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EV Charging Infrastructure in Europe: Deployment picks up pace [free access]

November 14, 2018

Europe achieved a significant milestone of having one million electric vehicles (EV) in June this year. This was possible due to 42 per cent growth in EV sales [both battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs)] during the first half of 2018. Europe’s accomplishment came a year after China reached the 1 million EV mark in 2017 while the US is yet to achieve the milestone. Within Europe, five countries—Norway, Germany, France, Netherlands and the UK—account for the majority of the region’s EV market.


Europe’s EV success has been driven by national governments’ support to boost EV uptake to meet their targets to reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector through adoption of alternative fuels. Several countries offer incentives to promote EV deployment including purchase subsidies, registration tax benefits, ownership tax benefits and other financial benefits. However, access to affordable and well-located charging infrastructure (also known as EV supply equipment or EVSE) is critical for the growth of the EV market. Several companies including automobile manufacturers, distribution system operators (DSOs), energy utilities, charge point operators (responsible for supply, installation and maintenance of the charging points) and e-mobility service providers (eMSP; responsible for selling the mobility products and services) are investing in EVSEs to support Europe’s transition to e-mobility. Of late, companies have started committing significant investments to set up public EV chargers without government support.


At the EU level, the European Commission (EC) directed the EU countries to set EVSE deployment targets for 2020 and 2025 to match the level of infrastructure required by the EU Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFI) (2014). This includes a target of establishing one publicly accessible EVSE outlet per 10 cars by 2020. The EC guideline also recommends the installation of one fast charging station every 60 km on the TEN-T Core Network (the length of EU28 TEN-T Core Network is 34,400 km) by 2025. Another development at the EU level that is expected to boost EV and EVSE uptake is the European Parliament’s approval in April 2018 of a revised directive on energy performance buildings, which promotes pre-wiring for charging points in buildings as well as mandates countries to make legal provisions for a minimum number of charging points in non-residential buildings from January 1, 2025.


e-mobility and EV uptake


Most EU nations are focusing on electro mobility (e-mobility) for future passenger car transportation while only some countries such as Italy, Hungary and Czech Republic are prioritising natural gas to support alternative fuels. The e-mobility uptake is expected to take place in successive waves in Europe according to the report ‘Roll-out of public EV charging infrastructure in the EU – Is the chicken and egg dilemma resolved?’, published by the European Federation of Transport and Environment (T&E) in September 2018. The report categorises countries into three—frontrunners, followers and slow starters—based on the development of EV markets.


The frontrunners include 11 countries, namely, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. While Italy, Portugal and Spain fall in the category of followers, the slow starters comprise EU13 (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) and Greece.


In 2017, 91 per cent of EV sales in Europe (about 217,500 EVs) were in the frontrunners group, 8 per cent in the followers group and 2 per cent in the slow starter group. The frontrunners group is expected to sell 5-7 per cent EVs (or 1 million annual sales by early 2020s) to comply with car CO2 regulations (EU legislation sets mandatory emission reduction targets for new cars). The EC is working on its legislative proposal (presented in November 2017) for setting new CO2 standards for cars and vans in the EU for the period after 2020, which combines CO2 targets for 2025 (15 per cent reduction from the 2021 level) and 2030 (30 per cent reduction) with a technology-neutral incentive mechanism for zero-and low-emission vehicles to give the market clear signals for investments in clean vehicles.


EV charging infrastructure – existing and future targets


According to European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO) data (accessed on November 2, 2018), there are 154,790 publicly accessible charging points across 33 European countries. Majority of these (at 86 per cent) are slow chargers (or normal power chargers with <22 kW) while fast chargers (>22 kW) account for the rest. EV manufacturers in Europe use fast charging systems of various standards including ChaDeMo, combined charging system (CCS), Type 2AC, and Tesla Superchargers. The existing fast chargers are spread across these four standards in that order. There are over 5,000 CCS chargers across 2,550 public fast charging stations on Europe’s main roads. These stations (with an average of 2 CCS chargers) are placed every 60 km on an average on EU motorways (spread across about 76,500 km).


The top five countries account for over 78 per cent of the slow chargers and 61 per cent of fast chargers in Europe. According to the T&E report, western and northern Europe are ahead of southern, central and eastern Europe in the deployment of rechargers. In the former regions, the present network of public chargers (5 EVs per charger) is expected to reach the recommended 10:1 ratio with the growth in both vehicle and charger numbers by 2020. The EV market in southern, central and eastern Europe is expected to lag behind that of the frontrunners by 5 to 10 years. E-mobility will spread to the latter regions as EV technology becomes more affordable.


