Last May, the France had a network of 100,000 thousand charging stations. With more than six months of delay compared to the initial schedule initiated by the government in 2021. "This number of 100,000 was not chosen at random," recalls Clément Molizon, general delegate of Avere. In 2014, at a time when the electric car was reduced to just a few models, Brussels dictated a ratio of one charging station for every ten vehicles. "In France, the public authorities planned an electric fleet of one million vehicles by 2022," explains the delegate. A number that has also been reached. "Today, Europe calculates the ratio of charging stations to vehicles differently. The administration is now talking about charging power delivered per vehicle, "continues Clément Molizon. An approach, which on paper, seems much more judicious, as the demand for energy will evolve in the coming years with the increase in the car fleet and battery capacities. As a reminder, since the beginning of the year, 174,441 electric cars have been sold in France. This is the strongest growth of all energies (+47.4%) and with a market share of 15.4%, electric is now ahead of diesel, positioning itself as the third most registered energy.
It is therefore essential to move up a gear on the deployment of terminals. "The France is the second country in terms of milestones, behind the Netherlands," says Clément Molizon, "even if the geography of the two countries is not much comparable. Another key fact: charging habits are not changing. About 85% of them are always done at home or at work, knowing that the remaining 15% are on public terminals, both on supplementary and fast recharges, the latter being designed for roaming, "says Clément Molizon. The latter represent 6% of charging stations and are mainly found on highways and major roads.
A trouble-free summer
Hans Lucas via AFP
A summer that seems to have gone well throughout the network. "We have not had any feedback from a prolonged wait at charging stations," says Gilles Bernard, president of the French Association for the Roaming of Electric Vehicle Charging (Afirev). In recent months, "motorway companies have worked hard to equip their service areas with fast charging stations," comments the delegate of Avere. As a reminder, Brussels has imposed a maximum distance of 60 km between two charging points on European motorways by 2025 "with an increase in the power available until 2030". However, Avere has seen a spike in load transfers. "Between March and June 2023, we recorded an average of 14 load assignments per point per month," he says. In July, we increased to 17 divestitures."
All the lights were therefore green during the major transhumances, "but the fleet of electric vehicles is only one million," relativizes Clément Molizon. And the latter is well aware that, in the context of a future mass market, the quantity and quality on charging topics must be at the level of motorists' expectations. "The buyer of an electric car of 2023 has nothing to do with that of 2013, he continues, date of the first Renault Zoe or Citroën C-Zero. He wants to have the same use he has with his thermal car whereas at the time of models where the autonomy did not exceed 120 km the expectations were different. " This is why Avere will launch a major survey by the end of September to find out the profile of electric vehicle buyers and their use of charging stations. "In parallel, we are working with Mobilians (the union of trades of distribution and automotive services, editor's note) to better train salespeople on electric mobility," he recalls.
A network under control
PHOTOPQR/VOIX DU NORD/MAXPPP
Prior to this survey, the organization publishes every month a barometer on the quality of the charging network and the finding is not very favorable: about 85% of the stations are indeed defective, unavailable for charging for technical or maintenance problems. "This is a fairly stable level, which can meet the use today compared to the electric fleet, but which is clearly not satisfactory," says Clément Molizon, whose organization aims to eventually 95% of the terminals in working order. Because more than the number of stations, it is the availability of charging points and the quality of service that are the real challenges in the deployment of electric in France. "The first networks are more than ten years old; they were generally installed by the public authorities and the bollards were not always maintained as they should, "regrets Gilles Bernard. He cites a few examples among many: "In some areas, because of drought and the land that has compacted, cables have ended up in the open air. The operators had to condemn the bollards and carry out compliance work."
In addition, the mentalities of operators are changing profoundly. For example, a working group meets monthly to review the quality of the network of charging stations. "Operators are now obliged to publish quality commitments and the results obtained," says Gilles Bernard. Information available to the public on the Afirev website.
In addition to quality, these organizations closely monitor the installation of charging stations. If a fleet of 100,000 charging stations is, for most of the people in charge of the recharge file, a symbolic number, it is time for them to move on to the next step which is to mesh the territory well. "The right question to ask is simple: how do motorists charge?" says Gilles Bernard. Because in the eyes of Afirev, the important thing is not the number of terminals, nor the time that a car remains connected, but to know which ones are the most used and where are they. "Because if these terminals are heavily used, it means that they are not in sufficient number to meet the expectations of motorists and that it is necessary to enlarge the stations" he summarizes.
This data is not always easy to gather as the market of operators is now fragmented. This is one of the reasons why local authorities have recently been obliged to plan the installation of charging stations as part of a master plan. Although they are not all sensitized on the subject. "It is now necessary to develop charging points in peri-urban areas where the use of the car is essential but in neighborhoods where the building, although often individual, is not compatible with the possibility of installing a home socket," observes Gilles Bernard. It recommends equipping residential areas, places where until now, communities have not deployed charging solutions, relying on the supposed possibilities of charging at home. "There is no need to install fast charging stations, because it would not meet the needs. People need to have enough power for nighttime charging," he adds. Ditto in rural areas to avoid white areas. The 100,000 bollards were just the beginning. At the end of July, the network consisted of 105,000 charging points, an increase of 56% over the last twelve months and the State has set itself the goal of 400,000 charging stations by the end of the decade.