Electric car sales in France charging ahead

Electric vehicle sales soared 50% in 2019 – but the number of recharging bornes failed to keep pace and rose just 15%.

26 February 2020
By Connexion journalist

Nearly 70,000 electric vehicles were sold last year, bringing the total on French roads to around 213,000.

There were 28,666 recharging bornes counted last September.

That is 7.4 vehicles for each borne, better than EU guidance of one for each 10 vehicles, but half the charging points are in work premises or car parks, so are not accessible to the public.

The government wants 100,000 bornes by 2022.

Mathieu Chiara, spokesman for electric vehicle development agency Avere, said they were working on several ways to boost borne numbers, which hit 30,000 last month.

“The Advenir programme of certificats d’économies d’énergie cuts 40% off the bill for companies and copropriété resident groups fitting charging points in car parks or streets.

“Since 2012, it is also mandatory to fit charging units in any new or refurbished buildings.

“And, finally, there is private investment, with firms like EDF-Izivia fitting 650 bornes in Lyon and 200 rapid-charging stations on secondary roads.”

There is still work to do for copropriétés, so owners have the right to fit a charging point in their car park. This should be legal “in a few months”. 

The wide range of charging networks also causes problems, with, for example, EDF-Izivia taking payment cards only from certain other networks. 

Mr Chiara said: “Some regions and departments set up charging syndicates to stop this but all operators must work within EU law saying networks must work across all operators.

“So, a client of charging network X can use a charger from network Y and simply pay his own network, although possibly at a different price.”

Plenty of bornes is one way to ease drivers’ fears of running out of charge, although 90% of recharges are at home or work. Another is a larger battery.

Last year, Renault’s Zoe relaunched with a 52kWh battery for up to 390km range, while its new e-208 Peugeot rival gets 340km from 50kWh. This creates its own problem: how to recharge a larger battery quickly.

Only 9% of the public access bornes are rapid charge (up to 130kW) that can charge a Zoe in less than an hour. Most are 3.7kW, like many home wall units, that take 10 hours.

Changing designs means many new bornes will have multiple rated chargers to suit all cars.

Like Zoe, Peugeot’s new e-208 and 2008 SUV use smartphone apps to find charging points and plan stops on trips, but drivers say they are not reliable and bornes often do not work.

The Zoe and the e-208 escape cuts to the €6,000 eco buyer bonus next year as the €1,000 cut is for cars costing more than €45,000.

Buyers can still benefit from the prime à la conversion for scrapping an old diesel that can give €2,500 for many, or €5,000 for the least well-off.

Buy, buy to help us say hello to new chargers

Buying a new electric van to replace a 1996 Peugeot 306 has been such a success for Bena Stuchbury and her husband Shaun Kent that they invite friends and neighbours for rides.

The ex-demo Kangoo ZE had done just 400km when they got it from an Angoulême dealer for €15,000. It has a 190km range.

“I was surprised by how nice it is to drive,” said Bena. “None of the vibration and noise we accept with petrol and diesel cars, much more zippy from a start, with no smelly smoke.”

The couple look after a Charente chateau and hope to encourage others to buy electric. Bena said: “Smartphone apps for public charging stations show the nearest one is 40km away.

“If more people had electric cars, there will be more pressure for new stations to be set up.”

Although they have not yet run out of battery so they needed to go into “limp-home” mode, they came close when one trip left them 7km of range for the 6km trip back.

“Amazingly, Shaun saw from the displays of the battery charging and discharging how to make the most of the recharging, which happens when you go downhill or brake.

“He drove so carefully that we got home with the 7km range still in place.”

They charge the van, used mainly for local trips, every two or three nights, using a simple wall plug and say it costs €4 to recharge.

The battery is rented from Renault for €90/month and will be replaced if there is a problem or if capacity falls by more than 20%.

They could not get the €2,500 state bonus for scrapping an old car for an electric vehicle as they had not been taxpayers long enough

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