Pillars of electromobility

The transition to electromobility is essential if the climate goals set by the German government for the transport sector are to be achieved. This also includes a well-developed charging infrastructure.

By 2030, some 15 million electric cars are expected to be on Germany’s roads. This is the ambitious target set by the German government to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector by 48 per cent compared to 1990. At the beginning of 2022, there were just under 1.2 million electric vehicles (EVs), including plug-in hybrid models, according to the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV). More than 300,000 EVs were added in the first half of 2022 alone.

Consumer expectations

A 2021 survey of 400 electric-car drivers conducted by the ADAC revealed that among the most important expectations are continued expansion of the number of charging points, simplification of the steps involved when charging and the availability of functional and reliable fast-charging points. The ever-present range anxiety was still a cause for concern for 23 per cent of respondents. With its “Charging Infrastructure Master Plan II”, the German government has made the expansion of this infrastructure a priority. It comprises 62 measures designed to promote electromobility in Germany.

Charging Infrastructure Master Plan II

In addition to measures to expand the infrastructure, the master plan therefore also addresses the need to simplify the payment process. In short, charging is to become as simple and normal as refuelling is today. The plan specifies that charging-point operators must in future offer a contactless payment process using credit and debit cards. This will eliminate one potential problem for electric-car owners. That’s because until now, at some public charging points, it has only been possible to pay with the charging card of the respective provider. A nationwide charging infrastructure that meets demand is another important goal of the master plan. To this end, the Federal Ministry of Digital and Transport (BMDV) would like to examine the putting out to tender of an estimated 5,000 additional public fast-charging sites from the end of 2023 on the basis of a demand analysis.

“Charging must be possible absolutely everywhere, without detours and long waiting times – at home, at work and along long-distance routes.”

Charging Infrastructure Master Plan II of the German Federal government

Comparing e-mobility around the EU

In other European countries, too, the charging infrastructure is a potential bottleneck for the fast expansion of e-mobility. This was the finding of a study conducted by LeasePlan, which examined the preconditions that must be met in 22 EU countries for the switch to e-mobility to be a success. Germany ranks 8th overall and is consequently upper mid-table in this international comparison. The best performers were Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. These countries are already a step ahead in respect of electromobility – for example, in terms of the number of charging stations in relation to the total population and the number of EVs registered.

Initiatives and alliances

With respect to expanding Germany’s charging infrastructure, one significant challenge is to mediate between the federal government, the federal states, the local authorities, the cities, the automotive industry and the energy industry. The National Centre for Charging Infrastructure plays a central role in this. On behalf of the BMDV, it coordinates and manages activities to expand the country’s charging network. Its responsibilities include identifying needs, coordinating current funding programmes and providing on-the-ground support to communities.

Involvement and commitment of industry

To speed up the transition to electromobility, the private sector is also putting its weight behind cooperative ventures. One example of this is IONITY: this joint venture of the European automotive industry is working on a Europe-wide fast-charging network. Members include BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes, VW, Audi, Porsche and BlackRock, one of the world’s largest asset management firms. With an additional investment of EUR 700 million, the plan is to operate around 7,000 charging points at up to 1,000 locations by 2025. This is no longer just about charging points. In this context, Dr Marcus Groll, COO at IONITY, emphasizes: “Whether it’s covered charging stations or charging parks with cafés, restaurants or stores attached – in future, we want to offer our customers more convenience.”

EnBW charging parks enable EVs to be charged for a range of up to 250 miles within 20 minutes, depending on the vehicle

EnBW, one of Germany’s largest electricity suppliers, is also pushing ahead with the expansion of the charging infrastructure. By its own account, the company operates the largest charging network in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and offers access to a total of more than 300,000 charging points in 16 European countries. The company plans to build 2,500 fast-charging sites by 2025 – possibly together with an investor, according to media reports.

“Whether it’s covered charging stations or charging parks with cafés, restaurants or stores attached – in future, we want to offer our customers more convenience.”

Dr. Marcus Groll, COO at IONITY

Oil companies in transition

The oil giant Shell is also very active when it comes to electromobility. The company is a location partner of IONITY, and is also working with the REWE Group, for example, to promote the expansion of inner-city charging stations at REWE and Penny supermarkets. At the same time, the company is retrofitting its own filling stations with fast-charging points – and its subsidiary ubitricity has won a tender by the city of Berlin for 200 lamppost charge points for e-vehicles that will be mounted on the street lamps without involving any further sealing the pavement. With a capacity of 3.7 kW, each charging point offers the preconditions for fast charging during the usual parking hours. Shell says it wants to be part of the solution and help facilitate the transition to e-mobility. This also includes reducing the company’s own carbon footprint. Felix Faber, Managing Director of Shell Germany, says “Shell can play an important role in Germany’s energy transition.” Similar activities can be seen at competitors bp and exxon.

Charging technology suppliers

According to the German government, it is important that private-sector companies also play a major role in the expansion of the charging infrastructure so that the target of one million charging points can be realised. As of 1 July 2022, the Federal Network Agency counted around 54,000 normal charging points and about 10,000 fast-charging points. Many companies see the growth potential as an opportunity. Among the multiple suppliers of charging technology are not only car manufacturers and power companies, but also SMEs, start-ups and lateral entrants such as Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. The field of technically more complex fast-charging points is often dominated, however, by large corporations such as ABB or specialists such as the Dutch company Alfen. ABB already unveiled the Terra 360 in September 2021, which it claims is the world’s fastest charging point. It enables up to 360 kW of power to be output, which in theory should charge an average electric car within 15 minutes. By mid-2022, the technology group says it has already sold more than 680,000 charging stations, including more than 30,000 fast-charging stations.

Protection of electric and electronic components

Since both normal and fast-charging stations are usually located outdoors, they have to be robust and safe. After all, the components are not only exposed to changing weather conditions the whole year round, but they also have to withstand high operating temperatures and mechanical stresses.

Charging infrastructure components, whether inside or outside vehicles, must above all be able to withstand high operating temperatures and mechanical stresses

This is why Wevo has developed customised potting compounds and adhesives for different charging infrastructure applications: such as a water-repellent, flame-retardant and UL-certified potting compound for charging connectors. Among other things, it ensures insulation and protects users from electric shock. For thermal management, especially of fast-charging stations, Wevo offers thermally conductive potting compounds and thermal interface materials that are based on polyurethane, epoxy and silicone. They ensure that the heat generated during the charging process is dissipated quickly and safely from the transformers, capacitors and batteries to the heat sinks and the environment.

On-board chargers also contain power electronic components as well as transformers, chokes and capacitors, which get hot as a result of to miniaturisation and compact design. Wevo has developed special, thermally conductive potting compounds and gap fillers for these applications, which not dissipate heat quickly and but can also withstand the high temperatures of up to 160 °C.

Electromobility for tomorrow

Electromobility is an important component in achieving the climate goals set by the German government. The nationwide availability of charging stations is a key point for the acceptance of electric cars. The expansion of the charging infrastructure is being driven forward accordingly, with fast-charging stations for cars and ultra-fast charging stations for e-trucks now coming onto the market increasing the demands on the technology. Even if technological development, such as for inductive or bidirectional charging, is far from having reached perfection – the mobility transition is irreversible.

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Image sources: Image 1: FrankBoston (stock.adobe.com); Image 2: Endre Dulic/EnBW; Image 3: Ralf Geithe

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