Going on vacation in an electric car is possible: a 900 kilometer journey between France and Belgium shows that the charging stations are there, but that it is imperative to prepare your journey to avoid running out of fuel, both the network remains embryonic compared to traditional service stations. The trip made by a team of journalists illustrates the titanic financial and industrial challenge facing Europe as it wants to ban the sale of petrol or diesel vehicles within 13 years. Thus, after months of debate and intense lobbying, MEPs voted last week to end sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars in 2035. De facto, only electric cars can be sold off the European market. opportunity.
From Paris, no problem in traffic jams in the Paris area: the battery can last for hours at this rate. But when arriving on the highway, the electric reveals one of its main flaws: autonomy goes from 250 to less than 100 kilometers, in much less time than it takes to cover them. After a first recharge, we arrive with the gauge at zero on the Verdun area (in the Meuse). For ten euros, the battery is filled to 80%, the last 20% being slower. It is essential to anticipate its route according to the car and the outside temperature, the battery discharging more quickly in winter. To reach Belgium, it will be necessary to charge four times, for about thirty minutes at each break.
“Roaming charging is essential in people’s minds to go electric,” says Cécile Goubet, from Avere, the organization of electric vehicle professionals. Tesla had understood this well, by launching at its own expense charging stations in parallel with its sedans, stations which today have up to 40 individual terminals each, much more than competing stations.
When you leave the motorway to go to Belgium via the departmental roads, consumption drops, like the fear of breakdowns. Many medium-power chargers are available in front of town halls, at dealerships or in front of supermarkets. Night falls as Brussels approaches: you now have to find a hotel or accommodation to recharge your batteries, just to leave with 100% autonomy. The offer is still limited to rather posh hotels or a few Airbnbs.
At the Nazareth rest area, near Ghent, the Dutch, emboldened by the performance of their network of terminals, stop for a first quick charge on their way to 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. Compared to the Netherlands or Germany, the French fast charging network is still very incomplete. After the failure of the Corri-Door network, launched in 2015 by subsidiaries of EDF and Engie, operators such as Ionity, TotalEnergies or FastNed are taking over. By decree, all French motorway service areas must be equipped by the end of the year.
After years of hesitation, “there is a lot of enthusiasm around this business model”, confirms Florian Nägele, from McKinsey. National and European giants should consolidate in the coming years, predicts the sector expert.
Isabelle Inder, 34, is also making the trip to Champagne with her partner Antalaya. They recently chose a small SUV from the British brand MG (Morris Garages, now owned by the Chinese public group SAIC), which has around 300 kilometers of autonomy, “to protect the environment” and to walk their big dog. . “We reload in small bursts each time we stop. It’s not that complicated, and it’s not bad either 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: while there are still 60 kilometers to go, a charging station is closed for work, we miss an exit for the next one and we find ourselves almost at zero on a station… where fast charging does not work.
Some 300,000 slow terminals (+30% over one year) and 50,000 fast (+30% also) were installed in Europe in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency. Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway and France in particular have stepped up their efforts in recent months. But this increase of 30% over one year remains insufficient in the face of the expected explosion of the electric car market. A network of 6.8 million chargers would be needed by 2030, or an installation of 14,000 chargers per week, to meet the needs, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Going on vacation in an electric car is possible: a 900 kilometer journey between France and Belgium shows that the charging stations are there, but that it is imperative to prepare your journey to avoid running out of fuel, both the network remains embryonic compared to traditional service stations. The trip made by a team of journalists…