Going electric: The future of electric driving, charging stations and parking

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

During Corona, car showrooms have been shut, factories have closed and far fewer of us have been driving. This has resulted in a considerable decrease in car sales of 52.9% year-on-year in March in Western Europe. However, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) found that the number of electric vehicles (EVs) in Europe jumped by a massive 57%. While EVs still only represent 4% of cars in Europe, the jump in registrations during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic showcases the increased demand in EVs and the resilience of the emerging market.

Electric cars have been on the agenda for a while as it is seen as one way to improve the environmental aspects of road transport and can play an important role in reducing road transport-related carbon emissions. As the European Commission decided to cut CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2030, one measure is to focus on vehicles which have quite low CO2 output, such as EV’s.

In 2018, the latest year for which statistics are available, the average emissions were 122.4 grams CO2 per km, according to the European Commission. By 2021, average emissions from new cars should not exceed 95 grams of CO2 per km. Because of the limited room for further improvements to the electric vehicle technology, mainly with the combustion engine, future CO2 reductions are strongly dependent on sales of alternatively-powered vehicles, which means automakers should drastically focus on selling more electric vehicles.

Popularity of electric vehicles

Luckily, as sales went up by 57%, it seems that people are willing to buy electric vehicles as an EV is environmentally friendly and has lower ongoing costs. 29% of Norwegian EV buyers cite “environment” as their primary reason for purchase. Additional benefits are offered to drivers of EVs by local governments to stimulate sales of electric vehicles. Such as preferential parking permits or subsidies. However, others are still held back due to higher initial costs, limited driving range, the charging time and the difficulties finding a charging station.

Current situation for EV charging

In order to motivate drivers to buy an EV and to accommodate an increased supply, the infrastructure of parking should be adjusted accordingly. Currently, most countries have been operating with minimal criteria with regards to EV chargers, such as placing one EV charger for every 7 electric vehicles in the area. Whereby EV owners who have their own parking area are expected to acquire their own EV charger.

Though it seems logical that EV’s require enough charging stations as well, by 2018, it seemed as if 76% of all charging stations were located in only 4 European countries according to the ACEA. Hence, the ACEA found that Europe needs an enormous increase in charging points over the next 12 years in order to meet its EV demands, up to 20 times the amount we have at the moment. This makes it clear that all member states must step up their efforts to ensure a network of recharging and refuelling infrastructure which is accessible throughout the EU.

EV chargers are not yet readily available everywhere, which means that owners currently have to actively seek out EV charging points wherever they go using different maps or apps with inventories of these charging locations. An active approach to know where to charge at parking or along the way is currently the expected from EV owners. Making charging as stress free as possible by having more charging points and good infrastructure is something which is advocated as it is expected to increase the attractiveness and sales in EV’s.

Future needs for public parking

In 2019, one EV charger per 7 cars was enough. However in the report by Transport & Environment (T&E) on ‘How many charging points Europe will need in the 2020’s’, it is stated that one EV charger per 7 cars can’t accommodate EV charging in the long run.

They claim that around 1.3 million public charging points will be needed by 2025 and close to 3 million in 2030. Hereby, it is important to hold into account the current limits of vehicle technology, such as how much energy one station can supply and also how readily available these charging stations are to the public. This shows that an increase of EV charging stations is highly needed within public parking, and along highways, to ensure full coverage and increased appeal for the public. EV charging should be as simple as possible and should be included in parking facilities, near shops, sports and leisure facilities. Preferably used for shared vehicles as opposed to private vehicles to even further decrease CO2 emissions. It is important that all EU countries consider working together in this and set international as well as national standards to accomplish the goals of promoting this electric vehicle technology by adding over 3 million EV charging stations to parking.

EV charging stations at private parking locations

An increase of charging stations is not only necessary on the street; part of those 3 million could be built at private parking locations. Adding electric vehicle charging technology to private parking, has not yet developed as much due to one major concern for private parking owners being the fear of a fire hazard. However, according to research electric charging has no higher chance of bursting into flames in comparison to a regular car. Since EV charging stations are tested thoroughly before production and most European countries have their charging stations tested upfront by testing experts who use ISO and IEC standards for measurement of this vehicle technology, it is highly unlikely that EV fires will happen on a larger scale than it is happening now with normal fuel-driven cars.

EV charging spots on private locations could offer locals or travellers the option to reserve a parking spot with charging station upfront. That could further increase the appeal for EV ownership on the go. Thus private parking should be an integral part of the EV charging station plan as well as public parking.

Whether private or public, all parking will need to adjust and increase the amount of EV charging stations alongside charging stations at crucial locations next to the highway to be able to accommodate increased numbers of EV’s. This is an integral part of being able to sell EV’s and for the CO2 reduction in the long run.


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