Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Anyone buying an electric car today can enjoy ever-increasing coverage. According to a calculation by the corporate consultants Horváth & Partners, electric vehicles newly licensed in 2017 achieved an average range of 300 km, 10 percent more than in 2016. But what does the charging infrastructure look like in Germany? We spoke about this with Oliver Deuschle, Director of the EnBW brand SMIGHT and Marco Masur, who is responsible for eMobility solutions at EnBW.
Compass: When driving an electric car today, how high is the risk that I’ll be left standing because there’s no charging point nearby?
Marco Masur: Even though we are still building up the network, no-one needs to worry that they won’t find a point to recharge. The present coverage is absolutely sufficient for the current number of vehicles. At service areas there are enough DC, or direct current, fast-charging stations from various providers. In the AC, or alternating current field, even rural areas are well connected, so you’ll always find a charging point nearby.
Oliver Deuschle: In order to provide more infrastructure, we are currently working together with 79 project partners on the SAFE project, which is being sponsored by the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. The whole state has been divided into a ten by ten kilometre grid for this. By next year an AC charging point must be set up every ten kilometres. And every 20 kilometres at least one DC charging point.
Marco Masur: This planned approach means that a broad expansion is also available in our local region. So if we need more infrastructure in future, the grid simply has to be made smaller.
Compass: But we need more e-cars on the roads first, don’t we?
Marco Masur: Yes, in principle we’ve got the chicken and egg problem here. Creating the infrastructure for e-cars isn’t the problem. We’re relatively good at that. Now the number of vehicles has to be ramped up. That will pick up speed at some point and then the development of the infrastructure can follow again.
Compass: But in Germany the share of electric cars in new registrations is only 1.9 percent, in Norway it’s almost 40 percent …
Marco Masur: In Norway, the state strongly supports electromobility – not only with tax benefits. Here there is also e-mobile funding, similar to the scrappage scheme a while ago, but that’s not enough incentive for many people. And I also think that there’s a lack of information. People are still too unsure to switch to eMobility. In order to reduce uncertainties we recently brought out a new EnBW mobility+ app. Users can, for example, record their driving data and then have a car recommended, which fits their own driving profile. The app also shows charging points, so that users can get a feel for which charging options are available in their area and what the costs of charging are. These are the questions that people are concerned with.
Compass: One prejudgement which still prevails is: “But I can’t go on holiday with it”. What does the charging network in Europe look like? For example, could I make it to the coast in Italy with eMobility?
Marco Masur: Various other countries, especially those in the north, are even significantly further than us. Norway, as mentioned before, but also Holland. On the other hand, South European countries like Italy have only done very little until now. The question is whether you wish to make your choice of car based on your everyday life, or on this one single holiday trip? Because the average German drives only 15,000 km a year – that’s including commuters. So if this is split among months or days, the car is hardly moved at all. The majority of the population only needs the car once a year for such long distances. I think, in addition to an expansion of the charging infrastructure on motorways, there could also be other solutions here: For example, car sharing for holiday trips.
Oliver Deuschle: If I can make 98% of my driving kilometres electric, I can hire a petrol model for the remaining 2%. Simple. Anyway, I think that electric cars cannot or shouldn’t be a one-to-one replacement for fuel burners. We have to get away from the thought of doing everything with our own car, like we used to. The future lies in a mobility mix. Depending on what fits better, I can take the bus, the train, or drive electrical or sometimes even with a fuel burner. It’s a question of mentality.
Compass: 2019 is supposed to be the great year of electromobility for German car manufacturers. How do you see it?
Marco Masur: It will be interesting to see how it develops. So far I have the impression that e-cars still have a project character about them for German manufacturers.
Oliver Deuschle: The car market has been lagging behind the charging infrastructure in Germany. I’m an e-smart driver myself. If you want to buy an e-smart today, you have to wait 12 months because manufacturers can’t cope with the production of cells. From my point of view, where the storage comes from will be decisive in future. What used to be the engine production will be the battery production in tomorrow’s world.
Marco Masur: Oliver’s right in my opinion, the major problem will be the cell production. It’s no coincidence that Tesla wants to build its next gigafactory in Europe. I have the feeling that car manufacturers in this country haven’t yet fully understood that e-vehicles aren’t just a variation of today’s cars, we are talking about a completely new concept. In Germany, we were always proud of building efficient car engines, but the central element of the e-car, the cell production: we’ve given up control of that.
To be continued next week …
In the second part of the interview with Oliver Deuschle and Marco Masur you can read about how EnBW wants to help shape the turnaround in mobility and what that’s all got to do with intelligent street lighting and the connection to PTV technology.
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