Automakers and environmentalists unite in call for 1 million European EV charging stations

February 11, 2021, 4:42 PM UTC

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In Europe, the car industry, environmentalists, and consumer advocates all want electrification to happen—and they’re united on the issue that’s holding it back: a lack of infrastructure.

The three lobbies sent a joint letter to the European Commission on Thursday, calling for the installation of at least a million public charging points for electric vehicles across the EU in 2024, and at least 3 million five years later. They also urged the rollout of around 1,000 hydrogen stations by 2029.

Achieving the 2024 target would mean quadrupling the footprint of the EU’s current public charging infrastructure.

But it would make sense for a region where ever-toughening emissions targets have led to a boom in electric-vehicle investment. According to the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E)—one of the letter’s signatories—European industry and governments invested €60 billion in e-mobility in 2019, tearing ahead of China.

“Delivering the necessary recharging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure to underpin a zero-emission mobility system should be at the heart of the EU’s industrial strategy as it will be fundamental to building a resilient automotive industry and the e-mobility value chains of tomorrow,” wrote T&E, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), and the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).

Easy payments

The joint letter is a significant intervention as the commission prepares to reform a 2014 directive about alternative fuel infrastructure, known as AFID.

The EU’s executive body, which has made green infrastructure central to its pandemic recovery plans, held public consultations about the AFID revamp in the first half of 2020 and has promised a legislative proposal in the first quarter of this year.

The letter’s signatories called for each country to get binding infrastructure targets.

BMW CEO Oliver Zipse said in a statement that European carmakers are “outperforming each other in launching new vehicles” but that their collective effort is “seriously threatened by the delayed installation of charging infrastructure in the EU.”

“The EU Commission quickly needs to take action and set binding targets for the ramp-up of charging infrastructure in the member states,” said Zipse—also ACEA’s head. “Otherwise, even the current reduction targets in fighting climate change are at risk.”

As for whether 1 million public charging points will be an appropriate tally a few years from now, the German automotive analyst Matthias Schmidt told Fortune: “If NGOs and [auto manufacturers] are singing from the same hymn sheet, it is likely to be the sweet spot and spot-on.”

The ACEA, BEUC and T&E also urged the commission to make AFID’s replacement a regulation instead of a directive. In the EU, directives are “transposed” into national law by each country, in a process that allows for different interpretations of the directive. But regulations apply equally in every EU country, creating a much more predictable regulatory landscape.

For the EV sector, this harmonization would allow for common recharging and refueling standards, seamless payment, and more, the organizations said, promising the creation of a million jobs if their proposal is taken up.

Rural coverage

The organizations also went into specifics about the coverage that would be needed on different types of routes.

The EU is currently trying to modernize its sprawling transport infrastructure through a policy called the Trans-European Transport Network, or TEN-T. This will create two “layers” of interconnection: a Core network linking the bloc’s most important cities (to be completed by 2030) and a Comprehensive network that will span every European region (with a 2050 target.)

In their letter, the auto industry and consumer and environmental groups said by 2025 there should be at least one ultrafast recharging site—meaning greater than 150 kilowatts—every 50 kilometers (31 miles) on the TEN-T Core network, and every 100 kilometers on the Comprehensive network.

“The coverage of the Comprehensive network should guarantee that rural areas are adequately covered,” they added.

The organizations also asked the commission to review the EU’s rules on energy performance in buildings—last updated just a few years ago—to boost the rollout of charging infrastructure in old and new buildings.

The commission had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.