towards a new territorial divide?

The government had set itself the goal of reaching 100,000 terminals for electric cars installed by the end of 2021. We are now only at 60,000 identified charging points, but this missed agreement had the advantage of accelerating the expansion of the charging station infrastructure with a spectacular increase of more than 55% in one year

. We could almost congratulate ourselves if all the regions were in the same boat. The quantitative target is certainly needed to set a course, but it cannot be achieved at the expense of the quality of the infrastructure and its adequacy of on-site transit times.

On closer inspection, Île-de-France alone accounts for almost 20% of the installed terminals. Logically a priori, if one refers to its share of the national population. But Île-de-France is also the metropolitan area with the lowest (**) household motorization rate, benefiting from the densest and most varied public transport infrastructure. Conversely, the least urbanized regions, those where the car is essential for daily travel, appear clearly under-equipped. Abandoned rural areas in France, after suffering in the dead zones of mobile telephony and high-speed internet, are now experiencing electric charging. However, the government has had the advantage of initiating the equipment dynamics in the municipalities very early with a decree from 2014, but these initiatives, often public, have favored slow charging, which now proves unsuitable for use.

Fast charging, a privilege for big cities and highways

Let us now look at the most powerful charging stations, those that make everyday life easier and fully exploit the potential of new generations of electric cars equipped with higher capacity batteries to compete in range and versatility with petrol and diesel models. With only 8% of these so-called fast terminals (direct current, more efficient than those with alternating current supplying our domestic sockets), France already seems to be at a disadvantage compared to some of its European neighbors, such as Germany, which has 16, % or Portugal 18%. But the clouds of dots that locate them make even more obvious a two-speed France, concentrated in the major urban areas and around the highways that connect them.

Outside major city centers, these plugs, which are so coveted by those who travel long distances that are capable of giving hundreds of miles of autonomy during a break, are designed for passing electric drivers and not for those who live there. no alternative to the car for their daily travels. The inadequacy of the charging infrastructure, following the purchase price of an electrified vehicle, which is still high despite public support, nevertheless constitutes one of the main obstacles to the adoption of the electric car. With the European desire to ban heat engines by 2035, it is imperative to fill the gaps in a French network that is both unsuitable for transit time and poorly maintained, in order to meet the daily needs of motorists.

Short-term profitability as the only compass for charging operators?

There have never been so many announcements about the installation of fast charging stations, each more spectacular than the other, in the hundreds in such a large Parisian car park or in dozens along a highway. Is this really where the effort should be? The profitability of a network of terminals, whose investment increases the higher the charging power, meets the requirements for utilization rate, easy maintenance and repair, which are not very compatible with scattered places. But without visible charging points, suburban and rural areas will remain outside the transition to electric mobility. Unequal access to high-speed terminals poses an additional risk to social and territorial division.

To bring electric charge to where the French naturally are

Charging station operators can avoid this so many breakage risk. Provided not to forget areas with a lack of infrastructure, and above all by getting closer to the users and their daily passage places: especially places of activity and consumption (supermarkets, restaurants, shopping and leisure centers …), guarantees an optimal quality of service for recharging while shopping, going to the cinema or eating out. With electric charging, there is an opportunity to simplify the lives of the French by bringing them electricity to where it is natural, rather than making them take detours to gas stations. And only a long-term profitability target can help democratize the electric car in all territories by 2035.

______ * Average barometer ** INSEE