be a massive market for Chargie and firms like them.

Maps of the moment

A June 2013 EU sponsored report on these maps showed the shortcomings of many of those systems. It complained, “The majority of the charge point (station) map websites reviewed do not contain all of the information that would be useful from an EV user perspective. This would include a good size interactive map, which would include a search filter facility to search for relevant charge points (stations) by location (including address), charger type, charger power, cost of the charger, public or private, other facilities available and a number of charger points.” Many modern EV charging sites have sorted these issues but you should look carefully according to your needs.

Over the last few years, a number of online companies have attempted to set up smartphone apps for people with EVs to use so they can charge up as they do a trip. The best one at present is something called Zap Map that shows several thousand charging points across the UK. If you are driving around the country, this should deal with most range anxiety issues, unless of course, you plan on driving 200 miles through the Scottish Highlands where charging points are few and far between!

There are a number of pan European charging station maps such as ev-charging.com but these can be a little hard to use. As an experiment, I asked ev-charging.com to show me a route from my main home in Dorchester, to my holiday home in Roses, on the Costa Brava in Spain. It assumed I didn’t need to recharge between Dorchester and Paris (410 miles) and then I could charge up 488 miles later in Narbonne before crossing the Pyrenees into Spain. Bit of a problem there – not even the Tesla Model S at full stretch could manage 500 miles on one charge!

One of the best mapping systems available is the Open Charge Map – a publicly supported mapping system where it costs no one any money to register their charging point or to use it. In a route plan, you can therefore estimate your range on a given leg of the journey, find a nearby town or city and work out where to plug in on your route. A private (and paid for) service called Plug Share claims to match this.

When I was test driving the Tesla Model S I was shown the inbuilt satnav system that shows you exactly where all the Tesla Superchargers are all over the world. Its mapping system also suggests charging times at each point over a long drive. If you’ve ordered a Tesla Model 3 then there’s every reason you should expect the same satnav system to get you around Europe in that machine.

Plug Surfing rounds the issue of different charging networks requiring different keys to pay for your top up. The firm claims that with its ‘key’ you can use any one of up to 40,000 public and private charging stations in Europe. New Motion is another site that does the same.

Overall?

We haven’t reached the utopian vision of a charging point for every car on every road, and won’t see that for some time to come. What we are seeing is a massive investment by public and private companies that are making the charging point networks grow at a huge rate, and if anything there will be ones that you don’t see on a map that has just been installed. In short, seek and ye shall find. Do check whether the country of destination has invested in the network though – writing this, I’ve discovered that Spain is an EV charging desert, while France, however, has a growing network…

By Richard Shrubb

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