September 24, 2020
How electric mobility naturally teaches us to create new standards
The central point of every mobility debate in Europe is the promotion of electromobility and the associated expansion of a solid charging point infrastructure. And yet we in Germany are only at the beginning of this development. The share of electromobility in Germany is still low, even though the latest registration figures from July could be the beginning of a possible trend. One aspect remains to be said, however: So far, the electric car has not been able to assert itself, because the hurdles to buying an electric car are clear:
- With the purchase of an e-car, the user is bound to nationwide charging infrastructure. This infrastructure does not currently exist in Germany to such an extend. In addition to the “chicken-and-egg problem” - no electric cars are driven, no charging stations are installed and vice versa - there is no discernible business model for the operation of charging stations that is independent of car manufacturers, as is the case with the classic filling station.
- This leads to the second problem: The charging station infrastructure is currently still a confusing market of possibilities: different plugs, numerous types of current, and various current intensities mean that the user of an electric vehicle cannot charge it at any charging station.
So how can these hurdles be overcome to increase the incentives for e-mobility? And how does this affect providers on the one hand and legislators on the other?
Norway is a pioneer in Europe
A look at Norway shows the already advanced access to and familiarity with electromobility. A state in which the hen-and-egg problem that is currently prevalent in Germany seems to have been overcome and the use of electromobility is in full swing. Awareness of electric vehicles can no longer be denied in Norway and this is due to an early advertising campaign: pop bands promoting electric vehicles and the integration of electric cars at the Winter Olympics in the 1990s laid the foundations for widespread interest in electric cars. At the same time, Norway took up this interest by rapidly expanding the charging station infrastructure with the state, and thus jumped on the saddled horse. Ultimately, this parallel promotion of both strands has made Norway a pioneer of electric mobility in Europe.
Standardization must not be accompanied by dependence
And yet, in the course of large-scale promotion of electromobility, the question of standardization must be raised while at the same time considering the openness of technology: How can open competition be ensured that promotes the participation and innovative strength of all companies without having to tolerate different standards? And how can uniform standards prevail in Germany without suppressing new innovations? With the Charging Station Ordinance from 2016, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) is attempting to put precisely these problems into a legal framework. It demands the compatibility of all charging plugs for public charging stations and thus makes the first uniform demands on the providers.
Only exchange and promotion on several levels lead to success
Ultimately, the aim should be to ensure a broad-based and balanced range of electric mobility in Germany. Supported on the one hand by political decision-makers who see the interdependence of infrastructure and vehicles as an incentive to promote both strands at the same time rather than as an excuse. And on the other hand, by the interest of the companies themselves in coordinating in international bodies and agreeing on self-imposed standards. In this way, the political intervention can be counteracted and mandatory standards, such as those that exist for cell phone charging cables, can be avoided.