The market is just waiting for them to fill up with growth. They are charging stations. The French are in the process of taking the step towards electric, with already 300,000 cars purchased in 2021, and car manufacturers are transforming their production chains with tens of billions of euros. The installation of public charging stations should keep pace! However, we are still a long way off. The government had set itself a target of 100,000 terminals by the end of 2021, and had put 100 million euros on the table. Despite this largesse, intended to subsidize the costs of installation and connection to the network, only half of the program was carried out.
This year should therefore be the year of acceleration… if the international situation allows it. The war in Ukraine is indeed leading to price increases linked to shortages of essential materials in the manufacture of electric cars, in particular tungsten and nickel. But the price of gasoline is also rising… Dozens of players are therefore eyeing the very lucrative market for charging points. An Eldorado which, according to Gianluigi Indino, partner at EY-Parthenon, would weigh 8 billion euros in eight years, just for the “ex-factory” value of the terminals, before installation.
“To mesh the French territory, explains the strategy expert, a slew of specialists are on the starting line, from manufacturers of terminals to energy suppliers, via service operators in relation to the driver, those who steer maintenance and those who negotiate payment flows.”
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Everyone wants to be. Starting with energy megagroups such as TotalEnergies, Shell or BP, forced to negotiate the transition to electricity and wishing to install chargers in their service stations: at a rate of half an hour to an hour of waiting per loading, customers will also go and buy in their shops. The construction giants then, including the French Spie or Bouygues, who plan to install terminals in the heart of cities. And, finally, terminal suppliers such as the German Siemens or the Dutch FastNed.
But while waiting for an inevitable concentration to come, small structures have also rushed into this market. They specialize in the installation of terminals in condominiums, their profitability by the owners or the democratization of payment.
Electric cars desperately looking for charging stations
Recharge without subscribing. Filling up at an electric terminal like at a conventional petrol pump: this is the challenge launched by SGA Mobility. The start-up, based in Rouen, has been offering facilities equipped with a bank terminal since 2013, accessible with a simple credit card. Neither subscription, nor mobile application, nor badge, as required by the majority of market players.
“The terminal manager receives the entire charge made by the customer, who knows how much he pays for his full,” comments Christophe Gaillard, founder of SGA Mobility, almost the only company in France to offer this possibility.
It develops software, distributes its terminals and pays itself through the sale of its machines (at the rate of around 5,000 euros per unit) and maintenance. A spin-off from SGA Industries, an electronic engineering company, SGA Mobility sees itself as a complement to the energy behemoths with its 500 terminals installed in cities, especially in the west of France, and targets in particular drivers who do not only need one “full” per week.
The community solution. In the very competitive world of terminals, the young shoot from the Ile-de-France has made an original place for itself. “We have invented a kit to place on your own charging station which makes it accessible to other owners of electric vehicles”, explains Bertrand Lepage, general manager of Wattpark. The driver connects to the platform and books a meeting time. On site, he has access to the terminal via Bluetooth, he recharges, and his bank account is debited to the benefit of the
of the owner.
This terminal, usable “Airbnb style”, is accessible to individuals, professionals and communities at a price of 500 to 800 euros. The company targets areas outside major metropolitan areas “with a service approach rather than charging speed”. It is also counting on partnerships with hotels and restaurants, as well as car manufacturers, which could integrate its solution into their loyalty programs. She finally has the project to build, in Maine-et-Loire, a factory which could produce 5,000 of her kits per year.
Ad-supported top-ups. What if your next charge was free? This is the promise of Volta Charging, which intends to attract drivers by having their “full” financed by advertisers, national or local. Arrived in France last December, this American expert in electric mobility wants to duplicate this economic model already developed on 2,000 charging ports in the United States in five years. The terminals are equipped with digital screens on which advertising scrolls.
The idea is to place them in high traffic areas, such as supermarket car parks. Volta Charging favors top-up charging, time to go shopping. “The need for fast charging is not that important, believes Vincent Grena, European manager of the company, the main thing is to be where people are.” The American also intends to make sparks in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, by being remunerated with advertising, as well as the installation and maintenance of charging stations.