22 jan 19

Chargers or EVs? Chicken and Egg dilemma

LeasePlan’s “EV Readiness Index 2019” concludes on a positive note, pointing out that Europe is making progress: all countries in the index have shown a better score compared to 2018. LeasePlan brakes down the score into 4 categories: EV market, infrastructure, policy and its own EV maturity.

What countries are ready for fleet electrification? Discover it here.

Myth of the infrastructure incentive

The fact that LeasePlan includes charging infrastructure into the scoring of EV readiness, confirms a common understanding that the number of available charging points plays a key role in the consumer’s (or corporate, for that matter) decision making to go electric or not; “There are not enough charging points, so I shouldn’t by an electric vehicle.”

Evidence from Norway (Europe’s most developed EV market) however demonstrates a counter-intuitive conclusion: the more an EV market matures, the less public urban charging is used. Deep-diving into the parameters that lead to this conclusion, it turns out that the use of fast chargers, along highways or other connecting corridors has increased, whilst only 15% of all EV drivers use slow chargers on weekly basis.

Refining the statement, the proliferation of EVs can be incentivised by improving the fast charger network, not just the number of EV chargers.

The right number of chargers

The norm set by the EU Commission is 1 public recharging point per every 10 EVs on the road. Today’s situation is surprisingly better than the standards imposed: there is one charger available for every 5 EVs (on average, across the EU). This is due to the low sales of EVs, obviously, rather than the size of the charger network.

Obviously, and this is confirmed by LeasePlan’s Readiness Index, countries are not progressing at the same pace. Reports from the European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO) show that Northern and Western Europe (except for Luxembourg) are doing well, whilst South and East are lagging behind, which can be explained in Italy, Hungary and the Czech Republic by the fact that these countries prioritise natural gas rather than electricity.

Fast Chargers

Today’s overall coverage of fast chargers counts 2,550 rapid charging sites with about 5,000 CCS chargers. Spread (on average) over 76,500km of EU motorways, this equals to one charging site every 60 kilometre, for every direction on the highway.

Even better than fast chargers, are the ultra-fast chargers, allowing vehicles to charge up to 400km in 15 minutes. Currently, not all EVs are technically equipped for the ultra-fast chargers, but this will change as new models are released onto the market.

Both public authorities and other parties are involved in installing ultra-fast charging stations. BMW’s FastCharge Consortium, Porsche and Tesla want to improve charge rate to 450kW. For comparison, the planned fast chargers deliver up to 150kW, with upgrades to 350kW.

EV infrastructure roll out

The people at Transport & Environment, who promote sustainable development of transport, have critically assessed a claim from ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association) saying that the uneven distribution of public charging infrastructure is “putting consumers off buying electric cars.” This claim was based on the fact that 76% of all charging points are located in 4 countries (Netherlands, France, Germany, UK).

T&E reminds us that the uptake of any new technology in Europe happens by “waves” rather than simultaneously, depending on multiple factors, such as GDP, market size,… T&E has identified 3 uptake waves of e-mobility:

  • Frontrunners: Western and North Europe
  • Followers: Italy, Portugal, Spain
  • Slow starters: EU13 and Greece

The frontrunner group is expected to be selling 5% to 7% EVs by 2020 in order to comply with CO2 regulations.


Currently, most EV charging points are in some way publicly subsidised. In order for the roll out of chargers to gain traction and eventually remain sustainable, the boundaries and limitation of public funding must be removed.

The total cost for public charging points is estimated at €12 billion plus another €20 billion investment needed for private charging. 83% of these costs will need to be absorbed by the frontrunner countries.

Chicken-and-egg explained and countered

Once the utilisation of charging stations increases, they become profitable for the private sector and public funding stops being necessary. This is the chicken-and-egg dilemma of electric chargers: do we need to sell more EVs to obtain more chargers or do we need more chargers to sell more EVs?

The dilemma is a false one. As demonstrated above (see Norway):

  • There is no sustainable correlation between the number of charging points and the number of EVs. This argument is only valid in a very early stage of electrification
  • The basic infrastructure is already in place in the frontrunner region

What is true however, is that infrastructure needs urgent upgrades, especially the urban charging points (slow chargers). In addition, subsidies will remain necessary in remote (economically unprofitable) locations.


In this short video interview, Sandra Roling (EV100) says technology is ready and fleet managers should adopt EVs now.

Authored by: Yves Helven