What are the challenges for the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure in France?

Expert opinion

Eric Déliac, Development Strategy Director of ElectrISE
Published on:
Updated on:

The ongoing electrification of vehicle engines, initially light then increasingly heavy, is based on a complex infrastructure combining public access, private personal access and access within companies. In this new world, everything is changing and the charging station is no longer the prerogative of service stations along the road network. In addition, the public access charging terminal is expected to become part of a service point which will not be limited to vehicle charging: WiFi access, catering services, kiosk, recycling point, etc.

We are therefore witnessing a major upheaval, transforming the notion of travel into a new experience for which time management will not be the same as in “the world before”. In this context, it is interesting to wonder about the evolution of the charging infrastructure, called CIEV (Recharging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles). It is in fact the quality of this infrastructure which will determine the definitive switch to electric vehicles, both personal and professional.

In this article, we will discuss the deployment aspects, the economic issues and the technical issues. To clarify some terms, we will call:

  • Slow to medium charging: 2 to 22 kW AC (alternating current), 24 to 49 kW DC (direct current)
  • Fast charging: from 50 to 149 kW in DC
  • Ultra-fast charging: from 150 to 350 kW DC for light or utility vehicles, and up to 800 kW (DC) for buses and heavy goods vehicles.

The challenges of CIEV deployment

After a somewhat sluggish start, France is today just behind the Netherlands, slightly ahead of Germany, with 100,000 public charging points in May 2023. However, this encouraging result masks significant disparities. First, on a geographical level, where we see a significant gap between Occitanie, champion of France, and Corsica, bottom red, not to mention overseas.

The second major disparity concerns the power of the terminals. In this area, Germany is in the lead (more than 12,000 fast charging points), followed by the Netherlands, while in France there are only 7% public access points with a power at least equal to 150 kW (theoretical power, often far from the power actually available).

This observation, coupled with the powerful lever of regulation and taxation, makes it possible to raise some important issues for the deployment of the CIEV infrastructure in France:

Special private access – the current rapid equipment almost exclusively concerns AC charging points from 2 to 22 kW. The ADVENIR bonuses greatly helped this deployment, until their disappearance at the end of 2022 (individuals and businesses). On the other hand, there is today intense activity in co-ownerships, for which aid can still reach 50% of installation costs.

Professional private access – the first AC installations (7-22 kW) are today supplemented by DC installations allowing much faster charging. This is a major challenge in switching to electric vehicles, not only with regard to light vehicles, but also utility vehicles, then buses and trucks. The limitations of electrical connection installations are one of the obstacles to the deployment of these terminals.

Public access – if oil companies are leveraging their service station infrastructure to offer electric charging to the public, a growing diversity of access points is emerging: shops, hotel-restaurants, rest areas, car parks, leisure centers, medical centers , etc. Here again, given the time available to users, fast charging becomes a major issue. The question is, in fact, how much autonomy (km) will I generate in 30 minutes, an hour, or the time of a film?

Map Electrise blog SprintProject

The table below provides some underlying trends for the CIEV infrastructure. Even if this table is oriented more towards professional needs, the trend is general and we are starting to see self-consumption installations for recharging electric vehicles in private homes.

Tableau Electrise blog SprintProject
(*) PV = Photovoltaic

It is urgent to accelerate the development of fast charging in a multi-energy context with maximization of the use of local green energies, in order to avoid overloading the public network!

Economic models

In the absence of reference data on the size of the CIEV market, it is estimated that the CIEV market represents approximately €1 billion in 2022 on a European scale, with a projection of growth to €7 billion in 2030.

Concerning the actors in the CIEV value chain, we distinguish three main economic models:

  • Sellers of charging equipment: terminals, supervision software, power management
  • Third-party investors and energy suppliers: provide the charging stations and bill the charging service (subscriptions and energy)
  • Integrators, installers and operators of charging stations: supply of private or public charging stations, with supervision systems and maintenance contracts.

Some integrators are also producers of equipment (often manufactured by subcontractor). Categories 2 and 3 above are essentially service providers. For the latter (integrators and installers) the economic model is based on a combination of equipment resale margins, services ranging from engineering (even audit and design) to commissioning, and recurring income (maintenance and supervision subscription).

Alongside the big, well-known players in the energy sector (EDF, Total Energies, Engie, Bouygues, Eiffage, etc.) the last three years have seen the arrival of numerous start-ups, especially in the last two categories above. As shown in the following figure, the year 2022 is exceptional in terms of fundraising, particularly for third-party investors who must finance the deployment of their network before being able to receive income. We are talking about more than €1 billion invested in one year and only in France!

This financial windfall risks leading to consolidations leading to the emergence of powerful networks in competition with traditional mobility operators (oil companies) or allowing the latter to expand their market share by acquiring the most vulnerable.

Répartition Electrise blog SprintProject
Main fundraising in 2022 in the field of CIEV (France)

Technological issues

One of the main technical challenges for CIEV is the increase in power of charging points under two major constraints: cost (which increases much faster than power) and energy management.

Regarding the costs of terminals, we are witnessing a classic learning curve (thanks to advances in electronics in particular) which sees the displayed price of fast terminals drop significantly at constant power. Europe is well positioned in this area and it is possible that equipment of Asian origin will accentuate this decline.

When it comes to energy management, we see two trends coming together. On the one hand, following the example of Tesla, equipment manufacturers offer power storage systems (power units) which allow a source of energy to be shared across several charging points (the storage being recharged outside of the CIEV charging period). . The integration of the charging station into a multi-energy system, on the other hand, makes it possible to consider a power supply combining the public network and locally produced energy (solar panels, for example). The interest is multiple:

  • Self-consumption of energy belonging to the CIEV site
  • Reduction in connection power, and therefore also in the cost of the subscription
  • Autonomy (at least partial) in the event of network load shedding.

As part of its SCIFAE technology, ElectrISE has just developed a high-power charging station which integrates with photovoltaic production and a controlled storage system. Thanks to its software layer, energy allocation is optimized in real time based on autonomy performance defined in advance, immediately available energy (PV + storage) and prioritization of demand taking into account driver profiles. The target autonomy in relation to the public network is of the order of 40 to 60%.

Electrise blog SprintProject
View of the SCIFAE™ shelter allowing PV storage and control of energy flows (GSE image)

As a conclusion

Given the satisfactory acceleration in the deployment of "slow to medium" type charging stations, the major challenge of the CIEV infrastructure in France is the implementation of fast to ultra-fast charging, both in the public field than for private company installations. To achieve this, the issue of energy management is fundamental to meet the challenge that the public network will face and also to reduce the cost of recharging itself.

Learn more:

ElectrISE – www.electrise.eu 

RECOGNIZED - https://www.avere-france.org/


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