Based on the plans submitted by EU nations to meet the AFI Directive objective of 10:1 EV to public charging points ratio by 2020, about 220,000 chargers are expected to be installed including a good coverage of fast chargers along the European motorway network with 1,000 ultra-fast charging points (150-350 kW). This infrastructure will allow users to charge for up to 400 km of driving range in only 15 minutes. Further, 50 kW fast charging deployment will complement the existing fast charging points, which will almost double by 2020. By then, this will translate into one recharging point every 34 km along the strategic TEN-T Core Network.


Slow chargers, fast chargers and grid impact


Slow public chargers are commonly found in urban areas where they can be used with other options including private off-street parking. The number of slow public chargers varies across cities depending on availability of off-street parking and number of cars among other things. The Netherlands has the highest number of slow chargers at 36,010 followed by France and Germany. In most countries in the EU, the number of EVs per public slow charger is significantly below 10 except in Belgium and Sweden, which have a value of close to 20 (see chart). While fast chargers currently form a small proportion of total EVSE in Europe, the continent is emerging as one of the most popular destinations for deployment of DC fast charging stations.


Some of the concerns related to the rapid penetration of EVs include overloading of the existing infrastructure, which may adversely impact the grid, the health of the existing distribution transformers and the quality of the power supply to consumers. Therefore, adequate planning and infrastructure development commensurate with the growth of EVs is required. Studies indicate that the cost for a network of fast chargers may be less than for slow charge systems if grid reinforcement is not required. To mitigate fast charging grid impacts, they may be combined with energy storage that discharges during time of peak demand and time-of-use (TOU) rates may be implemented. Also, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies, once commercially viable (currently in testing/pilot stage), would help EV owners feed energy back into the grid and help energy providers meet demand during peak periods. There are at least 18 V2G pilots (ongoing or completed) across 10 European countries including Germany, Netherlands, UK, Denmark and Norway, which are testing its efficacy to provide frequency regulation and grid balancing services.


EVSE investments


Overall, by 2030, the cumulative investment in public charging is estimated to be EUR12 billion, which is a small proportion of the EUR100 billion invested by the EU annually in transport infrastructure as per the T&E study. The spending on private charging by 2030 is estimated at EUR20 billion.


So far, a mixture of public sector funding and private investments have gone into EV charging infrastructure. The T&E study estimates that the initial need for government subsidy and investment will gradually reduce in the the 2020-25 period in the frontrunners’ group. According to another study by Fuelling Europe’s Future (FEF) II, the investment in EV charging infrastructure deployment will be entirely private in 2025. While installation in parking, retail and shopping malls will be done by land management businesses to attract higher rents and more customers, fast chargers will be funded by private players as the number of EVs on the road will make it a viable business model.


Several private players have committed substantial investments (in many cases without any involvement of public money). In Belgium, Allego, a charge point operator, plans to install 2,500 public charging stations by 2020. Similarly, the joint venture (JV) of Nuon-Heijmans (Nuon is an energy utility owned by Vattenfall and Dutch-based Heijmans is a construction-services company) is installing 2,480 charging points in Noord-Brabant and Limburg in south Netherlands without any subsidy. The JV has entered into a 10-year contract with the two provinces. While Heijmans will use its experience to install and maintain the charging points, Nuon will provide financing and be responsible for related energy requirements.


Ultra-fast charging networks – recent developments


European energy and grid utilities are actively participating in the installation of public fast and ultra-fast charging networks. For instance, National Grid, UK’s transmission system operator (TSO), is working with local Pivot Power LLP to develop one of the world's largest networks of rapid charging stations for EVs in the UK. The GBP1.6 billion proposal envisions the installation of 2,250 MW of batteries at 45 electric substations across the UK, tapping the country's high voltage transmission system to provide mass charging at competitive rates. The network would initially support 100 fast chargers, sized at 150 kW each, but would also accommodate 350 kW ultra-fast chargers once they become available in the UK. The project will give the system operator more choice and flexibility for managing the demand on the grid while facilitating mass EV charging. In May 2018, Pivot Power announced its plans to have batteries operational at 10 sites within the next 18 months.


Germany-based utility enBW has collaborated with gas provider OMV to install and maintain more than 1,000 ultra-fast charging sites by 2020. The chargers will not be restricted to motorways and will be set up in urban centres as well. To begin with, enBW plans to set up 100 charging stations across Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.


Austria-based energy company Verbund is leading the Central European Ultra Charing (CEUC) project, which aims to deploy 118 high power chargers across seven EU countries at an investment of EUR61 million. It is supported by the EC Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). Verbund is also part of another initiative, the E-Via Flex-E, which is led by Enel (Italy-based multinational energy utility and DSO) and co-financed by the EC (EUR6.9 million). France-based utilities EDF and Enedis, car manufacturers Nissa and Renault and Spain’s eMSP, Ibil are also part of this initiative. Launched in December 2017, the project proposes to install 14 ultra-fast charging stations in Italy, France and Spain. This initiative will complement the Electric Vehicles Arteries (EVA+) project, also co-financed by the EC. It provides for the installation of 180 fast chargers (Fast Recharge Plus) in three years along the Italian extra-urban corridors.


