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Stories from public authorities leading public charging networks – Webinar 2

Our second webinar focused on how public authorities are steering public (smart) charging. We heard from Gertjan Geurts (Project lead EU, Municipality of Utrecht), Eva Sunnerstedt (Head of Unit – Clean Vehicles and Fuels, City of Stockholm) and Angel Lopez (Director of Electromobility Strategies, Barcelona City Council). The session was moderated by Edwin Bestebreurtje (FIER Sustainable Mobility).

Knowledge sharing and storytelling are essential between public authorities to advance smart charging and V2X charging.

Local authorities are key contributors to the electrification of mobility. The SCALE consortium spent months doing interviews and surveys to gather perspectives, stories, and strategies of local and regional authorities, as well as DSOs (Distribution Service Operators) and TSOs (Transmission Service Operators). From this work, overarching recommendations were drawn. These include the need to create digital tools for cities like a European Integrated EV Mobility and Energy Planning Tool, to utilise the policy ‘super’ power of the EU to solve the chicken-and-egg problem of smart charging and V2G (particularly for hardware and software) and incentivise publicly accessible charging infrastructure on private land with smart charging requirements. But behind these recommendations lie stories of local changemakers working in municipalities who were leading the electromobility transition in bold and innovative ways. We invited two interviewees back to share how their cities were envisioning and implementing public charging.

Stockholm, stepping up to the electromobility boom.

Last year, 60% of the new car sales were either electric or electric hybrid in Sweden. Providing charging is essential.

Leading the way. The municipality started by providing charging in off-street parking facilities. Today, the city-owned company ‘Stockholm Parkering AB’ owns and manages 30,000 parking places. All their facilities will be equipped with charging by 2026, with some being smart. In regard to on-street charging, Stockholm groups its infrastructure – it currently has 200 charging streets, adding up to 1 000 charging units, and aims to increase these to 1 500 by the end of the year. The charging street concept is not only more efficient economically (digging streets is expensive!), but also easier to navigate for EV drivers as spots are concentrated. In addition, the city of Stockholm owns 50,000 off-street parking places that they control through their properties (e.g. housing estates and sports arenas). These will need to have 100% charging by 2030 in the city, and 80% in the suburbs. Through internal guidelines, regular information exchange, and pooled procurement, the city has managed to scale up public charging. Of course, the municipalities’ fleet is electric, and they require EVs in their procurement of transportation services.

Working with the private sector. The City of Stockholm signs 10-year access agreements with the private sector who is in charge of financing, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure. In exchange, the private sector must share data on its activities to the municipality and the latter picks the locations of the points. A key lesson from the capital is that the cooperation between stakeholders, especially the grid operator, is essential.

Let’s not forget about home charging. Stockholm is putting an emphasis on home charging as 90% of Stockholmers live in multi-family homes. The city leads information campaigns including meetings, webinars and meet & greets with charge point suppliers which has been very successful.  Users also get nudged financially: they have access to state funding and tax deductions. These are not tied to smart charging requirements per se, but the charge points must follow European requirements, be able to track the electricity used and they must have the capacity to bill.

Be ambitious and prepared. Adding charging in a city leads to many legal and administrative issues. In Sweden, the legislation is not really adapted to the EV transition. Many questions arose about the types of contracts (e.g., the use of access right agreements) or parking regulations the municipality should rely on. Small-scale pilots are essential to demonstrate how the legislation can be used, before a full deployment.

What about the grid? Sweden produces more electricity than it consumes. Yet the grid is an issue in Stockholm. Electricity is generated in the north of the country, while most people live in the south, and the local grid in the capital dates from the 1950s. Installing charging, especially fast and heavy-vehicle charging, requires costly grid upgrades. 

Barcelona, investing in off-street charging to preserve the public space.

The dense city of Barcelona has a very different story to tell, it has less than 3% of EVs on its roads. Beyond the charging of cars, the municipality has also focused from the start on light vehicle charging.

Charging locations according to vehicle sizes. In 2009, the Spanish Government created a mobility program to boost electromobility in the country. Through this program, Barcelona developed a network of chargers only for motorbikes on-street and for cars off-street in parking facilities. In their vision, charging in public spaces should be restricted, especially on-street. It should serve the purpose of emergency charging (fast charging) and opportunity charging (e.g charging while doing groceries). In a nutshell, this works as a safety net for users and to reduce range anxiety.

A 100% publicly managed network. Public charging is completely led, financed, owned, managed and maintained by the municipality and its companies. Publicly owned BSM (Barcelona de Serveis Municipals) acts as a CPO, and its trademarks (Endolla and SMOU) as MSPs. They have around 1 000 chargers, with 50 being on-street fast chargers, but their current use is below capacity.

Using an array of regulations. The municipality of Barcelona has employed a range of legal instruments to steer strategically public charging. For example, all new or remodeled/refurbished parking facilities must have charging points. At least one charger for every 10 places for cars, and the same applies for motorbikes. In addition, building new refueling stations has become forbidden and current ones need to gradually transition to offer charging services.

Making users ambassadors of smart charging. Through the EU-funded project eCharge4Drivers, the city is testing ways to improve users’ acceptability of smart charging through enhanced booking services for public charging, battery swapping for light EVs, and user engagement. Smart charging allows to reduce the quantity of public charging points needed per EV, while tapping into renewable energies efficiently and reducing the impact on the grid. But getting users to share their data, plan their charging ahead, when they will drop and take their vehicle, or the distance they will travel has not been an easy task.

“Vehiclebatteries-to-grid”? With a strong focus on light EV charging, the municipality of Barcelona is looking to test smart charging in its battery-swapping centers. This could lead to revenues for the municipality.

A few final remarks

  • Implementing or requiring V2X and smart charging for local authorities is not an easy task, one of the biggest blockers is the legislation – not the technology. Pilots are popping up, but these generally require special permits.
  • Variable tariffs are key to push users to charge their vehicles during off-peak hours. However, it is tricky to explain to users that MSP offers may vary with prices changing over time. There are some legal issues because users have the right to know prices before they charge, but to do so, the private sector needs a lot of data which users are reluctant to share. There is also a lack of transparency from CPOs and MSPs on how they establish variable tariffs.
  • We should keep an eye on the case of Utrecht. With a forecasted high growth of EVs, they are creating a bidirectional charging system to develop a sustainable, city-wide and flexible system that supports the grid and an energy-efficient mobility ecosystem. A key ingredient to their success has been getting many stakeholders onboard including the DSO, but also private companies like WeDriveSolar, as well as universities. In addition, the city is introducing a zero-emission zone from 2025 and a charging corridor for long range trucks.

The webinar is accessible on Youtube.