Interview with Martin Roemheld
More models, more quick-charging stations, more services: according to Martin Roemheld, Head of E-Mobility Services at Volkswagen AG, 2021 will be the year of electric mobility. In the second part of the interview, the expert talks about central topics such as charging infrastructure, charging times and the status quo in Germany and Europe.
Mr Roemheld, e-cars are booming, more and more cars are being registered both in a private and a business context. But what about the charging infrastructure? Is there already a nationwide network of charging stations in Germany?
If you drive through Germany in an electric car nowadays, you'll actually find plenty of charging points everywhere. That's my personal experience as an electric car user. Over the last twelve months, great progress has been made regarding charging stations, not least thanks to the Federal Government's Charging Infrastructure Masterplan. We now need to make sure that the development of infrastructure keeps pace with the e-car boom. Given the growth in electric mobility, e-cars are about to achieve huge market penetration – not only those from the Volkswagen Group but also those from our competitors.
What exactly is in this Charging Infrastructure Masterplan?
It's a broad package of measures put in place by the Federal Government in order to boost development of the charging infrastructure. Essentially, it focuses on four main scenarios: charging at home, charging at work, charging in public and of course charging on motorways. These four use cases are dealt with systematically. At the same time, the plan points out explicitly that the economic viability of charging stations is only of secondary importance. This means that public charging stations are being set up not only in Berlin but in Brandenburg too, even though the population density there is much lower. We really are talking about nationwide coverage here. For example, the program includes seeking tenders for 1,000 quick-charging hubs in 2021. In 2020, the KfW began subsidising the private charging infrastructure. At the same time, we as a manufacturer will work closely with politicians, energy suppliers and other market players to raise awareness of charging among the general public.
You mean the misconception that driving an electric car for four hours means four hours' charging?
Exactly. With the current and future generations of electric vehicles, this is simply no longer the case. You won't need to charge them for an hour or even half an hour – you'll be able to charge them in 15 minutes at a quick-charging station. We're also seeing increased interest in investments in charging infrastructure on the financial markets. Quick-charging stations in the city for classic on-street parkers, supermarkets installing fast chargers in their car parks with the help of energy suppliers, filling station operators setting up high-performance charging terminals or even replacing conventional fuel pumps – the range of facilities on offer is growing rapidly. And we as a group are making our contribution by investing massively in the fast charging network in Europe. Together with partners, we are building around 18,000 fast charging points with 150 kW and more by 2025. As a result, everyone involved is helping to achieve a "mindshift" on the part of users and is building significant trust.
When people talk about charging electric cars, you'll eventually hear things like "our electricity grid isn't designed for it" or "if everyone drives an e-car the electricity will go off." We've just been talking about trust. Is there any truth in these statements?
I can put your mind at rest. Even ten million e-cars would increase the amount of electricity we use by just four percent. When it comes to energy, the "heavy users" are the manufacturing industries and the construction sector. Here's an interesting fact: to cover a distance of 100 kilometres, an e-car requires just a quarter of the energy a petrol or diesel car would require for the same distance. Electric mobility ultimately leads to a huge reduction in energy consumption while the amount of electricity used increases only marginally. As regards the second point: will the lights go out all over the country if everyone plugs in their e-cars at 18:00? This is not only an exaggeration – it's a great simplification too. In practice, the actual usage scenarios and charging routines are so "blurred" that these fears will never become reality. The quick-charging stations are actually connected to medium-voltage lines, while our flats and houses are connected to the low-voltage grid. This further equalizes the use of the electricity grid. So once again in summary: electric cars will not lead to a significant increase in electricity consumption – and the electricity grids will not reach their physical limits in the foreseeable future. Various studies produced by the grid operators in recent years have also demonstrated this. It's time to dispel these myths.
We've heard about the situation in Germany. But many fleet customers operate international fleets or allow user choosers to use their company cars for private holiday trips. Should a user be worried if they're travelling in the French countryside in an electric car?
At the moment, we have a network of around 190,000 charging stations throughout Europe which are available via our WeCharge service or, for fleet customers, via the Charge&Fuel Card. This equates to around 80 percent of all the publicly accessible European charging infrastructure. This means that fleet users can charge their cars and pay virtually anywhere using their usual card, even in the French countryside where there might not be a comprehensive network of quick-charging stations and charging could therefore take a little longer. Spain and Italy too now have better charging facilities, as do England, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. With the expansion programme already mentioned, this charging network will become denser and better in the coming years. Apart from this, there are other ways to charge your car – public charging stations aren't the only option. For example: you drive your electric car to Croatia for a holiday. Do you really need a quick-charging point at your destination? Would the conventional socket in the hotel's underground car park not be enough? After all, the car will probably be parked there for a long time. I personally use various options when charging my car. When I visit my parents, I only use the quick-charging stations along the route. Once I'm there, I simply plug my ID.3 into the normal 230 volt socket. This works really well for me.
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