A scooting look at electric vehicle charging infrastructures

Electric mobility reduces noise, CO2 emissions and other polluting particles from road transport. It also facilitates interaction with the electrical system. It is being rolled out progressivly, although the map of public charging points for electric cars could be greater if the barriers in place related to granting licences and permits and the lack of qualified professionals for their installation were lifted.

By Arturo Pérez de Lucia

Few people doubt that electric mobility has a key role to play in the present and future of automotives and road mobility in Spain, across Europe and much of the world.

We are in the midst of an industrial, technological and service revolution in mobility and automotive, moving towards electric, connected, shared, digitised and autonomous vehicles that will transform road traffic in a way that we have not seen for more than 120 years, when the arrival of Otto cycle engines represented the death knell of horse-drawn carriages in just over a decade.

However, the electric vehicle market remains a disruptive market, not so much from a technological perspective, which has changed little conceptually since the late nineteenth century, when cars powered by batteries were manufactured and recharged at facilities to which they were connected by means of a cable, rather socially or psychologically, in what represents a profound transformation of the types of passenger and cargo road transport.

Electric vehicles address two key issues in the world we live in. One is environmental, since, as they release zero emissions as part of their propulsion and are powered by energy from renewable sources, electric cars are an ally in achieving greater sustainability linked to the reduction of CO2 emissions and, above all, polluting particles and noise, especially in urban environments.

The other is energy, as it is the only propulsion system capable of interacting with the electricity system to help balance its demand curve, boost renewable energy, distributed generation and energy storage, three keys to achieving energy efficiency in the world we are heading towards, with increasing demand for electricity-based services.

This makes particular sense in a complex geopolitical scenario like the one we are seeing, made even more difficult by the conflict in Ukraine, which demonstrates the need, in a country like Spain, to dispense insofar as possible with imports of oil and gas from third countries, as we are a territory with plentiful native resources, such as the sun, wind and water, capable of supplying the raw material needed to power electric vehicle batteries.

Spain is an industrial country in the combustion-based automotive industry, occupying a leading position in Europe and worldwide, which is why the transformation of the vehicles manufactured towards electrification is an added difficulty when it comes to maintaining competitiveness and employment in a sector that accounts for more than 10% of GDP.

However, consideration must be given to the fact that manufacturers themselves have already made their plans to end the production of combustion vehicles, some by 2026, others by 2030 and practically all by 2035, while some manufacturers already only produce only electric vehicles.

Also from an industrial perspective, recharging infrastructures in Spain have access to important companies that manufacture all kinds of charging points for the domestic and foreign markets.

In fact, the market share of these manufacturers rises to 20% in Europe and they boast annual growth of around 50%; they are highly internationalised companies, with operating bases mainly in Europe and the United States, and a benchmark in equipment for high power recharging.

Furthermore, they offer technological and industrial leadership in convergent sectors such as renewable energies and energy storage and boast figures of 300 million euros of turnover (75% exports to Europe and the United States), according to 2022 data extracted from the Electric Mobility Yearbook 2022-2023 prepared by AEDIVE, the Business Association for the Development and Promotion of Electric Mobility.

One of the biggest arguments used to counter the arrival of the electric vehicle is the lack of charging infrastructure available to the public.

To this end, it should be noted that in Spain, the roll out of this type of operational charging infrastructure is reasonable, and could be immediately increased by 34% with the facilities still not powered on account of the barriers associated, mainly, with the granting of licences and permits by public administrations.

The Government is already working, thanks to the task force it launched in 2022 with the help of the Secretary of State for Energy, to seek solutions that accelerate this process in collaboration with the business ecosystem.

In any case and as the charging operators (CPOs), who form part of AEDIVE, are responsible for the roll out of this type of infrastructure, a baseline scenario was established in the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) with 3.5 million 100% electric cars, meaning that, provided the barriers that today hold back their roll out are resolved, the following figures are achievable in the roll out of the public charging network in Spain:

  • Up to 70,000 PRPVEs (public charging points for electric vehicles) by 2025.
  • Up to 255,000 PRPVEs by 2030.

Against a backdrop in which there is strong momentum for the electrification of electric mobility, with 5 million 100% electric passenger vehicles by 2030, the target figure would rise to 340,000 PRPVEs (public charging points for electric vehicles) by 2030.

To this end, the CPOs foresee investments of more than 3,000 million euros by 2030 for this roll out.

Other challenges linked to charging points are those related to the urgent need for more professional installers, a sector that is overwhelmed by the huge volume of projects not only associated with electric vehicles, but also with renewable energies.

As an example, installation companies in Catalonia have already announced that they require 18,000 technicians immediately to meet current demand and, by 2050, 160,000 workers will be needed in the technical installation sector in that autonomous community alone.

In Valencia, the lack of professional installers has also become evident and the renewable sector (wind and photovoltaic) is working against the clock to find 2,500 workers just for the plants that have already been approved.

This is why it is necessary to accelerate the training of professionals in this sector, since the at which charging infrastructures are implemented will depend not only on overcoming administrative hurdles, but also on the lack of professionals capable of implementing these facilities with the required safety and efficiency criteria.

Seen in a positive light, progress with electric mobility is being made at a constant pace, which bodes well in terms of the significant growth in competitiveness and employment, and in the transformation of a road fleet that will provide an efficient solution to air quality problems through the proper management of loading and unloading processes that will encourage the implementation of renewable energies, preventing spills and reducing carbon emissions.

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