The Number of EVs is Rising, But Chargers Do Not Seem to Follow

EV Charging Infrastructure Has To Accelerate 1 photo
Photo: Volkswagen
I have been fascinated by electric cars way before Tesla even bothered to exist. If you have never heard about the Gurgel Itaipu or the REVAi, they are the witness of how old that interest is without any need to say how far back it emerged.
The electric motors’ efficiency and power pointed the obvious path ahead for personal mobility, and it would have happened earlier if it was not for battery tech. Summing up, I always wanted to have an electric vehicle. After I bought one (it’s a PHEV, but you get the point), I started following the EV transition more closely, and it is impressive to see how many new electric cars are out there lately. It is also disappointing to see infrastructure is not following suit.

I live in Portugal, a relatively poor country where people earn way less than they should. Despite that, Portuguese customers are among the ones that like EV mobility the most. It may look like a paradox, but it isn’t: gasoline and diesel prices are very high here. Despite also being expensive, EV efficiency makes the cost per kilometer way lower for EVs. We also drive a lot in this country because of the deficient transportation infrastructure and the long distances from where people can afford to live and where job opportunities are. Do the math, and you’ll understand why electric cars are popular here.

The people who can’t afford to buy a new EV import them from other countries. Some even go pick their electric cars in any other European country – mainly Germany and the Netherlands – and get back to Portugal driving them. They do that because it pays off. Although new EVs are not affordable, we also see plenty of them here. Most of them occupy the few chargers available.

I wrote about how difficult living with an EV was in Portugal for InsideEVs in December 2019. Since then, I bought a used BMW 225xe and started charging it at public chargers. The process to get a power outlet in my parking space was way too bureaucratic. To add insult to injury, all electricians and engineers I contacted to get the job done either promised to show up and never did or just did not care to answer.

In these months I have had the PHEV, I have seen more and more new cars join me at public chargers apart from the Renault ZOEs and Nissan Leafs that used to be there with me in the beginning. We now have the XC40 Recharge, the VW ID.3, the Mercedes-Benz EQA, and multiple plug-in hybrids. Despite that, the chargers we had in December 2019 are the same ones available now – when they are working.

In a shopping mall I use to visit, the demand for chargers is so significant they could easily double the number of charging points there and still have people waiting for a spot. We could have them on all parking floors. Nope: they are limited to a corner.

If things remain the same, we’ll soon have a vast number of electric vehicles with nowhere to charge. PHEVs may have to run solely on gasoline or diesel, and we may be worse than we are with purely combustion-engined cars. Plug-in hybrids are heavier and less efficient than pure EVs.

When car executives such as Carlos Tavares warn that governments have to create conditions for a higher EV adoption, they could not be more right. EV advocates may say they work for the oil industry or are only concerned about their investments in ICE technology. However, that will be a huge mistake. For EVs to work as they should, the charging infrastructure must accelerate as fast as high-end electric cars would. Otherwise, we’ll be amazed by the variety of new EVs available, waiting hours in line for a chance to get some juice.
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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
Gustavo Henrique Ruffo profile photo

Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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