Will paying for EV charging be as easy as refuelling petrol cars?

Will paying for EV charging be as easy as refuelling petrol cars?

EURACTIV — 2022-11-29

News from Brussels

The European Parliament wants to make charging for electric vehicles easier by making payment terminals for credit and debit cards obligatory at all charging points. But charging operators warn that a requirement to retrofit existing stations might slow down infrastructure roll-out.

In October 2022, the European Parliament adopted its position on the ‘Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR)’, which sets minimum targets for how many EV charging points EU countries need to provide, notably among main routes.

Lawmakers not only want more public charging stations to be built, they also want to make it easier for consumers to use them.

Our vision is very clear: charging as easy as refuelling,” said Green MEP Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg. “We need user-friendly and simple payment systems so that everyone can charge and pay for their electric car at the next street corner,” she told EURACTIV.

Until now, each member state could decide which payment options were offered at charging stations, as there was no uniform EU rule on this,” said Ismail Ertug, chief negotiator for the European Parliament. “This should now change,” he told EURACTIV.

I am supporting the possibility of card payment and would like to see this anchored in binding legislation for all charging stations, Europe-wide,” added the politician from the centre-left S&D group.

National governments cautious

The current EU Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive has led many EU Member States to already require ad-hoc payments, most often still via smartphone apps or QR codes, explains Jaap Burger from the Regulatory Assistance Project, a think-tank.

However, more recently some EU countries have introduced bank/credit card reader obligations, which is much more user-friendly,” he added, referring to countries like Germany and Denmark.

In AFIR, the European Parliament wants to go even further, and require operators of charging points to even retrofit existing stations, adding terminals that allow debit and credit card payments.

But national governments, which are currently negotiating with the Parliament to find a compromise on the file, caution against this, and want to stick with the QR code solution as the minimum requirement.

In the Council position, there is a distinction between fast charging stations above 50kw (DC) and normal charging stations below 50kw (AC),” said Frantisek Jemelka, spokesperson of the Czech transport ministry, which is leading negotiations with Parliament on behalf of the Czech EU Presidency.

The Council believes that the ad-hoc charging will be mostly used at the fast recharging stations. At AC charging stations below 50kw, the subscription model will still be predominant,” Jamelka told EURACTIV. Thus, charging stations below 50kw should be exempt from the retrofitting obligation in the Member States’ view.

The parliament’s position, which would extend the obligation to all public charging points, would bring “additional significant costs to the operator,” Jamelka said, warning that “the final outcome might be totally opposite to what the Parliament is trying to achieve”.

“At the end, this could lead to the situation that operators would rather deactivate or uninstall the charging station than invest into the retrofitting of AC recharging stations,” he added.

Charging operators warn against ‘disruptive’ regulation

Charging operators say that the obligation to retrofit existing stations would distract them from rolling out many more charging points, on which they want to concentrate.

The charging industry “supports driver choice and all technologies and payment and access methods to charging,” said Tanya Sinclair, senior policy director at ChargePoint, a charging station operator. “The key is the choice in all our roll-out. That is what we’re delivering,” she said at an online event on Wednesday 23 November.

But the retrofit obligation is a kind of hard line saying, ‘okay, now you’ve got to go back and everything has to be taken out in a very disruptive and definitive manner’. And that is really a retrograde step for our businesses and for the industry,” she said.

We are small-medium scale-ups and start-ups,” added Sinclair, who is representing a company with a market capitalisation of $4bn which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). “We don’t have this huge kind of wealth of capacity to be able to then roll out EV charging infrastructure at scale and go back and retrofit existing EV infrastructure.”

Consumer representatives disagree.

Mandatory ad-hoc payment by debit or credit card will not slow down the deployment of charging stations,” argues Robin Loos from BEUC, the European umbrella organisation of consumer associations.

Its implementation is low-cost, with even new, cheaper retrofitting solutions being developed,” he told EURACTIV.

Instead of slowing down the roll-out of charging points, the initiative “will strengthen consumer confidence in switching to electric cars, therefore improving the business case for public charging,” Loos argued.

This is also the view shared by the Parliament’s chief negotiator, Ismail Ertug.

We cannot expect everyone to be familiar with Google or Apple Pay, QR codes or payment by an app. Subscription models and payment platforms can continue to exist – but there must be the possibility to pay ad hoc,” he said.

The next negotiation between Parliament and Council is set for 13 December, but an agreement on the file is only expected to happen next year, Ertug said.