‘Flanders seriously lagging behind in EV fast chargers’
While 2020-2021 is announcing as a tipping point for the electric car, Flanders is still having only 36 fast chargers operational along its major roads, lagging seriously behind compared to countries like The Netherlands, with over 200 already.
Agonizing slow administration procedures frustrate providers, like Dutch Fastned, that wants to roll out 50 to 60 fast chargers in Belgium. “We started our first talks in 2014, and hopefully we can start building the first one by the end of this year,” CEO and co-founder Michiel Langezaal told newspaper De Tijd.
Two years to start
“In the Netherlands, we started talking in 2011 and opened our first station two and a half years later. This tells something about the differences between public authorities. The Netherlands seems to be a lot faster,” he adds. Perhaps with a little help of the contacts of his co-founder and co-owner, Bart Lubbers, son of late prime minister Ruud Lubbers?
The actual building of a fast charging station takes only a few weeks, but before you can start, it often takes two years or more, Langezaal explains. “But it often takes a year or more to sign a contract for a suitable location. Then you have to wait for a connection to the grid.”
Four months compared to three years
The latter is confirmed by Jochen De Smet, president of the federation for electric mobility, Avere. “In the Netherlands, the time to realize a fast-charging station is typically four months. In Belgium, and Flanders in particular, this takes one and a half to three years. Getting an environmental permit takes too long. The procedure has to be shortened urgently.”
Once you have that, you’ll have to wait for the grid manager, Fluvius, to get you a high capacity connection. If the location is suitable for such high loads. Extending a high capacity cable can easily cost 30.000 euros or more.
The provider has to foot the bill
When the location is 400 meters apart from the grid, the one building the charging station has to foot the bill, Isabel Van Cutsem, spokesperson at Fluvius confirms. And it can take several months, she admits. “At a remote location, we have to do infrastructural works, plan everything, have the budget approved, order materials with providers, and start the work,” she adds.
It’s all very challenging for providers, like Fastned, that are itching to start deploying their networks. Fastned, which recently in June went public on the Amsterdam Euronext Stock Exchange, has already 103 fast-charging stations in The Netherlands, Germany, and the UK, and will soon start in Switzerland too.
50 to 60 Fastned stations in Belgium
In Belgium, Langezaal sees a market for 50 to 60 fast-charging stations extra, starting the end of this year. The locations he has in mind, he won’t give away. “It would only create more discussions about environmental permits,” he says. And more delays, he needs like a hole in the head.
He hopes Belgium is ‘gathering steam’ in 2020 when it comes to electric cars. According to a study of Transport & Environment (T&E) published last week, car manufacturers are announcing a boom from 60 ‘electric models’ (plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles included) available at the end of 2018, to 176 models in 2020, 214 models in 2021, and 333 models by 2025.
‘Flanders on schedule’
According to the newly appointed Minister of Energy, Lydia Peeters (Open-VLD), Flanders is ‘on schedule’ to have 5.000 public charging points by the end of 2020. All Flemish municipalities will have to accommodate at least one charging point with two connections. Fluvius is coordinating the roll-out with Dutch provider Allego, winning that tender.
But these chargers are mostly moderate 11 kW chargers, which can take a popular electric car of today, like the Tesla 3 Long Range 6 hours and 44 minutes to get charged completely, occupying the charging spot. At home, with only two-phase connectivity at typically 16A, and 3,7 kW capacity, this will take 20 hours.
DC current instead of AC
Fast chargers are needed to have an electric car charged in a reasonable time while on the road for longer distances. They use a direct cable to the car’s battery – if fast charging capabilities are provided by the car manufacturer – using DC instead of AC, and bypassing the car’s battery charger.
Fast charging is done mostly when the battery is at 10% and can be brought quickly up to 80%. The remaining 20% would have to be done slowly to spare the battery, so it is skipped most of the time.
50 kW up to 350 kW
They typically deliver loads above 22 kW, with 50 kW as a common standard today in most of Fastned’s stations in the Netherlands. A Jaguar I-Pace with its 84,7 kW battery would typically take one hour and 10 minutes (84,7 kWh * 0,7 / 50 kW = 1,18 h) to go from 10 to 80%, good for 300 km as we could experience ourselves.
The next-generation fast charges are operating at 350 kW with the first of this kind installed at a Q8 gas station in Thieu near Liège in April of this year. This one is part of the Ionity network that was set up by BMW, Volkswagen, Daimler, and Ford, together with oil companies like Shell to roll out a super-charger network of 400 stations in Europe.
24 minutes for Audi e-tron
Cars that connect to such a supercharger can get the highest load the car manufacturer supports this way. Like an Audi e-tron, capable of loading theoretically at 146 kW today can get away with 80% after 24 minutes (83,6 kWh * 0,7) / 146 kW = 0,40 h) or 100 km after 10 minutes up to 630 km after one hour.
Tesla has its own fast-charging network, typically up to 120 kW today, but it installed its first 250 kW charger in San Francisco in March of this year.