STUTTGART (dpa-AFX) – The expansion of the e-charging network continues to lag behind the growing number of electric cars. Whereas at the beginning of 2021, for example, there were still 14 e-cars per charging point, the latest figure was 23, according to the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). Although the German government wants to take countermeasures – quite a few carmakers, however, do not want to rely solely on politics and are driving forward the development of the charging infrastructure themselves. On Thursday, Mercedes-Benz also announced its own network with 10,000 charging points worldwide by the end of the decade. The Stuttgart-based company plans to invest a single-digit billion euro sum.
“We don’t want to stand by and wait until it’s built. That’s why we are building a global fast-charging network ourselves,” said Mercedes CEO Ola Källenius. By comparison, U.S. automaker Tesla says it operates 40,000 high-performance charging stations worldwide – but the majority of those are reserved for its own customers, compared to Mercedes. The VW Group wants to set up a good 45,000 fast-charging points worldwide with partners by the end of 2025.
Mercedes did not say how many charging points will be set up in Germany. But one thing is clear: For the global expansion targets – the German government alone wants one million publicly accessible plugs by 2030 – the Stuttgart company’s plans are at best a drop in the bucket. Källenius made no secret of this fact when speaking to journalists. Rather, the aim is to lure additional Mercedes customers. They should benefit, for example, from preferential use by means of reservation.
The charging networks that the car manufacturers have secured through cooperation agreements are far larger. About one million charging points are available worldwide for Mercedes drivers, Källenius said. The Digital Charging Solutions (DCS) network, which is based on a BMW initiative and in which Mercedes and the oil company BP are also involved, has more than 400,000 charging points in Europe in Japan, according to its own figures. Mercedes, along with BMW, VW, Ford and Hyundai, among others, operates the Ionity consortium, which has so far installed 480 fast-charging stations with up to 350 kilowatts of charging power in Germany.
The pan-European carmaker Stellantis has also started building its fast-charging network in Italy in 2021. In addition to the Atlante project, which is limited to southern Europe, there is a cooperation with the provider TheF Charging to build a network with more than 15,000 sites and two million parking spaces by 2025.
So has politics overslept the expansion of the charging infrastructure in recent years to such an extent that the automotive industry sees the only way out in its own initiative? VDA President Hildegard Müller puts it this way: “The expansion of the charging infrastructure is a joint task that can only succeed if all players bear it and take responsibility.” Everyone has to make their contribution – and of course the automotive industry is also involved.
Yet a look at the figures shows that the government’s goals are still a long way off. According to data from the Federal Network Agency from the beginning of November 2022, the number of charging points grew by around 17,000 to a total of 72,000 within a year. If things continued at this pace, the target of one million charging points would not be reached until 2077 in purely mathematical terms. To speed up the process, the cabinet decided in October on a “charging infrastructure master plan” and plans to invest 6.3 billion euros in it. This at least shows that the German government is aware of the Herculean task, according to the ADAC.
The automobile club was comparatively positive about the pace of expansion in 2022. At least the number of charging points last year had kept pace with the number of newly registered e-cars to some extent, VDA boss Müller also praised. But, “Supply would have to get ahead of demand for people’s confidence in e-mobility to continue to grow.” Germany is still a long way from achieving this, she said. For this reason, progress must be made at a rapid pace, especially in the area of fast chargers.
For Germany, the Federal Network Agency has so far counted around 12,000 such plugs, which are defined as fast charging points from a charging capacity of more than 22 kilowatts. Around a quarter of these reach the highest power class of over 300 kilowatts. Mercedes also wants to move into this range with its new infrastructure. A battery can be charged in less than half an hour.
The Karlsruhe-based energy company EnBW, for example, estimates that by 2030, around 130,000 to 150,000 fast-charging points – and not a million predominantly slow normal charging points – will be needed throughout Germany to supply the 15 million electric cars targeted by the German government. EnBW wants to build around 30,000 of these itself. With 2800 charging points, the group already operates what it claims is Germany’s largest fast-charging network.
The expansion figures are one thing – but what about user-friendliness in view of the dozens of providers? The German Automobile Association (ADAC) complained that e-car drivers can quickly lose track of where they are. Sometimes he needs a charging card, sometimes an app. At one charging station he pays by smartphone, at another by invoice at the end of the month. Some providers charge a basic fee, and some charge a surcharge per minute after a certain amount of time spent at the charging station. So there is still some way to go on the road to all-electric mobility./dhu/DP/men