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  • Writer's pictureMichael Brecht

Charging on long distances during the summer holidays

Three electric cars are parked at Ionity charging stations in the summer and are charging electricity.
Image: Michael Brecht

With the increase in electric cars on European roads, the question arises whether the number of charging stations in summer is sufficient to handle holiday traffic without disruption. Anyone who follows the problems at European airports will avoid traveling by plane this year if possible. International travel by train remains, but that's not for everyone.

55 percent of all fast European charging stations are located in three countries: Germany, the Netherlands and France. These fast chargers are publicly accessible charging stations with at least 150 kW of charging capacity. Here, the electric vehicle usually charges enough electricity in 10-20 minutes to ensure continued travel for several hundred kilometers.

The expansion of fast chargers in Europe is growing

Anyone who knows the situation on Germany's motorways knows that things can get tight here too. As of April 2023, according to statistics from the Federal Network Agency, the provider Tesla is one of the top 5 operators among the almost 16,000 fast chargers in Germany with almost 2,000 fast chargers, but their access is by no means open to drivers of all electric car brands everywhere. With EnBW, Pulse (Aral / BP) and Ionity, other providers are expanding quite aggressively, especially on the highways. They are struggling with the sometimes absurd complexities of expanding the charging infrastructure in Germany. The quasi-monopoly of refueling and resting on German motorways has so far proven to be more of a brake than a driver when it comes to expanding the charging infrastructure on German motorways.

In Europe, Ionity (more than 2,500 fast chargers) and Fastned are setting the pace, but here too it is primarily the existing network of stations that is being expanded. What makes matters worse is that the map systems in the vehicles do not always clearly show the route to the nearest fast charger. An example: when I wanted to drive my Tesla to an Ionity fast charger in the south of France at night, my navigation system led me down a side street to the charging station, which was located in a motorway rest area. The gate to the rest area was locked, no chance of getting to the charging stations. The reason for this was the lack of access to the French motorways from outside, as there was a fear that people would want to avoid paying the fee (Péage). My Tesla showed me the way to most of the Ionity stations via external roads, the whole thing was quite laborious.

Six electric cars are parked at a charging station and charging electricity
Charging option away from the motorway / Image: Michael Brecht

European charging during the summer holidays: good to sufficient

In Spain, on the other hand, there are no charging stations at motorway service stations and so the smallest villages suddenly become a charging hotspot for EV drivers. Unfortunately, in Spain, fast chargers are systems with a charging power of 50 kW or more - unfortunately, rapid charging is not really possible with this. Most charging stations in the country are operated by Endesa and Iberdrola, which work quite well in roaming with well-known apps and charging cards such as EnBW and Shell (Recharge).

In Italy, the economic disparity is also reflected in the availability of fast chargers. And while the supply along the Brenner motorway down to Milan is really first-class, things get downright adventurous with the charging stations south of Rome. This turns loading into a scavenger hunt during the summer holidays. But a remedy is in sight: The large Italian energy supplier Enel X announced that it would continue to build up the fast-charging network on Italy's highways. In the neighboring country of Croatia, users of the Ionity app/maps in particular are well served, and it is easy to recharge along the motorways here.

And if you're traveling towards Northern Europe, you won't have any problems finding a fast charger anyway. There are plenty of fast-charging stations in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the model country for electric vehicles. Only the now very high proportion of electric cars makes it necessary to wait for a space at a station in some places. But here too, thanks to good waiting places and regulated queues, this time flies.

No question - there is still a lot to do when it comes to the Europe-wide, comprehensive supply of fast chargers. But progress has been noticeable since last year. Unfortunately, the number of charging points is currently not increasing at the same rate as new registrations of electric vehicles.


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