From refuelling to recharging – filling up electric vehicles

PARIS/FRANKFURT: The battle over how and where Europeans charge their electric cars is expanding from the continent’s cities to its motorways. But if electric vehicles (EVs) are ever to overtake petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles, charging will have to become as simple as filling up. Here are some facts about EVs, charging stations and plugs.

EV market growth

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2017 Global EV Outlook said that new registrations of electric cars hit a record in 2016 at over 750,000 worldwide.

Norway, where electric cars have a 29% market share, is the most advanced market, followed by the Netherlands with 6.4% and Sweden with 3.4%. China, France and Britain all have EV market shares close to 1.5%.

Despite fast growth, the number of EVs is still small: their global stock doubled to two million vehicles in 2016 from one million in 2015, but accounted for just 0.2% of the total number of passenger light-duty vehicles.

Based on country targets, car maker announcements and scenarios of EV deployment, the IEA sees a good chance that numbers will range between nine million and 20 million by 2020, and between 40 million and 70 million by 2025.

Point to point

World-wide there were more than 322,000 public charging points available in 2016, IEA data show. Only about 110,000 of them were “fast” chargers, of which more than 88,000 were in China. Europe had less than 10,000 fast chargers, with Britain and Germany leading with around 1,500 fast-charging points each.

Morgan Stanley estimates that one to three million public charging points could be needed in western Europe by 2030, with up to ten times as many in 2050.

Fast, faster, ultra-fast

Fast is a relative notion in the EV charging business. So-called level 1 slow chargers are typically installed in private homes and have power output levels of up to 3.7 kilowatts (kW), using alternating current (AC). At that level, it takes a nearly whole night to recharge an EV fully.

Level 2 chargers go up to 22 kW and are typically installed in parking lots or shops, and can charge an EV in a few hours.

Level 3 fast chargers range from 22 to 150 kW and have either triphase AC or direct current (DC). The vast majority of the world’s fast chargers are at about 50 kW, which can still take hours to recharge a large luxury vehicle.

Ultra-fast charging docks with capacities of 150 to 350 kW can cut the charging time to 15 minutes or less. These docks can cost upwards of €200,000 (RM1mil) and hardly any exist yet, most notably because there are few cars ready to take that kind of power.

Plugs aplenty

Today there are four standards, with the combined charging system (CCS), used in Europe and the United States, emerging as the winner over Japan’s CHAdeMO and Tesla’s supercharger, a closed system similar to that of Apple.

The European Commission wants more interoperability, so that all makes of cars can charge at all charging stations. More and more companies are also developing electronic charge cards that let customers charge at home, at work or on the road with the same payment system.

China, the world’s largest car market, again uses a wholly different standard. — Reuters