Going on holiday in an electric car is possible: a journey of 900 kilometers between France and Belgium shows that charging stations are there, but that it is imperative to prepare your trip to avoid running out of fuel, as the network remains embryonic in relation to to traditional service stations.
The trip taken by an AFP team illustrates the titanic financial and industrial challenge facing Europe, which wants to ban the sale of petrol or diesel vehicles within 13 years.
From Paris, it’s no problem in traffic jams in the Paris area: the battery can last for hours at this rate.
But when arriving on the highway, the electric vehicle reveals one of its main flaws: the autonomy goes from 250 kilometers to less than 100, in much less time than it takes to cover them.
After a first recharge, we arrived with the meter at zero in the area of Verdun (Meuse).
For ten euros, the battery reaches 80%, with the last 20% being slower.
It is essential to anticipate your route according to the car and the outside temperature, the battery will discharge faster in winter.
To get to Belgium, you’ll need to charge four times, for about thirty minutes each time.
“Roaming charging is essential in people’s minds when switching to electric,” underlines Cécile Goubet of Avere, the organization of electric vehicle professionals.
Tesla understood this well, launching charging stations on its own in parallel with its sedans, stations that today have up to 40 individual terminals each, far more than competing stations.
– Small roads –
When leaving the motorway to go to Belgium, along the departmental roads, consumption decreases, as does the fear of breakdowns.
Many medium power chargers are available in front of city halls, at dealerships or in front of supermarkets.
Night falls as Brussels approaches: now you need to find a hotel or accommodation to recharge your batteries, just to leave with 100% autonomy.
The offer is still limited to very elegant hotels or some Airbnbs.
In the rest area of Nazaré, near Ghent, the Dutch, encouraged by the performance of their network of terminals, stop for a first quick charge en route to France.
“The problem is that between Belgium and Spain is France,” jokes Frank Berg, 55, who is traveling to Spain with his wife Olga.
– late France –
Compared to the Netherlands or Germany, the French fast charging network is still very incomplete.
After the failure of the Corri-Door network, launched in 2015 by subsidiaries of EDF and Engie, operators such as Ionity, TotalEnergies or FastNed are taking over.
By decree, all service areas on French motorways must be equipped by the end of the year.
After years of hesitation, “there’s a lot of excitement around this business model,” confirms McKinsey’s Florian Nägele. National and European giants should consolidate in the coming years, predicts the sector expert.
Isabelle Inder, 34, is also making the trip to Champagne with her partner Antalaya. Recently, they chose a small SUV from the Chinese brand MG, which has about 300 km of autonomy “to protect the environment”, and to walk their big dog.
“We recharge in small bursts each time we stop. It’s not that complicated, and it’s not bad to take a break every hour and a half either,” explains Isabelle. “You have to plan your trip, but sometimes the apps aren’t up to date and the terminal doesn’t work.”
We have the bitter experience of this on the Lille-Paris motorway: while there are still 60 kilometers to go, a charging station is closed for work, we have missed one exit for the next and find ourselves almost at zero at a station… it works.
300,000 slow terminals (+30% over a year) and 50,000 fast terminals (+30% as well) were installed in Europe in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency. Germany, the UK, Norway and France have notably redoubled their efforts in recent months.
But this 30% increase in one year remains insufficient in the face of the expected explosion of the electric car market.
It would take a network of 6.8 million chargers by 2030, or an installation of 14,000 chargers a week, to meet needs, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.