E-cars: More urban charging points are needed

E-cars: More urban charging points are needed

There is a lack of charging options for urban electric cars. © SolStock/ iStock

According to the federal government’s plan, 15 million electric vehicles should be on Germany’s roads by 2030. But for this to work, the network of charging points must also grow, which could be difficult, as a new study shows. Accordingly, apartment buildings, offices, supermarkets and parking garages would increasingly have to be equipped with charging stations in order to meet demand. But this is not easily possible and is likely to lead to a significant gap between supply and demand in the long term.

Electrically powered vehicles are intended to reduce emissions that are harmful to the climate and thus contribute to achieving German climate neutrality. The federal government is therefore planning to increase the number of electric vehicles here to 15 million by 2030. This is an ambitious goal, because there are currently less than a million electric cars on Germany’s roads.

Charging in the city needs to be easier

In addition to the sheer number of vehicles that will be added, the charging infrastructure must also continue to grow. The network of charging stations is currently rather full of holes. It can be difficult, especially for electric car owners in the city, to charge the car overnight. After all, very few apartment buildings have a corresponding connection. And unlike single-family homes in the country, this cannot be installed easily. But if the federal government’s plan is to work, retrofitting must take place now. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research in Karlsruhe have now determined exactly what the further expansion should look like.

Specifically, the team analyzed how much urban charging points need to be expanded in order to be able to supply the target of 15 million electric cars with electricity at some point. The researchers primarily looked at previously little-used but promising locations: the 3.5 million German multi-family homes and the approximately two million non-residential buildings such as offices, supermarkets and parking garages. “Half of all German apartments are in apartment buildings. This must be taken into account so that the mobility transition is successful,” explains Friederike Piper from the non-governmental organization “Transport & Environment”, which commissioned the study.

Multi-family homes offer potential

The result: The researchers assume that in 2030 around 1.6 million electric vehicles will be stored in private parking spaces in front of apartment buildings. In order to supply them all with enough electricity, it would theoretically be enough to provide 20 percent of the vehicles with their own charging point, according to the projection. The premise is that a charging point is shared by several cars. It would be conceivable, for example, that every vehicle owner would be given a given time window to charge their own car, or that they would have to pay fees if they blocked the parking space for too long.

However, the targeted coverage rate of 20 percent would only be the absolute minimum, as the researchers report. Ideally, significantly more charging infrastructure would be needed to ensure that every electric car owner in an apartment building benefits equally. But even achieving the minimum quota would pose challenges. Cities often lack space for charging stations and corresponding parking spaces. Owners of apartment buildings are currently only obliged to build a charging infrastructure if major renovations or even a new building are planned. The researchers therefore assume that the need for corresponding charging points will be significantly greater than the available supply by 2030.

Supermarkets and the like could close the gap

In addition to multi-family homes, non-residential buildings will also play an important role in the charging infrastructure in the future, as the researchers emphasize. They assume that by 2030, around three million electric vehicles will be heading to charging stations at supermarkets, parking garages and offices every day instead of charging at home. Such charging points are a welcome opportunity, especially for owners without a private parking space, to charge their own car somewhere, at least during the day.

The research team has determined that a charging station would have to be available for ten percent of these vehicles in order to just cover their electricity needs. However, this assumes that only 30 percent of charging processes take place during the day while at work and that cars leave the charging zone immediately when they are finished. If the expansion of charging points in non-residential buildings progresses quickly and perhaps even exceeds the legal minimum, it could even partially compensate for the future shortage in apartment buildings, according to the researchers.

Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI); Study: “Potential of parking spaces in residential and non-residential buildings to provide private charging infrastructure” (PDF)

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