Why many interested parties hesitate to purchase an electric car
At the summit of the Strategy Platform for the Transformation of the Automotive and Mobility Industries in January, Germany's federal government and automotive industry confirmed their aim to put at least 15 million fully electric vehicles on the country's roads by 2030. Prior to the event, however, feedback from political and industrial circles had already suggested that inadequate charging infrastructure is the main thing blocking the progress of electromobility and making people hesitant about buying an electric vehicle. Several consumer surveys have also indicated that concerns about the lack of infrastructure and vehicle range are preventing this technology from really taking off. According to the management consultancy Deloitte, for instance, its respondents pinpointed these as the most significant arguments against buying an EV (with 57 percent citing limited range and 47 percent the lack of public charging infrastructure).
Dig a bit further, though, and you’ll discover that most of the people surveyed had had no practical experience with electric vehicles. If you ask someone who has been driving an electric vehicle for some time, you’re likely to get a different impression. A survey of over 3,000 electric vehicle drivers by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) revealed that around three in four believe charging at public stations has improved dramatically in the last three years. Overall, the participants were extremely satisfied with their personal vehicle transition: 98 percent would “definitely” buy an electric car again, and 2 percent "probably" would.
National Centre for Charging Infrastructure
At the National Centre for Charging Infrastructure, which is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Transport to manage the activities involved in expanding the country’s charging infrastructure, there’s no talk of sluggish advancement in the switch to electromobility. On the contrary: It’s happy to report that the market ramp-up is proceeding at considerable speed. Since the turn of the year, Germany has passed the two-million-vehicle mark, which includes over one million battery electric vehicles (BEVs). This is a significant milestone on the road to climate-friendly mobility. According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, 40 percent of the new vehicles registered that month had an electric drive. It also stated that Germany’s charging infrastructure was undergoing highly dynamic development. As of November 2022, there were over 72,000 public charging stations in Germany according to the Federal Network Agency, and about 25,000 of them were added last year alone. In purely arithmetical terms, that should be plenty for all users: According to the BDEW, the current demand at the average charging station amounts to just 15 percent of its total capacity. In other words, it would already be possible to charge far more vehicles.
This is confirmed by Lars Walch, head of e-mobility strategy and sales at the energy supplier EnBW, which runs one of the largest public rapid-charging networks in Germany: Utilization data from its more than 800 stations confirms that the existing charging infrastructure covers far more than the current demand. “Overall, a lack of charging infrastructure is therefore not an issue from the present point of view,” affirms Walch, who goes on to explain that the problem has more to do with the isolated cases in which a specific location sees extraordinary use.
Charging in every district
Dr. Ralf Petri, head of the VDE Mobility Division and a seasoned EV driver in his own right, is another industry figure who doesn’t see the charging infrastructure as a problem in e-mobility. "I think we’re on the right track," he says. "There are more places to charge your EV all the time, including in places you visit frequently anyway." A quick look at the current statistics from the Federal Network Agency confirms that there are now charging stations in every single district all across Germany. Kerstin Meyer, project leader for vehicles and drives at Agora Verkehrswende, thinks that "the current state of affairs is actually quite good". However, she does note that the number of EVs has risen dramatically recently, and more quickly in proportion to the number of charging points. Meyer therefore believes that keeping pace with this growth is now key to the development of the charging infrastructure. “We see the greatest need for charging options in everyday locations in the semi-public sector – shopping malls, DIY stores and movie theaters, for example. Developing a rapid-charging infrastructure with a capacity greater than 50 kW would be beneficial for the development of electromobility,” she says. “At supermarkets, where the consumers tend to stay for a relatively short time, high-power chargers with more than 150 kW would be even better."
Aral is also betting on high-power charging. The crude-oil corporation, which has been operating the electromobility brand pulse for over two years, brought its 1,000th charging station online last October. Many of these are high-power charging points. “A rapid and simple charging infrastructure is a central prerequisite for making electromobility even more attractive and entirely practical in everyday life. That’s why we’re really speeding up our efforts to expand our network,” says Alexander Junge, director of electromobility at Aral. The company wants to enable EV drivers to charge their vehicles at about 5,000 charging points in Germany by the end of 2025 – not only at its own gas stations, but at supermarkets and fast-food restaurants, as well. According to Aral, which also became a member of VDE at the start of the year, the medium-term plan is for half of its stations to offer high-power charging.