Electric car owners abandoned because of the lack of fast chargers in France
The EU’s decision to ban the sale of new fossil-fuelled cars by 2035 has prompted the French government to find ways to improve the country’s fast-charging network.
A lack of charging options is often cited as a reason not to opt for an electric car.
Fast chargers take 90 minutes
There are currently around 40,000 public charging points in France, but only around a tenth of these are the strongest at 100 kWh or more.
This allows some vehicles to be fully charged in around 90 minutes – giving around 500km for cars with the largest batteries – which French advertisers say is long enough to enjoy a meal at a restaurant.
Less powerful public chargers, located between the fast chargers and the household socket, require at least four hours for the same charge level.
User experience with the network is mixed, with many complaining about being unable to find working chargers, particularly along freeways.
Since most drivers charge at home, electric vehicles are not practical for many flatmates.
€1 per minute for using high power chargers
An early pioneer of the fast charging network is the German company Ionity, which has Volkswagen as one of its shareholders.
It now has 99 charging stations with 512 chargers (418 of which are high power) on French motorways.
Operators have complained about the cost of installing fast chargers in France and the complicated permitting process.
Estimates assume the costs of 100,000 euros per charging point, which means that motorists are billed for high costs for use. Most network operators now charge by the minute for high power chargers, with rates of €1 per minute becoming the standard.
Installation project advertised
In addition to the cost, drivers have to deal with a multitude of maps and mobile apps required to use different chargers, which quickly becomes a nuisance.
In order to improve the situation, the government is opening a tender for projects that support the construction of high-performance charging points.
It hopes more will be installed in urban areas, where people are least likely to have access to garages to charge cars from a household supply.
Grants of up to 40% of the costs for setting up the network from an allocation of 300 million euros from the 2030 investment budget have been promised.
Manufacturers will not participate in tenders to simplify the network
Renault, the European leader in electric vehicle sales, has said it will not be directly involved in the provision and management of charging points – in line with the strategy it formulated in 2007 when it started selling electric vehicles.
It has charging points at 450 dealers and 600 agents signed up as e-tech specialists, although most of these are only available when the garage is open and accessed via Mobilize cards and apps.
The card is slowly being expanded to other charging networks.
Most other manufacturers follow Renault’s line, although the Volkswagen Group has a stake in Ionity and recommends this network.
Many municipalities are also installing chargers, often connected to department-wide systems that run through dedicated cell phone apps with different tariffs.
Leclerc supermarkets and hypermarkets have charging points, but the retailer’s initial free charging has changed to a paid model, also with its own app.
Help with installation at home
The French government gives registered taxpayers a 75% tax credit, capped at €300, to help cover home charger costs.
These can be in a main house or holiday home, with the loan being applied for twice for a main house occupied by a couple.
The work must be carried out by qualified specialist personnel.
What help is there when buying an electric car and what are the rules?
The government’s bonus écologique, available for cars with CO2 emissions below 50g per km and hydrogen-powered vehicles priced more than €60,000, has been optimised.
From now on, any car purchased with the help of this grant must be kept for at least a year before it can be resold.
Previously, the deadline was six months.
The change was announced in April, no doubt to limit abuse of the scheme, which is not means-tested and will cover 27% (up to a €6,000 limit) of the cost of a vehicle priced under €45,000.
For an electric vehicle between 45,000 and 60,000 euros, the bonus is 2,000 euros.
Buyers must also commit to driving the purchased car at least 6,000 km before selling it, a long-term condition of the program.
Plug-in hybrid drivers criticized for fuel consumption
Environmental groups have questioned the environmental credentials of plug-in hybrid battery cars, claiming that drivers who don’t charge the battery experience poorer fuel economy than traditional petrol or diesel cars.
The vehicles, which can drive up to 50 km on battery power before they need to be recharged, are popular company cars because of the tax advantages.
Orange has a fleet of 2,000 electric and hybrid cars. According to this, plug-in hybrids such as the Peugeot 3008, with official consumption figures of 1.4 liters per 100 km, consume 3.2 liters per 100 km when driven 60% in electric mode and 40% with the petrol engine, and 8 liters per 100 km if only driven with petrol.
Drivers receive special training on how to best use their car, and if fuel consumption continues to be high, their fuel cards will be limited.
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