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  • Writer's pictureSilvia Josten

Charging cost chaos: who pays where and how much?


Preisschild mit Strompreisen an einer Tankstelle

Every electric car driver knows it: the search for the next charging station is not always optimal. Not every location is listed, because not every app lists every charging station and the associated charging costs. Once you have found a suitable charging station and are lucky enough to find one that is free and also works, the only question that remains is: What does the electricity cost when I charge here? Are there different prices at different times? Is an additional basic charge necessary to get cheaper pries - and at what point does it pay off? Do I have to pay a blocking fee if I occupy the charging space for too long? Questions upon questions, which unfortunately are often not clearly recognisable on the spot. The lack of transparency in the price structures of the respective providers is anything but optimal. Many an e-car driver longs for the good old petrol station price board again at such moments.


The charging infrastructure is growing, but too slowly!

In the meantime, the supply of charging points is growing significantly: 28,338 new charging points were added in 2022, but an enormous demand remains, because the number of newly registered e-cars is also increasing. At the beginning of 2023, exactly 80,541 publicly accessible charging points for e-cars and plug-in hybrids were officially registered, including 67,288 normal charging points (AC) and 13,253 fast charging points (DC), according to the Federal Network Agency. These are all public charging points that have fully completed the notification procedure of the Federal Network Agency and are published on the internet. In reality, the actual number is somewhat higher, because Tesla's Superchargers, for example, usually do not appear here.

Mehrere Tesla Ladesäulen kurz vor Inbetriebnahme an einem Hotel
More and more Tesla fast charging stations are being built.

Tesla now offers over 45,000 of these Superchargers worldwide. 150 locations are in Germany, of which about 132 are also available to other car brands, according to "Teslamag". Numerous new locations are currently under construction and will be opened this year. Tesla has just reduced the charging costs during off-peak hours enormously for its customers. In Oberhonnefeld or Hilden, charging outside the peak hours of 4-8 p.m. now costs only 40 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and is thus about 25 per cent cheaper than before. This means that charging at Tesla is now cheaper again than at EnBW mobility+, for example, which operates most fast charging stations in Germany. Without a basic charge, charging electricity costs at least 61 cents/kWh with the energy company from Baden-Württemberg. With a monthly subscription for €5.99, you pay from 49 cents/kWh and even only 39 cents/kWh for frequent drivers (basic fee €17.99).

Ionity has also followed suit and is reducing its prices by 10 cents / kWh in August 2023. With the Ionity Direct tariff, the kilowatt hour now costs only €0.69 instead of €0.79 throughout Germany. The Ionity Passport tariff is even cheaper: Here you can charge in Germany for €0.49 / kWh with a monthly subscription for €11.99.


On average, only 23 e-cars per 1 public charging station


Overall, however, the expansion of the charging infrastructure is lagging behind the boom in electric cars. The VDA (German Association of the Automotive Industry) recently evaluated how the development of the charging infrastructure is progressing. The result proves: there are still too few charging stations. This is shown by the VDA e-charging network ranking. that has just been published. Currently, there is an average of 23 e-cars per publicly accessible charging point in Germany. (While an average of 68,000 e-cars were newly registered per month in Germany in the past twelve months, the number of publicly accessible charging points grew by only about 540 per week. However, in order to achieve the German government's target of one million charging points in 2030, about 2,200 new charging points per week would be necessary. If the current rate of expansion is not increased, there would only be around 310,000 charging points in Germany in 2030 - less than a third of the target.

Nachhaltige Tankstelle mit blauen Farben in modernem Look.
Bevenbach: filling station of the future. photo: ARAL


The filling stations of the future look different

In an interview with t-online.de, Aral's board member for electromobility Alexander Junge talked about the future of petrol stations on the road to electromobility: "The petrol station will definitely still exist afterwards, but it will have to look different and take on other functions."

The concept is more diverse: the petrol station will become a "mobility hub", i.e. a junction where people can change between different means of transport. In the surrounding area, there will still be shopping facilities, snack bars and further services such as car washes. "After all, e-cars also want to be washed. And of course there will be many more charging stations for these e-cars," Junge explained.

