Great news for current and future Electric Vehicle (EV) drivers: European decision-makers have recently approved the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation, also known as “AFIR”. From early next year, when this legislation applies, EV drivers will benefit from the same rules and standards for public EV charging on every European road, regardless of which country they live in, visit or drive through within the European Union (EU). Thanks to binding minimum targets for EV infrastructure linked to the number of EVs in each country, EV drivers will also benefit from a larger charging network.
AFIR is expected to significantly improve EV driving: EV users will have access to easy-to-find, user-friendly charging stations on every 60 km of their journey within the 27 EU countries. And seamless payment coupled with transparent and visible pricing will improve customer confidence and experience. In doing so, AFIR will undoubtedly help reaching the EU’s sustainability goals: the “Green Deal” aiming to make Europe climate neutral by 2050 and the "Fit for 55" as a stepping stone, mandating 55% cut in CO2 emissions by 2030.
But we are not going to get the job done with AFIR alone. Despite AFIR’s uniform approach, EV charging still doesn’t fully tap into the EU’s most important achievement over the past 30 years – the Single Market.
How come? The Single Market established the “four freedoms” which guarantee free movement of goods, services, capital and people. Among other things, this means that a company can sell the same product in any of the 27 EU states. But with EV chargers, manufacturers like EVBox are still obliged to develop all sorts of product variations to be able to sell their hardware in all EU countries: an extra shuko plug is required in one country, a shutter to cover the socket in another. Others insist on an additional meter on top of an EU certified one to measure how much electricity is used. Or an outside emergency button to shut off an already safety-certified charging station. Or a feature to enable authorities to cut off energy supply to the EV charger. I could go on and on. Still, none of these national requirements are mandated widely beyond the one or two EU countries that impose them, instilling doubts whether they are truly designed to benefit European consumers.
It will come as no surprise that designing and producing multiple EV charger prototypes - instead of just one - demands many more engineers (who are scarce and whose unique skills could be put to a much better use), other staff to handle this complex operation, longer lead time and different parts that go through lengthy – and often costly – certification processes. We're talking about additional costs in millions of euros and excessive delays in years to make a charging station in all its variations available across 27 EU countries.
Just imagine, if these extra people and funds could focus on what can truly move the green needle: developing and producing more EV chargers within a shorter time frame and advancing the next smart charging innovations. Smart charging already allows EV users to choose to charge only when solar or other renewable energy is available. Or to stop charging when the energy demand peaks, alleviating the pressure on the congested grid and reducing the need for major grid upgrades. The next step could turn EVs into batteries on wheels, feeding power back to your home grid.
This is exactly what a Single Market in EV charging would do. With multiple local rules, we risk multiple speeds for electric mobility. With the Single Market, we’ll have one speed Europe.
But how can we get there? EVBox currently holds Presidency of our industry’s main association called ChargeUp Europe, which has laid down a clear pathway for the EU to meet the climate challenge, while scaling our sector faster. We need to:
- Leverage the growth-inducing power of the Single Market, implementing AFIR and removing unjustified local regulatory barriers through further harmonisation.
- Simplify regulations to maximize supply chain efficiencies and resolve staff shortages.
- Invest in a grid to make it fit for the EU’s electrification agenda and decongest it through policy measures enabling smart charging – like mandating EVs to share in-vehicle data such as battery status with EV chargers.
- Formalize open, EU-industry-led standards and protocols OCPP and OCPI. OCPP -- the latest version of which supports smart charging -- enables customers to select the optimal hardware and software combination, while any new standards should serve as supplementary enhancements rather than replacements for OCPP.
- Set up a new governance structure to facilitate a seamless integration of EV charging across energy, digital and transport sectors. Effective interaction between EV charging infrastructure and these sectors is essential for sustainable progress.
As a company and an industry, we stand ready to help the transition from polluting fossil-fuel vehicles towards clean transport. Yet in the face of the intensifying climate emergency that we have all been painfully reminded of this summer, we must act quicker. With a Single Market for EV chargers, our sector can help the EU meet and likely even exceed its AFIR targets. Ensuring that every European who needs to drive can charge their EV when and where they want. In a one speed Europe, electric mobility will be nothing less than… an ordinary reality.