Voyager en voiture électrique ? C’est faisable...

Traveling with an electric car? It is possible…

Going on holiday with an electric car is possible: a 900-kilometer journey between France and Belgium shows that the charging stations are there, but that it is essential to prepare your trip to avoid running out of fuel, and both the network as well as the network are still immature compared to traditional gas stations. A team of journalists’ journey illustrates the huge financial and industrial challenge Europe faces as it seeks to ban the sale of petrol or diesel vehicles within 13 years. Last week, after months of debate and intense lobbying, MEPs voted to end sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars in 2035.

From Paris no problem with traffic jams in the Paris area: the battery lasts for hours at this speed. But arriving on the highway, the electric drive reveals one of its main flaws: the autonomy increases from 250 to less than 100 kilometers, in much less time than it takes to cover it. After an initial charge, we arrive at the Verdun area (in the Meuse) with the gauge set to zero. For ten euros, the battery is 80% full, the last 20% are slower. Depending on the vehicle and the outside temperature, it is important to plan your route because the battery drains faster in winter. To reach Belgium, it has to be recharged four times, with each break lasting about thirty minutes.

“Roaming charging is essential in people’s minds to go electric,” says Cécile Goubet of Avere, the organization of electric vehicle professionals. Tesla understood this well by launching charging stations at its own expense alongside its sedans, which today have many more than competing stations, each with up to 40 individual terminals.

The Avinya concept (a Sanskrit word for innovation) from the Indian manufacturer Tata Motors is an expression of the company’s vision of a purely electric vehicle. Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

small streets

Leaving the motorway to enter Belgium via the departmental roads reduces consumption, as does the fear of breakdowns. There are many medium-power chargers in front of town halls, at retailers or in front of supermarkets. Night falls as Brussels approaches: you must now find a hotel or accommodation to recharge your batteries just to go with 100% autonomy. The offer is still limited to rather posh hotels or a few Airbnbs.

At the Nazareth rest area near Ghent, the Dutch, encouraged by the efficiency of their terminal network, are making a first quick charge on their way to France. “The problem is that between Belgium and Spain lies France,” jokes Frank Berg, 55, who is traveling to Spain with his wife Olga. Compared to the Netherlands or Germany, the French fast charging network is still very incomplete. After the failure of the Corri-Door network, launched in 2015 by subsidiaries of EDF and Engie, operators such as Ionity, TotalEnergies or FastNed take over. By decree, all French motorway service stations must be equipped by the end of the year.

After years of hesitation, “there is a lot of enthusiasm for this business model,” confirms Florian Nagele from McKinsey. National and European giants are likely to consolidate in the coming years, the industry expert predicts.

Isabelle Inder, 34, is also traveling to Champagne with her partner Antalyaa. They recently opted for a small SUV from British brand MG (Morris Garages, now owned by Chinese joint-stock company SAIC) that has around 300 kilometers of autonomy “to protect the environment” and to walk their big dog. “We reload in small bursts every time we stop. It’s not that complicated, and there’s nothing wrong with taking a break every hour and a half, Isabelle explains. You need to plan your trip, but sometimes the apps aren’t up to date and the terminal doesn’t work. »

The Avinya concept (a Sanskrit word for innovation) from the Indian manufacturer Tata Motors is an expression of the company’s vision of a purely electric vehicle. Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

bitter experience

We have the bitter experience on the Lille-Paris motorway: while there are still 60 kilometers to go, a charging station is closed for work, we miss an exit for the next one and are almost at zero at one station. .. where fast charging doesn’t work.

According to the International Energy Agency, around 300,000 slow terminals (+30% over a year) and 50,000 fast (+30%) were installed in Europe in 2021. Germany, Great Britain, Norway and France in particular have increased their efforts in recent months. But that 30% increase over the course of a year remains insufficient given the expected explosion in the electric car market. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, a network of 6.8 million chargers, or an installation of 14,000 chargers per week, would be needed by 2030 to meet demand.

Taimaz SZIRNIKS/AFP

Going on holiday with an electric car is possible: a 900-kilometer journey between France and Belgium shows that the charging stations are there, but that it is essential to prepare your trip to avoid running out of fuel, and both the network as well as the network are still immature compared to traditional gas stations. The journey of a team of journalists…


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