The trip of an AFP team between Paris and Belgium illustrates the titanic financial and industrial challenge facing Europe, which wants to ban the sale of petrol or diesel vehicles in 13 years.
Traveling by electric car: the problem of autonomy
From Paris, no problem with traffic jams in the Paris area: the battery can last for hours at this rate. But when it comes to the highway, the electric one reveals one of its main flaws: the range goes from 250 kilometers to less than 100, in much less time than it takes to cover them.
After a first recharge, we arrive with the indicator at zero in the area of Verdun (Meuse). For ten euros, the battery is 80% full, the last 20% is slower. It is essential to anticipate your journey depending on the car and the outside temperature, the battery discharges faster in winter.
“Roaming charging is essential in people’s minds to go electric”
To get to Belgium you will need to charge four times, for about thirty minutes at each break. “Roaming charging is essential in people’s minds to switch to electricity,” said Cécile Goubet of Avere, the electric vehicle’s professional organization.
Tesla had understood this well, launching charging stations in parallel with its sedans, stations that today have up to 40 individual terminals each, much more than competing stations.
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When you leave the motorway to go to Belgium, on departmental roads, consumption goes down, like the fear of breakdowns. Many mid-range chargers are available in front of town halls, dealerships or supermarkets.
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Night is approaching when Brussels is approaching: now you have to look for a hotel or accommodation to recharge your batteries, just to leave with 100% autonomy. The offer is still limited to quite stylish hotels or some Airbnbs.
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In the rest area of Nazareth, near Ghent, the Dutch, encouraged by the performance of their network of terminals, stop for a first quick loading journey from France. “The problem is that between Belgium and Spain there is France,” jokes Frank Berg, 55, who is traveling to Spain with his wife Olga.
France is late on the issue of the electric car
Compared to the Netherlands or Germany, the French fast charging network is still very incomplete. Following the failure of the Corri-Door network, launched in 2015 by subsidiaries EDF and Engie, operators such as Ionity, TotalEnergies and FastNed have taken over.
By decree, all service areas on French motorways must be equipped by the end of the year. After years of hesitation, “there’s a lot of excitement around this business model,” confirms McKinsey’s Florian Nägele. The national and European giants should be consolidated in the coming years, predicts the industry expert.
Isabelle Inder, 34, is also traveling to Champagne with her partner Antalaya. They have recently chosen a small SUV from the Chinese brand MG, which has about 300 kilometers of range “to protect the environment”, and to walk their big dog. “We recharge in small bursts every time we stop. It’s not that complicated, and it’s not bad to take a break every hour and a half,” explains Isabelle. “You have to plan your trip, but sometimes the apps aren’t up to date and the terminal doesn’t work.”
We have the bitter experience of this on the Lille-Paris motorway: even though there are still 60 kilometers to go, one charging station is closed for work, we miss one exit for the next and we are almost zero in one station. … where fast loading doesn’t work.
It takes 14,000 chargers a week to meet demand
300,000 slow terminals (+ 30% in one year) and 50,000 fast (+ 30% too) were installed in Europe in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency. Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway and France have significantly redoubled their efforts in recent months.
But this 30% increase in one year is still insufficient in the face of the expected explosion of the electric car market. By 2030, a network of 6.8 million chargers, or an installation of 14,000 chargers per week, would be needed to cover the needs, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.
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