Another European energy utility, E.ON is involved in two projects, i.e., E.ON x Clever and NEXT-E. E.ON has collaborated with Denmark’s eMSP Clever to establish a network of 180 ultra-fast charging stations (with 2-6 CCS chargers each offering 150 kW charging upgradable to 350 kW) in seven countries connecting Norway to Italy. The network is designated as an EU flagship project and has received EC funding of EUR10 million from 2017-2020.


The NEXT-E project, which is also co-financed by the EC’s CEF (EUR18.84 million), will install 222 multi-standard fast chargers (50 kW) and 30 ultra-fast chargers (150-350 kW) along the TEN-T Core Network and Corridors.


Another EC co-financed project, Mega-E, is being implemented by Allego in partnership with Finland’s Fortum. Under this, Allego will develop a charging network of 322 ultra-fast chargers and 27 smart charging hubs across 20 central European and Scandinavian countries. It focuses on bringing multimodal charging hubs to metropolitan areas.


Several automobile manufacturers have also announced plans for installing and scaling up next generation charging networks (ultra-fast chargers). This will complement the Tesla Supercharger network (set up by Tesla Motors and comprising over 3,300 chargers spread across 23 European countries) and several other smaller and less powerful networks that are making inroads into the continent. At least two JVs of automakers have announced plans to install ultra-fast EV charging networks. For instance, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler and Ford have formed the Munich-based JV Ionity to roll out its charging network to service the next generation battery cars hitting the market next year. Its target is to install 400 ultra-fast charging stations (with an average of six charging points each) by 2020. It opened its first station in April 2018 and has agreements for 300 sites including fuel stations in place.


Meanwhile, Ultra-E, a JV of Allego, Audi, BMW, Magna, Renault and Hubject, is installing 100 charging points in 25 stations across the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Austria.


Way forward


Europe is rapidly developing a significant EV charging network to ensure long distance travel based on 100 per cent electricity is possible. According to the T&E report, the biggest constraint on the shift to e-mobility is the limited availability of EVs and minimal EV marketing rather than lack of infrastructure. There are only about 30 battery and fuel cell electric models available for sale as compared to 370 conventionally fuelled models. In this context, the proposed car CO2 regulations will play a significant part in defining the speed of transition to zero emission solutions.


To ensure a comprehensive EU-wide EVSE rollout, the T&E has made several recommendations for consideration by policymakers. This includes targeted EU investment in infrastructure, updating the AFI Directive, creation of an EU fund dedicated to urban recharging, prioritising grid upgrades, tackling the barriers to recharging in buildings, creation of tailored loan and grant schemes for small companies and open standards for e-mobility services. Challenges notwithstanding, it is exciting times for the EV market as EU nations gear up for a transformation in the mobility landscape.



Table 1: Number of EV chargers in top 5 countries in Europe (by type)


Slow chargers

Fast chargers






























%share of top 5 in Europe




Source: European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO)



Table 2: Planned European ultra-fast charging networks


Stations/ chargers





400 / ~2,400

BMW, Mercedes, Ford, VW Group (Porsche and Audi

24 countries

By 2020; partner with Shell


25 / ~100

Allego, Audi, BMW Magna, Renault, Hubject

Netherlands (5), Belgium (4), Germany (12) and Austria (4)

Completion by summer 2018. Sites at average distance of 150-200 km

E-Via Flex-E


Enel (coordinator) EDF, Enedis, Verbund, Nissan, Renault and Ibil

Italy (8), Spain (4), France (2)

Co-financed by EC




20 countries (central Europe and Scandinavia)

Focuses on metropolitan areas with e-charging hubs (EU funding)

Central European Ultra Charing (CEUC)

118 /NA

Verbund (coordinator), CEUC, Enel X, Smatrics, Greenway, OMV

Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia

EU financed 20% of the total cost (EUR12 million out of EUR61 million)




Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Romania

222 fast (50 kW) chargers are also included  (EC funding)

E.ON x Clever

180 /NA

E.ON and Clever

Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, UK, Italy and Denmark

2-6 chargers per station

(EC funding)

Instavolt network

NA / 200



Equipment from ChargePoint

Fastned network



Germany, Netherlands, UK

Equipment from ABB. More sites expected

Pivot Power and the National Grid


Pivot Power and the National Grid


50 MW battery storage


100-1000/ 800

 EnBW and OMV


2 chargers per site first, cooperation with gas provider OMV, focus on urban areas

Porsche (private)




Private network, cooperation with gas provider OMV

Notes: NA – not available

Source: European Federation of Transport and Environment


Figure 1: Growth in number of charging points in Europe (2010-2018)


Source: European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO)