[Tribune] : “Inequality of access to electric vehicle charging stations, a challenge for the future”

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The use of electric vehicles has increased sharply in recent years. But while the number of charging stations has increased sharply over the past year (up 52% ​​since January 2021), access to and use of stations is still a source of inequality. François Gatineau, president of Mobileese, actor and electric mobility expert, clarifies the daily headache that access to charging stations represents.

Initially considered a cheap luxury product, electric cars have prodigiously democratized, becoming true ambassadors of a more sustainable consumption mode. However, even if they seem to have a bright future ahead of them, that future is based on a fragile balance: with this new mode of transport, new difficulties arise, which we must resolve as quickly as possible, otherwise we will reduce all the efforts made so far. We have to face the facts: the more electric cars circulate, the more it becomes necessary to increase the number of charging networks for these vehicles.

What are electric vehicle charging stations for?

Having become very fashionable in just a few years, electric vehicles are attracting more and more consumers looking for greener car models. However, it remains a disadvantage, and often constitutes a real obstacle to the purchase: the daily use of electric vehicles is not always practical, due to a charging network open to the public that remains insufficient.

According to the latest data from the AFIREV (French Roaming Vehicle Charging Association) quality observatory in a recently published report, about 9 out of 10 electric vehicle drivers use publicly accessible charging networks. Supermarket or hotel car parks, public car parks or bus stations are examples that we can cite. In other words, the access and number of these terminals constitute one, if not the critical turning point that can allow people to go electric. However, the more people use this type of vehicle on a daily basis, the more charging stations will be occupied and, therefore, the greater the need for stations. In order to develop the economic activity of electric cars and convince potential customers to use them, we must therefore show them that recharging their vehicle will not be a problem.

However, in reality, the number of electric charging stations is lacking: the stations are often busy and/or damaged, or even simply not working.

Why is it necessary to install new charging stations?

The installation of new charging stations, charging stations suitable for their space and functional charging stations, is thus a central challenge for 2022. Indeed, although the number of charging stations has increased markedly in the last year (52% more since January 2021), encouraged by French and European policies, access and use of terminals remains unsatisfactory. In fact, when a person has an electric car or is thinking about purchasing one, he has a great fear: it is not so easy to find an affordable, available or even functional charging station. .

Also according to the AFIREV quality observatory report, the numbers do not lie. Individual electric vehicle users surveyed were, among other things, confronted at least once with a charging station that was out of order (for 76% of respondents), or with a charging station that failed to charge (for 80% of respondents). ). 51% of them have also had to request phone support in the last six months of 2021.

For those who do not use public charging stations, they have faced other problems related to the daily use of their vehicle: they often do not have stations close to their home and/or work and/or other places to which they go regularly. In addition, other concerns are frequently mentioned: such as the complexity between the power of your vehicle and that of the terminal, the cost of installing and using such infrastructure and the almost systematic occupation of all charging points with cars not charging or already charged. .

Furthermore, we know that the distribution of the number of terminals in the territory (and in particular according to regions) is very uneven. For example, the Grand Est region has only 700 charging points, while Île-de-France has more than 10,000. Likewise, rural areas have fewer charging stations than urban areas, although the density of public transport is lower.

All these inequalities in access to electric vehicle charging stations prevent potential customers in this market from projecting themselves and limit the number of purchases of this type of vehicle. Therefore, we need to act urgently and develop the collection offer in order not to lose the interest of this clientele in this type of model.

How to install new charging stations?

How can we then create new charging structures for electric vehicles, both complying with the standards of the buildings to which they are connected, and at the same time guaranteeing their operation? This requires new provisions, fiscal and financial incentives, a more qualitative approach to the Infrastructures implemented, in order to promote not only their implementation but also and above all ensure their maintenance. It is also necessary that the various actors involved mobilize to develop the pricing offer: whether public authorities, municipalities, condominium associations or private companies, the issue must concern everyone.

Even as the French and European governments begin to take an interest in these issues, their efforts remain insufficient at the moment. In fact, the implementation of charging networks requires the mobilization of many sectors of activity and the consideration of many issues. It is necessary as soon as possible to take the authorities in power to generate quick decision-making and, above all, passages to the act of greater electric mobility.
However, developing the offer of electric vehicle charging networks is not as easy as you think. It is not enough to develop the park of charging stations, even if it is a good start, but it is also necessary to properly solve all the steps that range from the design, installation and maintenance of the stations in operational conditions. Involving the various stakeholders, understanding the particular environment in which we intend to install our network (so that it is compatible with the existing infrastructure) and making the park accessible are some examples of issues to be taken into account, all at the same time.

The world of electricity, therefore, needs to be aware of the problems that concern it and be accompanied so as not to make mistakes. The number of public charging stations is still insufficient and access to existing ones remains uneven. Support for the establishment of a network of sustainable and suitable charging stations is the guarantee of a smooth development of the electric vehicle market.

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