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The critical role of fast chargers in Europe's EV ecosystem

Fast chargers are essential for the quick recharging of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), playing a vital role in supporting long-distance travel and reducing range anxiety, according to the new ACEA report. As the EU witnesses a surge in BEV adoption, the strategic placement and availability of public fast chargers along highways become increasingly important.

Currently, there are around 3 million BEVs on EU roads, served by approximately 75,000 public fast chargers. This results in a ratio of about 30 BEVs per fast charger. When including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) –which also utilize the same charging infrastructure– this ratio increases to roughly 52 vehicles per fast charger. To accommodate the growing number of electric vehicles, it is crucial to expand the network of fast chargers to meet the evolving needs of EV users.

“We need mass-market adoption of electric cars in all EU countries to achieve Europe’s ambitious CO2-reduction targets,” stated ACEA’s Director General, Sigrid de Vries. “This will not happen without widespread availability of fast and convenient public charging infrastructure across the region. Fast chargers are integral to the transition to zero-emission mobility.”

The European plug-in landscape

A comprehensive public charging network is crucial to support the anticipated increase in EV demand as the EU phases out internal combustion engine vehicles. Under the European Green Deal and the Fit for 55 legislative package, the EU aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 and a 55% emissions reduction by 2030. The CO2 regulation for cars and vans sets a 100% CO2 reduction target for 2035. To meet these targets, sales of electrically-chargeable vehicles (ECVs) –including BEVs and PHEVs– must surge. Public charging infrastructure availability is key to this growth.

At the end of 2023, there were 632,423 public charging points across Europe, far short of the necessary number. The European Commission calls for 3.5 million charging points by 2030 to support the required level of vehicle electrification for a 55% CO2 reduction in passenger cars. ACEA estimates a much higher demand: 8.8 million charging points by 2030, rising to 18.8 million by 2035. This discrepancy arises from different vehicle estimates and energy consumption assumptions used by the Commission and ACEA.

Charging point deployment and BEV uptake

The deployment rate of charging points is lagging behind the sales of battery electric cars. In 2023, BEVs accounted for 14.6% of new car sales in the EU, with plug-in hybrids making up 7.7%, according to ACEA data. The market share of BEVs is expected to reach almost 30% by 2025 and exceed 70% by 2030. Over the past seven years, BEV sales have outpaced the growth of the charging network by over three times, with electric car sales increasing 18-fold and public chargers growing sixfold between 2017 and 2023.

Distribution of charging points

Strategic placement of charging infrastructure is crucial to ensure all EU customers feel supported in choosing an EV. However, three countries –Netherlands (144,453 charging points), France (119,255), and Germany (120,625)– host nearly two-thirds of all EU charging points. The Netherlands alone has 52 times more charging points than Romania, despite being seven times smaller. The remaining 39% of chargers are spread across 78% of the region’s surface area.

In 2023, the top five countries with the most EV charging points in the EU were the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, and Italy. Conversely, the countries with the fewest public charging points were Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Cyprus, and Malta.

Electric cars per charger

With about 3 million BEVs on EU roads and 632,423 public charging points, there are approximately 5 BEVs per public charging point. This ratio will rise as BEV numbers grow, with BEVs projected to account for 30% of the market by 2025 and 70% by 2030. PHEVs also use public charging points, further increasing the number of vehicles per charger. The EU recommends one public charge point for every 10 BEVs. Public fast chargers, especially along motorways, enable longer journeys and address range anxiety, a major barrier to EV adoption. At the end of 2023, there were 29 BEV cars per fast charger in the EU and 53 BEV+PHEV cars per fast charger.

The slow rollout of public charge points

Several factors contribute to the varied deployment of public charge points across regions. Red tape, permits, and planning permissions are major hurdles. Existing power grid capacity and resilience also play a significant role. Service areas on major routes are ideal for fast charger installation, while urban areas with congestion and limited parking present challenges for locating slow chargers.

Ensuring equitable placement of EV charging points in all neighborhoods, both rural and urban, is crucial for democratizing EV adoption. Charge point safety, accessibility, and the roles of public and private stakeholders in infrastructure rollout and maintenance must be clearly defined to avoid hindrances.

Charge Point Operators (CPOs)

The EV charging industry is still maturing, with numerous CPOs growing and evolving. The market remains fragmented, with many small national players and low margins. Significant growth in charging points and consolidation among CPOs is expected in the coming years.

Automakers are collaborating with utility companies and other stakeholders to accelerate infrastructure deployment, recognizing that the success of EV sales depends heavily on the availability of charging infrastructure.


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