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Global Economy

Are a million charging stations necessary?

At first glance, electric mobility is facing a huge bottleneck: the supply of electricity. The expansion of the charging stations is stagnating, the goal of the federal government is a long way off. There are currently just around 61,000 public charging stations in the country. Andreas Rade from the Association of the Automotive Industry says things are progressing much too slowly: "If the current pace of expansion is not increased, there will only be around 210,000 charging points in Germany in 2030," says Rade – and thus almost 800,000 too few.

Charging infrastructure as a barrier to purchase

The mood in the population fits in with this finding. According to a recent survey by the KfW development bank, 53.8 percent of potential buyers say that the lack of a charging infrastructure is keeping them from buying an e-car. But there are also voices that say there is no bottleneck and that the survey results should be treated with caution.

Jan Strobel from the Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries, BDEW, is one of these voices: "If there is constant talk about an alleged lack of charging stations, a completely wrong picture is reinforced." Rather, it is true that the charging station network is already working well and that the expansion can keep up with the growth in e-cars: "In our view, the one million charging point discussion is the wrong discussion. It distracts from the really important issues away."

Higher charging power, shorter downtime

Rather, it is crucial that the performance of the charging points continues to increase. Instead of eleven or 22 kilowatts (kW), more and more systems with up to several hundred kW are being installed – charging is going faster and faster. Accordingly, fewer individual charging points would be needed in the network. Strobel summarizes this logic as follows: "It's about kilowatt hours and performance. We don't count the number of coins in the wallet, but their value."

Till Gnann, coordinator of the subject of electromobility at the Fraunhofer Institute, has a similar view. "One million: That's more of a striking number. In my opinion, the calculations behind it should be viewed critically." Because in reality, e-car drivers would not need so many public charging points: "Charging at home and at work will be the main points. All public charging points will probably only work with fast charging technology. And you simply need less."

Charging stations as a business model

According to the federal government, the ratio of charging points to e-cars should be 1:15, hence the target of one million charging points in 2030. But Gnann thinks that is completely exaggerated: "Even for 15 million e-cars, which are already ambitious, Based on what we know today, we don't need them."

It is also unclear whether a million charging stations could be operated economically at all. In any case, many providers are currently complaining that charging points are underutilized; many pillars do not pay off. Gnann says: "It's no use if we put charging stations everywhere and then nobody uses them. The money would be better spent to support the charging stations at home or at work."

E-mobility lacks customer trust

According to Gnann and also the BDEW, nothing stands in the way of the actual goal of having 15 million e-cars on the roads by 2030 in terms of charging infrastructure. But the Association of the Automotive Industry warns: the calculation is not that simple.

The decisive factor in finding buyers for all the electric cars is not only complicated model calculations and ratio equations, but also the picture that prevails in people's heads.

Andreas Rade from the VDA puts it in a nutshell: "Visibility and the security of being able to charge are central to consumer trust and thus acceptance. We need the one million charging points for this." So it's also about perceived security.

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