The development of plug-in vehicles in France is seen as a symbolic step towards more environmentally-friendly transport to achieve national goals. The government has also announced an investment plan to support public infrastructure. An estimated one million public and private battery-charging stations will be built by 2015 under the plan.
One of the keys to success for these vehicles is to establish user confidence in their driving range and safety. Reliable charging infrastructure that is backed by a national installation strategy is required to ensure sufficient driving range. France is planning to deploy this infrastructure in all sectors of daily life, in particular for the following groups:
Enterprises: Charging infrastructure will be installed for captive fleets of plug-in vehicles, such as corporate fleets. The possibility of “plug-in benefits” will be considered, such as allowing employees to recharge their personal or company cars at their place of work with low or no cost. Added power demand for charging would be managed.
Public domain: Plug-in vehicles and charging infrastructure will also be deployed in public areas, such as roadways and public parking garages. Suitable options for use are being developed, such as shared vehicles and vehicles on demand.
Residential sector: Plug-in vehicles and charging infrastructure will be made available to individual users, with or without vehicle ownership.
French Strategic Roadmap
The French strategic roadmap being put in place to challenges can evolve over the long term depending on several key parameters. These key parameters, including standards, the integration of the market system, and infrastructure supply and demand, will significantly inflect charging infrastructure deployment options.
The question of standardization arises at both national and European levels. In the near term, the charging methods of vehicles will probably vary, and charging installations will differ from one place to the next.
However, in the future, standards will be needed for the various components of the plug-in vehicle/charging infrastructure “ecosystem” in order to facilitate interoperability, safety, cost-competitive infrastructure, and management of electricity demand. Ultimately this involves elaborating a French plan within European and world standardization bodies.
2. Entire market-system integration
The second parameter focuses on the nature and long-term viability of the economic and business models that will govern the entire charging infrastructure ecosystem. This includes plug-in vehicles, batteries, and also the installation and operation of infrastructure and associated services.
Market penetration of plug-in vehicles will vary depending on purchase price, operating costs, and resale value. Initial adoption will be supplemented by mechanisms, such as subsidies, investment aids, and low-cost loans.
But in the long term, only a regulatory framework and/or viable business models will ensure plug-in vehicle success. It is up to the actors in the production chain (equipment makers, electricity suppliers and distributors, vehicle manufacturers, providers of related services) and to public authorities to foster business models that will make plug-in vehicles financially viable for consumers. Challenges include changing the financing model for vehicles, batteries, and infrastructure, and how to use batteries once they can no longer power a plug-in vehicle.
3. Match infrastructure supply with demand
The third parameter identified is the level and type of interaction between vehicles, users, and the charging infrastructure to match supply with demand. Understanding the surrounding ecosystem, in particular the availability of charging infrastructure, will to a large extent determine how massively plug-in vehicles can be deployed.
These needs are determined by actual vehicle performance along with the types of use and economic models adopted. For example, there is a contradiction between seeking a greater driving range for electric vehicles and the intention to massively deploy charging infrastructure. Achieving a balance between these interactions is a key parameter to include in the strategy for deployment of charging infrastructure.
Furthermore, this is a dynamic equilibrium. To date no operator has been able to develop an economically profitable activity anywhere in the world, given the prohibitive cost of charging infrastructure (system manufacturing and installation costs). The time frame for a return on investment (ROI) on these investments is several decades and incompatible with industry needs for shorter timeframe for ROI.
A strong commitment from the State until 2020 is needed to ensure the equilibrium of this ecosystem. Leading up to 2050, new economically and industrially viable business models must take over without State intervention. This scenario relies on developing new economical charging infrastructure that is compatible with all types of plug-in vehicles.