Shell is also equipping more and more petrol stations with fast-charging stations for electric cars. Especially around Hamburg, the density of available Shell charging points is already quite high. Along the way, they are also expanding the on-site range to include synthetic fuels such as e-fuels. But the company is also expanding in alternative directions. As recently as 2021, Shell bought the Berlin-based start-up Ubitricity, which enables electric cars to be charged at lampposts. We reported on the "Heinz" charging points .


But with all the variety of charging options, providers often forget what is really important to users: the charging process should be simple and all information should be immediately recognisable. Some charging stations display a maximum charging time, after which a blocking fee applies. But even if this is not signposted on site, different conditions apply depending on the charging card provider. For example, AC charging with the EnBW mobility+ charging card or charging app generally incurs a blocking fee of up to €12 after 4 hours, even abroad. With Elli, this fee is waived at night between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., so you can charge comfortably at night. It is also pleasing that most providers adjusted their tariffs in September and October of this year and now offer lower prices.


Apps help in the search for the right charging station

Almost the most important utensil for an electric car driver is his smartphone. With an app (assuming good network reception and data volume), suitable charging stations can be researched on the road. You can find out the relevant information about prices, charging power and availability via various apps. We present a few helpful applications:


Next Plug: over 100,000 charging points at a glance

The free app includes more than 100,000 charging points in 48 countries. The application distinguishes between charging stations with a low charging power of up to 10 kW, a medium charging power of up to 40 kW and fast chargers with over 40 kW. If there is a fault, a black symbol appears.

Clicking on a specific station lists all information such as the address, charging plug, operator, opening hours and costs.

The application has been continuously developed since 2017, taking community feedback into account and adding new features.

One negative point: Unfortunately, the app is only available for Android so far.


EnBW mobility+: Find a charging point, start the charging process and pay

The app offers you an all-round carefree package. It not only helps e-drivers find a suitable charging station, but also handles the payment process after charging in a very uncomplicated way. Over 30,000 charging points in Germany belong to the network of EnBW, Energie Baden-Württemberg, and can be found quickly via the app.

To find the right charging station for the vehicle, the results can be filtered by plug type or desired charging power. With EnBW mobility +, charging cards are no longer necessary. Once you have stored your payment methods in the app, you can pay your charging costs quickly and easily with your smartphone after each charging stop. This service is also included with the ADAC charging card.


Chargemap: To search for and find charging stations

The free "Chargemap" app allows you to find charging stations in your area in seconds. Thanks to practical filter options, you can quickly find out about the charging speed and connection type of the selected charging station. You also receive all relevant data on the respective charging station. With the help of the route function, you can prepare your journey with the e-car and easily find suitable charging stations before you set off - based on a charging infrastructure of more than 166,000 listed charging points worldwide.


NextCharge: The digital charging station directory

The "NextCharge" app has similar functions to "Next Plug". In addition, it shows you for thousands of charging stations worldwide whether the station you are looking for is actually free - and all this in real time. Reservation of the charging station and charging is very simple via app control. The app also offers an integrated route planner. So you can start your journey relaxed and be sure that there will be enough charging stations along the way.


Ladefuchs: Charging costs at a glance

When you are standing in front of a charging station, the Ladefuchs app shows you the cheapest charging card you can use on site with a swipe of your finger. Thanks to emobly.com, the app always provides up-to-date data. The app is free of charge, but the Ladefuchs is happy to receive a small donation, which makes it squeal a little with satisfaction.


Zwei Smartphone Mockups mit der Anzeige von Preisen vor orangenem Hintergrund.
App: Ladefuchs - which tariff is the cheapest?

The range of charging options is becoming increasingly diverse, but unfortunately not more uniform, which would be desirable. Electricity charging must be simple: sufficient charging points and a transparent price structure for charging costs with simple payment options. Only when such a comprehensive charging infrastructure is in place will even the last doubters realise how much fun it is to be electrically mobile.

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