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“We open a new charging center nearly every day”

Interview with Michael Hajesch, CEO of IONITY

The EU has agreed on reducing CO₂ emissions in new vehicles by 37.5 percent between 2021 and 2030. Experts believe that these new regulations can only be achieved through an expansion of electric mobility. As part of its electric offensive, the Volkswagen Group has announced a ten-fold increase of its e-car model range by 2025. IONITY, a joint venture involving a number of automotive manufacturers, is currently developing a network of quick charging facilities and will play an important role in putting in place the future charging infrastructure. You can find out more in the interview with Michael Hajesch, CEO of IONITY.

How is the work to develop the quick charging network progressing?

IONITY began work a year ago – and we’re well on schedule. Our aim is to put in place 400 charging centers along main traffic routes in Europe. For 90 percent of the planned sites, we’ve already concluded contracts with partners. More than 30 charging centers with on average six charging stations are already operating and a further 50 or so are under construction. And we’ve come a long way on the procurement side too – when purchasing the hardware for example.

Is progress being made at the same speed in all countries?

To date, we have charging centers in six European countries – Germany, Denmark, Norway, France, Switzerland and Austria. Italy, Belgium and Great Britain will follow soon. However, this doesn’t mean that we’re experiencing difficulties elsewhere. We’re working at different speeds simply because the legal situation and the approval processes are different in virtually every country. It’s like when you build show houses: the building is the same everywhere. But the ground, the legal conditions and the local challenges differ from site to site.

How does charging work?

We use charging plugs which comply with the European CCS standard. This makes them compatible with virtually all current and future electric vehicles. Payment is made via smartphone. The customer simply scans the QR code at the charging point and enters their credit card or Paypal details on our payment page. During the introductory phase, each charge will cost 8 euros. In Great Britain, the price is 8 pounds and in Switzerland it is 8 francs.

How long does it take to charge a vehicle?

The charging time depends to a large extent on the vehicle itself. Therefore, I can’t give a definitive answer. What we can guarantee is that all our charging points are designed for fast charging with up to 350 kW. In many cases, it will take just a few minutes to charge a car. We’ve also opted for previously explored sites right next to motorways where customers can make good use of their time, for example near hotels or restaurants.

How important is the charging infrastructure for the success of e-mobility?

It’s obvious that e-mobility will only work if there’s a highly available charging infrastructure. Imagine there was a lack of ordinary filling stations – no one would buy a car with an engine. Quick charging facilities such as the ones we offer are very important on long journeys, for example when going on holiday. The bigger challenge, however, is providing sufficient charging facilities in towns and cities.

Michael Hajesch expects electric mobility to make a breakthrough soon: “Numerous attractive e-models are due to be launched soon and there will be further incentives to boost sales.”

Why?

In towns and cities, only around 30 percent of people can charge their electric vehicles at home. 70 percent of them, above all residents of rented apartments, require an alternative. We therefore need charging centers along routes to work where people can stop and top up their vehicles in a quarter of an hour.

Will IONITY provide these charging centers?

We are very skilled in the development and operation of quick charging points. This would therefore be a good job for us. At the moment, however, we’re focusing on the 400 charging centers that we’d like to build along motorways. We’ll have achieved this by 2020 and will then have a presence in 24 countries. Until then, we’ll open a new charging center nearly every day – at least mathematically.

When do you expect e-mobility to make a breakthrough?

E-mobility will become established more quickly than many people think. Numerous attractive e-models are due to be launched soon and there will be further incentives to boost sales. The charging infrastructure will be expanded quickly too. After all, it’s already possible to make money by operating charging points at highly frequented locations. However, there are two other important reasons for electric mobility. Firstly, electric cars are great fun. Secondly, e-vehicles play an important role in protecting the environment, provided that the basis conditions are right. That’s why the electricity for our charging centers comes exclusively from renewable energy sources.

What car do you drive yourself?

I ordered a new e-vehicle recently.