When discussing the practical implementation of electric mobility with consumers today, the existing problem of the charging infrastructure and the charging process comes up sooner rather than later. Those consumers who already own an electric vehicle criticise one thing above all: the payment system. The clear appeal: It must quickly become easier to fill up and pay for electricity at a publicly accessible charging station without a contract, without a charging card or smartphone application from an operator.
This goal should actually be achieved by the amendment to the German charging station ordinance, which the German government has been working on for some time and is expected to be passed as early as the second week of May. The background to this is paragraph 4 of the amended charging station ordinance in the version for the cabinet vote. It stipulates that from July 2023, newly commissioned charging stations will offer spontaneous electricity tankers two payment options: a cashless payment process via internet-based payment service providers and, in addition, contactless payment with debit or credit cards, as is now also possible at supermarket checkouts or in retail stores - with consumers holding corresponding cards in front of a reader. The current regulation, on the other hand, leaves it up to charging station operators whether they offer exclusively internet-based payment methods or also accept card payments. This requirement has met with widespread criticism from business associations: the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) and the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI) recently criticised that this requirement would set back the expansion of the charging network by years and make it considerably more expensive. The price of the charging columns would rise considerably, which would ultimately have to be passed on to customers. Instead, the associations advocate mobile payment via smartphone. This would be user-friendly, future- proof and compatible with Europe. This was agreed in September by the Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, Peter Altmaier, and the Federal Minister of Transport, Andreas Scheuer, in consultation with business representatives. But this common line has now simply been abandoned.
The German automobile club ADAC, on the other hand, is more in favour of the current position of the federal government: according to the automobile club, the solutions offered by the operators by means of QR code scans and app downloads are unnecessarily complicated or often do not work reliably. In addition, the spontaneous tariffs are usually significantly more expensive than charging with a contract. As a result, e-car drivers have to search for cheap offers and conclude charging contracts in an opaque tariff jungle consisting of almost 400 tariffs. Therefore, there must not only be better price transparency at the charging stations, but also simple payment using giro and credit cards at card readers.
What about Europe? Even if it is only about German regulations and requirements, this discussion also has a considerable European dimension that hardly receives any attention. Already nationally, consumers face enormous challenges in charging, as the discussion illustrates. However, it becomes even more complicated when one wants to travel Europe-wide with an e-vehicle. The best national systems and standardisations are of no use if they are not thought of in European terms. There is no need for national solo efforts, but rather binding European specifications that oblige providers to make charging systems compatible and connectable. Electromobility will only work in Europe if the charging process becomes as simple as refuelling a combustion engine. Giro and credit cards are globally recognised and widespread means of payment that will be around for many years or decades to come thanks to new approaches such as the use of the NFC interface on smartphones (e.g. Google Pay or Apple Pay). What is needed is a mix of solutions that work now and solutions that are sustainable in the long term. Since consumers travelling in Europe rarely conclude contracts in advance, it must also be ensured that charging prices for spontaneous chargers are not unreasonably higher than with a charging contract. Higher prices would then discriminate against foreign drivers in particular.
ECA Special Report on "Electric Charging Infrastructure In a recently published special report on electric charging infrastructure in Europe, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) found that the EU is still far from reaching its target of 1 million charging points by 2025. There was a lack of an overarching strategic roadmap for e-mobility. The objective of the audit was to determine the effectiveness of the Commission's support for the development of an EU-wide publicly accessible infrastructure for charging electric vehicles.
The ECA found that despite successes such as promoting a common EU plug standard and improving access to different charging networks, barriers to electric vehicle travel across the EU remain. The availability of charging stations varies from country to country, payment systems are not harmonised with minimum requirements and there is insufficient information for users. In the absence of a comprehensive analysis of the infrastructure gap, the Commission has not been able to ensure that EU funding reaches where it is most needed. The EU is still far from its Green Deal target of 1 million charging points by 2025 and lacks an overarching strategic roadmap for e- mobility.