(Bloomberg) -- Germany is quietly dropping its goal of having one million electric-car charging stations on streets and at supermarkets by 2030 as it becomes clear that people prefer to power up at home.
A spokesperson for the country’s transport ministry — run by the business-friendly Free Democrats — said the target is still official policy, but people familiar with the government’s thinking said officials have acknowledged it won’t be pursued.
The goal, set in 2021 as part of the ruling coalition’s treaty, doesn’t reflect technological advances and shifting preferences, and would risk public chargers being built that receive little use, according to the people.
Germany has about 85,000 charging stations that are publicly accessible, and nearly a fifth of those are classified as fast-charging points. But drivers in Europe’s largest economy are choosing to have car chargers at home, with about ten private installations for every public connection point. That’s a pivot the government hadn’t expected.
The shift highlights the challenge many European countries face when planning public infrastructure to encourage electric transport. The one-million goal, reinforced in a master plan in October, was initially enshrined in the government coalition’s treaty after lobbying from the country’s car industry, according to two people familiar with the matter, which stands to benefit from a broader charging network.
“As a whole, getting grid infrastructure in the ground and getting it signed off ahead of time can be quite difficult,” said Ryan Fisher, a charging infrastructure analyst at BNEF who estimates that Germany would need roughly 450,000 charging points by the end of the decade. “If you end up with 1 million, you’d end up with too many, but the number of fast chargers matters to determine how many you need overall.”
The target was based on a 2020 study, which involved relevant players from the automotive industry, the energy sector, science and politics. However, the report only saw the need for one million charging points in one out of the four scenarios it assessed, with others pointing to lower needs. Germany’s VDA car lobby emphasized when contacted by Bloomberg News that other stakeholders helped to calculate the number.
“The target does not consider the enormous developments both on the vehicle side and on the charging station side, and is thus technologically outdated,” said Kerstin Andreae, chairwoman of energy lobby group BDEW who contributed to the study back then.
A wider network of charging infrastructure could become useful as the prices of electric vehicles decline and the proportion of EV owners without private charging options grows. But even a separate study in 2020 that Germany probably only needs between 440,000 to 843,000 public charging points, and would only reach the upper end of that range if private uptake is slow.
Germany’s economy ministry did not want to comment on the one-million goal and referred to the transport ministry when contacted by Bloomberg News, which insisted that “the German government is sticking to the goal from the coalition agreement.” Transport minister Volker Wissing has previously pushed for policies that favor car makers’ interests, and auto producers are currently calling for governments across Europe to expand charging infrastructure that will help them spur e-car sales.
“It’s important to review this goal again and again, especially in light of technical developments,” said Stefan Gelbhaar, a spokesman for the Green parliamentary group’s transport policy.
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