By: Simone KäsereMobility Consultant

Consulting firm P3 recently published a white paper titled “Market Ramp-Up of Electric Vehicles & Charging Points in France Until 2030”. We spoke to Simone Käser, an eMobility consultant and author of the paper.

France, which has committed to carbon-neutrality by 2050, is getting behind EVs in a bid to decarbonise its fleet of some 40 million combustion vehicles.

By 2025, France will have about 2.8 million EVs, 72% purely electric (BEVs) and 28% plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). By 2030, that will jump to 8.2 million, of which over 90% will be BEVs.

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Will this be an unmanageable burden on France’s electricity supply? Based on the assumption of RTE, P3 estimates that the growing use of EVs will make up only 4% at most of overall demand.

The challenge then is not overall power supply, but service and convenience for users. The French government announced a goal of 100,000 public charge points by the end of 2021. Transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari also announced that 400 highway service stations would be equipped with high power charging (HPC) infrastructure by the end of 2022, financed in part by a €100 million commitment of the France Recovery Plan, Plan France Relance.

Simone Käser is more enthusiastic about the second announcement than the first: “100,000 public charge points is a good vision, but the government has not been very clear about what kind of charging points will be deployed, and you must remember that a public charge point is not much good if it isn’t fast.”

She explains that an HPC can give you about 80% charge in less than 30 minutes, depending on the vehicle. By contrast, AC chargers take hours. That’s not necessarily a problem for home-charging, where you can fill up overnight, but it’s problematic for public charging.

If P3’s forecast is correct, there will be something like 1.4:1 EVs per charge point by 2030. (According to P3, France will go from 340,000 charge points in 2020 to 5.8 million by 2030, serving 8.2 million EVs.)

She explains that of this 5.8 million, what really matters is the 10,000 HPC charge points at highway service stations, which in terms of the ratio per EV will go from 1:1,000 in 2020 to 1:700 in 2030.

The current ratio is not enough, as Simone herself experienced on a recent EV test-drive across France: “While the overall number of charge points in France compares favourably with European leaders Germany and the Netherlands, well-positioned public fast chargers (i.e. highway HPCs) are lacking here, and it wasn’t so convenient travelling long-distance in a no-emission vehicle.”

The availability of strategically positioned public HPCs is not the only key problem with the French charging infrastructure. The P3 white paper cites a French survey[1] of 500 EV drivers: 83% complained about charge point reliability; 58% of the 22,000 charge points surveyed had problems of some kind, and 25% were damaged or unusable for a period of months.

Currently, a quarter of highway service stations lack the necessary medium-voltage for HPC charging. To meet these and other challenges, the government will cover 75% of grid connection costs for public DC and HPC charge points until 2025.

The EV charging ecosystem also involves various players, of which the P3 paper identifies six: grid operators (e.g. RTE); energy suppliers (e.g. Total and Engie); charge point operators (e.g. Izivia and La Borne); aggregators (e.g. Gireve and Hubject); mobility service providers (e.g. Chargemap and Ouest Charge); and OEMs (e.g. Renault).

This new charging ecosystem relies on legacy electricity systems (grid operators and energy suppliers) for raw supply, and on new digital solutions for payments and control (aggregators and MSPs). In the middle are the charge point operators (CPOs).

If there is a weakness in the ecosystem, particularly in France, it’s with these CPOs. The P3 paper notes: “The French market is characterized by a very heterogeneous CPO landscape: many small CPOs are acting on a very local level.” Faced with the problem of non-maintained charge points, the French government issued a decree in May 2021 that “tightens the obligations” for CPOs.[2]

France’s recently enacted LOM (mobility law) empowers syndicats d’énergie (energy unions) to draw up master plans for CPOs at local level. Simone notes that we can expect some consolidation of the CPO business, especially smaller CPOs.

EV users will also welcome the government’s €300 tax credit for home charging infrastructure and their commitment to upgrade grids to support residential charging. Simone points out that 89% of EV users in France charge at home and/or at the office. She would like to see the government prioritise HPCs on highways, which will take time and money. However, France is moving in the right direction and according to P3 will go from 350 HPCs on highways in 2020 to 3,000 in 2025 and 10,000 in 2030.

A combination of home charging and strategically located and maintained fast charging infrastructure are key to cope with nationwide EV registration and ease in long-distance travel. If you would like to read more about the need for more EV charging points by Simone Käser, read the report here.

[1] Done by AFIREV, France’s EV charging association.

[2] Wording is from the P3 white paper.