Miguel Zarzuela has had to format his mobile phone these days and cannot be sure how many applications he had installed to be able to charge the batteries of his electric motorcycle and car. But he points to more than twenty to move around Spain and part of France. Just to cover his most usual area, the 390 kilometers between Huesca and Madrid, he has to use four. Nothing to do with the freedom enjoyed by drivers of diesel or gasoline vehicles, for whom a bank card is enough to pay for the fuel they consume.

Spain currently has a network of between 12,000 (according to data from the Anfac manufacturers’ association) and 25,000 (according to the Electromaps platform) public charging points. The lack of an official registry, in whose implementation the Ministry of Ecological Transition is working – it plans to have it in May -, prevents having more specific data, but the reality is that the number continues to be far from the 100,000 that the Government set as a goal by 2023. One of the problems of this network, however, is the profusion of operators divided between administrations, public companies, independent platforms, car manufacturers or large energy groups, which in most cases keep their networks isolated from the rest.

With few exceptions, each one plays their game separately, forcing users to register in each of the different mobile applications in order to use the charging stations. In some cases, when a company transfers a charging point to another company, the conditions for the user change, basically with prices that can double, so it is worth using each point’s own application. And much of these plugs They do not allow paying by credit card, but only through the mobile application.

It is a situation that is added to the general absence of recharging points or the limited autonomies of the vehicles to further complicate the start of electric car sales. The European Commission warns of this in the draft of its new regulation for the deployment of infrastructures that supply alternative energies to transport: “It is likely that this absence of interoperable and easy-to-use recharging and refueling infrastructure will become an obstacle to the necessary growth of the vehicle market […] zero emission and low emission.

Zarzuela, Aragón delegate of the Association of Electric Vehicle Users, assumes that experience is a degree in the complex art of navigating between the different applications: “In my case, if you have more than 20 applications you have some flexibility, but starting at this is a toothache. And sometimes you feel the frustration of wasting time, reaching a point and having to wait 25 minutes before loading because you have to register or because something does not work.

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“We have been talking about interoperability since 2014, when the EU directive was formulated. Technology allows it, but companies cannot be forced because the market is liberalized, although we can ensure it,” explains Isabel del Olmo, head of the Department of Sustainable Mobility at the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving ( IDEA). In her opinion, one of the main obstacles is the misgivings of the groups that have made a greater investment in installing recharging points. Del Olmo assures that the Government is working to encourage collaboration between operators.

The Moves III Plan, which subsidizes the purchase of electric vehicles and finances the construction of recharging points, has introduced a condition that obliges the installation of credit card readers in the subsidized infrastructure so as not to oblige the user to sign a contract with proprietary companies through their applications. And in the next decree it is expected to advance in interoperability, taking advantage of the prior approval in Brussels of the new community regulation, which will pursue collaboration between companies in the European Union as a whole.

“In Spain we are five years behind, while in other neighboring countries interoperability is regulated. And it must be said that in those countries where interoperability is not conditioned, the penetration rate of the electric vehicle is much higher”, explains Javier Julve, head of business development at Electromaps. Its platform is the one that has the most information about some 25,000 recharging points (from the power of each one to user comments on whether they are in operation or not), and from which a greater number of infrastructures can be operated, about 4,000 .

Operators, especially energy operators, have started an intense race to speed up the implementation of points and take advantage, incidentally, of Spanish and community subsidies that seek to decarbonize the car park. The problem, they defend, is that the installation of this type of infrastructure may not be less than 40,000 euros and, given its scarce use due to the low penetration of electric vehicles (about 140,000 circulating in Spain), they end up being deficient. With these figures, it is difficult even for the numbers to include a dataphone that allows payment by card. “We have to develop the network in an intelligent and sustainable way, but also accompanying the market. The fleet of electric vehicles is what it is and we have to offer a network adapted to that use, because the infrastructure is technologically obsolete and we may find that we have to modernize points or replace materials without having been sufficiently served”, explains Carlos Bermúdez , manager of electric mobility at Repsol, defender of the fact that “you have to make it easy for the user”.

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