Current market mechanisms cannot provide sufficient charging infrastructure for electric transport.

At present, most of Europe has sufficient charging infrastructure to support the relatively small EV fleet. Private actors are already heavily involved in the provision of Europe’s charging infrastructure and future investment needs will increasingly be provided directly by such actors without the need for public subsidy. These market actors have a strong commercial incentive to make sure that future demand for this infrastructure is met.

At the start of 2020, there was, on average, one public charging point for every seven electric vehicles, better than the EU guideline level of one per every ten vehicles. Indeed, only four Member States (Cyprus, Finland, Greece and Sweden) fail to meet this target level. Network coverage is also good and, for the fast-charging network specifically, Transport & Environment conclude that “a good comprehensive coverage is provided in most Member States ... and very few gaps persist”.

Although legislation and public subsidy have played an important role in ensuring the sufficiency of Europe’s current charging infrastructure, and were especially important when the electric vehicle market was in its infancy, it is important to appreciate that private investment has played a large and growing role in developing the charging network. 79% of charging points in Europe are operated by oil and gas utilities , with Shell (NewMotion) alone owning or operating more than 74,000 of Europe’s roughly 235,000 charging points. These and other firms are investing substantial sums to position themselves in the growing charging market. In 2019, for example, Iberdrola invested €15 million in a charging point manufacturer as part of a plan to roll out 25,000 chargers in Spain by 2021 and £35 million of private funds were invested in a private charging network in the UK to install over 2,000 rapid charging points.

As the number of EVs grows, the business case for investment in charging points improves and the need for public subsidy is expected to diminish. There are already multiple examples of public charging infrastructure being deployed without public money and, for those European countries with higher electric vehicle penetrations, Transport & Environment expect the need for public subsidy to “gradually phase-out in the 2020-2025 period”. As charging point provision becomes viable on commercial terms, we should expect new and existing commercial providers to roll out infrastructure to meet increased demand given the commercial incentives they already face to do so.

References:

Transport & Environment, “Recharge EU: How Many Charge Points Will Europe and Its Member States Need in the 2020s” (Brussels, 2020), 12, https://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/publications/01 2020 Draft TE Infrastructure Report Final.pdf.

Brian Eckhouse, David Stringer, and Jeremy Hodges, “The World Still Doesn’t Have Enough Places to Plug In Cars - Bloomberg,” Bloomberg, February 14, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-02-14/the-world-still-doesn-t-have-enough-places-to-plug-in-cars.

Elchin Mammadov, “Electric Vehicles Won’t Be Panacea for Utilities,” Bloomberg Intelligence, March 19, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/professional/blog/electric-vehicles-wont-panacea-utilities/.

Raquel Soat, “Global EV Charging Infrastructure Investments Are On the Rise,” August 27, 2019, https://guidehouseinsights.com/news-and-views/global-ev-charging-infrastructure-investments-are-on-the-rise.

Transport & Environment, “Roll-out of Public EV Charging Infrastructure in the EU Is the Chicken and Egg Dilemma Resolved?,” 2018, 13, https://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/publications/Charging Infrastructure Report_September 2018_FINAL.pdf