The 300 Million Euro Question: How Should the German Government Spend the Money?

The German government recently made a decision to put a million Electric Vehicles on the road by 2020 (see more details here at insideevs.com). The incentives aimed at the EV buyers are accompanied by an investment of 300 million EUR on charging infrastructure, mostly DC quick chargers (according to the release). Today there are about 50,000 EVs on the German roads, so reaching the target will be a huge challenge and certainly the automotive industry needs to be able to offer attractive vehicles for the consumers to hit that number.

This is all interesting, but here at AC2SG Software we are more interested in the infrastructure investment. More specifically, how should that 300 million EUR be spent on the infrastructure and just how many charging points do a million cars need?

EVPlanner route plan 120216

Let’s start with the autobahns, the German equivalent to the US Interstate network. Tesla has already built their own Supercharger network in Europe and while the technology is not the same and the range of the current models of Tesla significantly longer than with the other auto makers, essentially the German automakers need a high-speed DC charging network throughout Germany to put them on equal footing with Tesla. The total length of the German autobahn network is just under 13,000 kilometers (in 2015). One can assume that the DC charging stations should be 50-70 kilometers apart to allow some flexibility to EVs with ranges in 150-200 km per charge. This translates roughly to 185 – 260 locations along the autobahn network for DC chargers.

The other question is how many points should there be at each location? Looking at the 2020 figure of one million EVs, one can assume that 8 – 12 points per location might be sufficient on average, but obviously that number could be even significantly higher in the busiest locations. Going with the above average numbers, the number of DC chargers needed would be between 1480 and 3120. Quite a range and with an average total cost of 50 kEUR per DC charging point the government is looking to spend between 74 to 156 MEUR on the DC chargers along the autobahn. There are many variables in this calculation, but a safe bet is the upper end of this range, so call it 150 million EUR leaving the other half of the 300 million for something else.

The autobahn traffic is important for travelling between cities, but in practice most of the transport needs are very local. This is a different use case from the highway travel and according to our experience has a different set of parameters. First of all, charging stations should be available in most locations where people park their vehicles for prolonged periods of time. This means office buildings, parking structures, supermarkets, sports venues and major tourist locations to name a few examples. The ubiquity of the charging locations is important also for the future V2G scenarios where the EV battery is used for balancing the grid itself.

Secondly, these charging stations are not going to be quick chargers. The stations are today 3.3 – 11 kW either one-phase or three-phase AC chargers. The construction is simpler, the costs lower and the service suitable for locations where cars are parked for 1-4 hours at a time. In the future these locations are going to be upgraded to 6.6 – 22 kW charging as the vehicles themselves will have powerful enough on-board chargers, while in most cases these are optional and therefore not installed in most of today’s EVs.

150 million EUR buys a lot of AC chargers. A rough estimate of the cost of a single dual-connector AC charging pole is 6000-8000 EUR today including installation and construction. This figure assumes a mix of one-phase and three-phase chargers with a reasonable construction cost. It is likely that the construction is more than half of the total cost. With these numbers the German government will be able to buy anywhere from 19000 to 25000 AC chargers. Personally, I think the upper end of the range is the safe choice here taking into account the volumes, the competition for this business is going to be fierce and prices will likely be low.

Overall, this short exercise has given us rough figures of about 3000 DC chargers and 25000 AC chargers for Germany. This figure does not take into account private charging at homes, locations of business and offices, these are all public charging points. There is one DC charger per 333 cars and one AC charger per 40 cars. Whether that will be sufficient, time will tell.

Getting all that hardware deployed in the right locations is no small feat in itself. Our EVPlanner provides the functionality to start planning the deployment, simply going out and starting to install the chargers is not the right approach, you need to find the right locations rather than simply look at the numbers. This is also the finding of ChargePoint in California (see this article on insideevs.com).

If you have feedback on this, please send an e-mail to info@ac2sg.fi or add your comments below.

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