Many complaints: Antitrust office examines the expansion of electric car charging stations

Climate change should be stopped (or at least somewhat slowed down). In the fight against ever-increasing temperatures, the Federal Government is focusing on the traffic turnaround, which is intended to make cars with internal combustion engines less attractive, to make the use of public transport more attractive and to encourage the purchase of electric cars. Desired side effect: The air in the German inner cities is getting cleaner, this increases the quality of life – at the same time, purchase premiums for electric cars boost the economy, which increases the federal tax revenues.

But in the minds of many Germans, one concern is still widespread when they think about their own electric car: the fear of range. Composed of skepticism about batteries that still can’t get close to the gasoline tanks of conventional cars, and charging columns that are sparsely distributed and need eternity to fully charge the electric cars, this fear is causing major dampeners in electric car sales.

A recent study by management consultancy McKinsey urges carmakers to take seven steps to better get their electric cars to the man, Business Insider reported.

But it is not only car manufacturers who are in demand, but also charging station suppliers must do more to make the electric car appear more attractive to the German. And there are obviously some problems.

In order to respond to a large number of complaints about inadequate conditions, high prices and monopolies, the Federal Cartel Office – the most senior German authority for the review of economic competition – is now leading a so-called “Sector inquiry into public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles” one.

Federal Cartel Office: These abuses are being investigated

The President of the Federal Cartel Office, Andreas Mundt, is quoted in the press release accompanying the investigation as follows:

“In this early market phase, we want to structural competition problems to contribute to a successful expansion. The Building a comprehensive e-charging infrastructure is a prerequisite for the success of electromobility in Germany. The conditions and prices for charging in public spaces are central to consumers’ decision to switch to electromobility. The market is, of course, still in the making. But we are already receiving more and more complaints about the prices and conditions at the charging stations.”

A spokesman for the Federal Cartel Office, when asked by Business Insider, said the complaints would affect “both the conditions for the end customer, as well as the prices and conditions of access to individual charging stations for providers of mobility services.”

However, the Federal Cartel Office did not respond to a request for comment from which German regions are particularly frequent. It concerns different regions of Germany and both normal charging stations and fast charging stations.

Last year, however, Business Insider reported that some regions in Germany are lagging far behind in their expansion. In the north-east of the Republic, buying an electric car is worthwhile for the few.

Business Insider also wanted to know where (political) action is needed to prevent monopolies of individual charging station providers and thus prevent them from exploiting their position – for example, when it comes to prices. The Antitrust Office is now seeking to investigate this issue in the ongoing sector inquiry. “To what extent there is a need for political or legislative action” is therefore not yet clear.

The National Organisation for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW), which takes over the tasks of the national charging infrastructure control centre for the Federal Republic of Germany, announced late last month that a “paradigm shift in the expansion of the charging infrastructure” was imminent. As a first step, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) wants to commission the “construction and operation of a nationwide HPC fast charging network at 1,000 locations as part of a Europe-wide call for tenders.” This fast-charging network should thus meet the ‘needs for medium- and long-distance mobility’, as stated in a NOW press release Is.

Numerous problems with charging stations for electric cars throughout Germany

Thisit is also intended to solve the problems that are now being brought to the Federal Cartel Office: insular solutions, high unreliability, inconsistent information and numerous different user interfaces.

The call for tenders is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of this year. But with the process “not going to be less than eight months,” this paradigm shift is unlikely to start until the end of 2021 at the earliest, Business Insider reported.

In addition, the Federal Government is also consulting on the possible obligation to charge charging stations at petrol stations, as stated in theMasterplan Charging Infrastructure” which sets the targets and measures for the construction of charging infrastructure by 2030. However, not only the petrol stations, but also the Federal Association of EMobility (BEM) argued against it to Business Insider.

The two phases of the sector inquiry

In order to ensure this expansion by 2030 – even away from the filling stations – with as few competition problems as possible, with non-discriminatory access to the charging stations, with concrete, generally valid conditions of use, the Federal Cartel Office is already intervening with the sector investigation at this early stage of the expansion of the charging station infrastructure.

The Competition And Markets Authority states that “the framework conditions for the competitive construction of charging stations on the federal highways will also be taken into consideration”.

The Sector inquiry in two phases. “The first phase will focus on the state of construction of the public charging infrastructure and the current practice of cities, municipalities and other stakeholders in the planning and provision of suitable locations,” it says. The second phase will then cover “issues of access for mobility service providers and charging customers to the charging stations”.

In spite of all these efforts, it will be a long time before we have a comprehensive network of accessible, easily comprehensible and fast charging stations in Germany.

But that may not be so bad, because although the e-car premium in the Corona stimulus package bears fruit – the Germans actually buy more electric cars – production is not lagging behind. This sometimes leads to years of waiting times, which at the same time gives politicians and charging station providers more time to align the infrastructure with the traffic of the future.

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