The shameful disgrace of EV charging infrastructure in Europe


The BMW i3 Rex. Fortunately BMW understood the state of the charging infrastructure in Europe and offered a clever solution, a small built in petrol generator to maintain the charge in the battery for when a charge point was not available, broken or too expensive!

For years I have wanted an electric car, a chance to get about without burning fossil fuels and adding to the already serious problem of climate change and pollution. We have finally arrived at a point where the electric car is totally feasible for most people most of the time but the rest of what is needed for everyone to make the switch is very far from sorted.

Frankly it’s a disgrace, at least for the most part. There are some decent people trying hard to offer a working and reasonably priced charging infrastructure but for the most part all I see are entrapreneurs keen to fleece this new and developing market and I say shame on you! I have no objection to capitalism, nor enterprise but I take offence when people are greedy and work against what is right.

As much as I dislike government control and legislation in this case I feel it is needed to stop greedy people taking the piss. The problem is that the (for the most part) privately owned public charging infrastructure is pitiful in almost every way. From the charging points and their locations to the way the charge is paid for. But the worst is the sheer cost of it. Shameful is the word. It’s a mess.

Take Chargemap, a company who aim to simplify the charging process by having one card and one app for most chargers throughout Europe so you don’t have to get the app for each charge point. In theory it is a good idea but Chargemap will not say how much commission they charge for the privilege and what is even more pathetic is that their app will only work on Android 6 and newer. If your phone is a couple of years old forget it! This is utterly pathetic from a company who claim to simplify the process of charging with just one card and one app!

The card came quickly enough but I was not very happy about paying 20€ for it, yet another instance of a company grabbing some cash at every opportunity. But the app cannot be loaded on my phone so what is the point really? How does this simplify the charge process. After complaining they said it was my fault for buying the phone I bought and insisted I send back the useless card before they would refund me. The reply I got was from someone in the ‘User happiness’ department. How laughable is that?

Then there is the cost of charging. Some companies are charging a shocking amount, sometimes up to 80 centimes a kw/hr or put another way about 5 times more than you can charge at home! Shameful. How is this money grabbing greed supposed to help people transition from ICE to EV? It’s not. While it costs about the same to fill with electricity as it does to fill with fuel no one is ever likely to buy an EV, especially when you consider the time it takes to charge and how complicated it can be.

In this transition period we need cheap and plentiful chargers and we need a simple way to pay, just like we do with petrol and yet what do we find? Chargers in out of the way places, rarely under cover like a petrol forecourt and often the few chargers are occupied or broken or unable to be used because of a failed app. No one in their right mind is likely to swap the convenience of ICE for an EV the way things are.

The problem is that these companies are exploiting the fact that an EV with a low charge has no choice but to use the charger irrespective of location, price or functionality and this is shameful.

There is hope however, yes, even the word hopeless has the word hope in it. Take Gridserve, a new charging station in Essex in the UK. Here is a company whose aim is to encourage the use of EVs by offering numerous powerful charge points all under cover at a fair price. And because they know that it takes a while to charge they have a place where drivers can relax, grab a bite or have a coffee. The electricity they offer is green and clean too. I have no doubt that Gridserve will be a great success and show others how it should be done.

Of course once the government isn’t getting taxes from petrol and diesel they will look for other ways to recoup it and no doubt the EV driver of the future will have to pay all sorts of ridiculous taxes but what we need right now are electric companies who do not exploit EV drivers who have no choice. It’s a disgrace and it’s setting back the adoption of EVs by years.

I am one of the lucky ones as I can charge my car overnight at home and my journeys are short. An EV works for me today. But for those who do not have their own driveway or a way to charge at work are screwed and at the mercy of a bunch of profiteers who could care less about the planet and only want your money. This must change and fast.

It seems to me that here is an instance where government intervention is needed urgently in the way charging is paid for and how much it costs but also where the power comes from. EVs only really make sense if they are powered by sustainable electricity so what we need is Europe wide legislation to standardise the price and payment systems so that the ordinary person can make the switch and stop burning stuff as quickly as possible.

If we leave this up to the private sector it will be years before a half decent infrastructure is in place. Personally I find this kind of profiteering utterly disgusting. Whatever happened to decency? A decent product for a fair price? How do these people sleep at night?