Electric mobility continues to advance at a slow but inexorable pace. Spain may not be one of the countries that registers more electric vehicles, given its per capita income and scarce aid, but it will eventually join the trend, yes or no. For now, at national level, the top three positions in the electro mobility ranking remain with Catalonia leading the table, followed by Asturias and Madrid.
In fact, one of the key points of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) is the electrification of the country, with the aim of reaching a fleet of electric vehicles of 5 million by 2030.
5 million is currently the number of electric vehicles in circulation worldwide. What do we mean by this? Well, that it seems a very ambitious target, considering that Spain is still at the bottom of Europe in terms of electric mobility, due to the “scarce” development of recharging points, which currently has 13,609 points. “Not bad” – you might be thinking, but the pity is that only 8.9% of these points are publicly owned. Bearing in mind that more than 75% of cars in Spain “sleep in the street”, it will be necessary to create sufficient infrastructure so that those who do not have an outlet in their homes can make the step towards the electric car.
For now, to help citizens find the nearest recharging point, Red Eléctrica de España (REE) provides on its website the possibility of consulting the recharging points available throughout the peninsula, both their location and power and type of charge (slow, normal, fast, semi-rapid, ultra-fast). The publication of this map responds to REE’s commitment, together with the mobility operators of the Cecovel project (2017), to facilitate the energy transition in Spain. Currently, the registered recharge points are only 602, as they only have the data of the following operators: Ibil-Repsol, Gic, Fenie and Melib. However, REE indicates on its website that it is open to any operator that wishes to join the project.
Figure 1: Recharging points map in Spain (REE)
THE ROLE OF THE BIG ELECTRICITY SUPPLIERS
Although the sudden recession generated by the coronavirus crisis calls into question calculations and strategies, the creation of a fast (and public) charging network is imperative because the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 in the EU is still on the horizon. “In the forecasts of the companies operating recharging points there are very ambitious implementation plans,” says Arturo Pérez de Lucia, general director of the Business Association for the Development and Promotion of Electric Vehicles (Aedive). In a period in which the business is still not profitable, private initiative is in charge and the big energy companies are taking positions.
In a decade of great innovation and energy transition plans, the electricity companies have had to reinvent themselves and no longer sell only electricity and gas supplies. They are now experiencing a wide range of services, from the boom of photovoltaic self-consumption to vehicle fleet electrification projects. And it is towards the latter that all the marketers are going, aware that the energy sector is already a whole world of possibilities. In fact, the electric companies know that one of the biggest gaps in the promotion of electric cars is the lack of recharging points. There is still a large gap on the main roads of the peninsula, such as those linking Madrid with León, Seville or even Barcelona, where hundreds of kilometres can pass without an accessible charging point.
Not only is Repsol, with its 230 public recharging points and its first two ultra-fast recharging points in the country, but also Iberdrola, Cepsa and Enel X are taking a very active role in the development of public recharging points. Iberdrola, which already has 500 public electric chargers, in its sustainable mobility plan aims at 150,000 recharging points by 2025, while Enel X declares to install 100,000 points by 2023, of which 8,500 are public and renewable.
CAR COMPANIES IN SPAIN: THE CASE OF NISSAN
Like the electricity companies, it is also clear to the car companies that the transition to the electric motor will only be possible with a good basis of electrical infrastructure available to consumers. In this sense, they also collaborate with the incentive of recharging points, as in the case of Nissan, where the Japanese manufacturer is offering customers different solutions, such as free charge, in both equipment and installation, together with the purchase of a Nissan electric vehicle, and the installation of long distance charging points that allow the driver to recharge his vehicle in half an hour. This is a very good initiative, but it is compromised in Spain by Nissan’s recent decision to close its Barcelona plant in the Zona Franca.
On the contrary, while Spain is still not reacting, its direct competitors, Germany (the leading European manufacturer) and France (third in the ranking), already have a figure to revitalize their automobile sector, which has also been seriously affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Aid for a total of 2.5 billion and 8 billion, respectively.
In the case of France, what is worrying is that the government intends to make the aid conditional on French manufacturers moving their production to the nation. Another hard blow for Spain, where French brands have a very important weight. Faced with such a scenario, the greatest fear is that it will be precisely a French manufacturer who will take advantage of these circumstances to follow Nissan’s footsteps. And another great danger is what could happen with large automotive suppliers whose business falls due to the departure of such an important customer, something that could also lead to a ‘domino effect’ in Spanish territory.
THE REGULATION OF RECHARGE POINTS
Another great uncertainty about the recharge points is focused on the regulatory issue, being that the biggest obstacle for the country in energy matters. We have already seen how in self-consumption, with the RDL 15/2018 before and later with the RDL 244/2019, the door was opened to more clarity in the realization of a photovoltaic self-consumption installation.
But for the recharge points, there is still no well-defined regulatory framework. We go back to 2009, when the Horizontal Property Law was modified, regulating the possibility of installing an electric car recharging point, and facilitating the process, as no prior authorisation is required from the owner of the garage space. Until 2014, the only thing that was required of the interested party was that they communicate with the president or administrator of the community of owners. With the RD 1053/2014, the technical requirements for installation entered, which means the installer, who is in charge of the work, in order to have his electric car recharging point, has to carry it out following what is marked in this decree (Complementary Technical Instruction – ITC – BT 52).
Figure 2: Recharging points technical regulation (ITC BT 52)
With the great reform project that the Government wants to develop in the transport sector, one of the key points for the massive development of vehicles and recharging points, it is necessary to have a clear idea of the regulatory framework currently in force. As with all new energy developments, regulations remain a big rock, without which consumers do not feel comfortable before making a major investment project, such as a self-consumption facility or the installation of a recharging point. If the regulatory issue is already complex, so is the issue of incentives and support for consumers to actually encourage the purchase of electric cars. With any doubt, everything we have been through this year has put a big pause on the electrification projects that the government had planned to do, since the car companies have been the most affected by the Covid-19. However, the plans at European level are clear and, although Spain is still in a preliminary phase, the objectives are not going to change. We remember the 5 million electric cars expected by 2030 in Spain and carbon neutrality by 2050 in all sectors. If the targets were already ambitious, this is now a real challenge for Spain.
Cristina Vitale | Energy Consultant