investment funds to the rescue of charging points

This is a political objective announced in October 2020 for the end of 2021 but which has still not been achieved in May 2022: the deployment of 100,000 electric charging points in France. According to the latest joint barometer of the national association for the development of electric mobility (Avere) and the Ministry of Ecological Transition, based on data from GIREVE, a platform created in 2013 in particular by Renault, Caisse des Dépôts, EDF Enedis, only 60,040 electric charging points, more or less fast, are open to the public in France as of April 30.

Electric car: why the deployment of 100,000 charging points is still stuck in France

Terminals in places of consumption

In other words, the will of the Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari is only 60% satisfied despite the various regulations. All motorway areas must indeed be equipped with electric charging points by the end of 2022. Same deadline for non-residential parking lots which must reserve 5% of their pitches for electric mobility. Same mandatory percentage for shopping centers.

Among the 38.3 million passenger cars in circulation, according to data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition as of January 1, 2021, 886,439 are electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles according to the national association for the development of electric mobility (Avere). All sources combined, 75 to 80% are recharged at home or at work and 25 to 20% while roaming, i.e. traveling between point A and point B.

A difference of 1 to 3 or even 1 to 4 which would be in the process of being reduced. Investment funds specializing in infrastructure are beginning to invest in players capable of deploying in places of consumption, such as shopping centres, mass distribution, hotels or restaurants.

“It’s the chicken and the egg”

Latest: the French capital investor Antin Infrastructure Partners has just injected 150 million euros into Power Dot, taking joint control of the operator of fast and ultra-fast charging stations. The latter claims the deployment – ​​in progress – of 2,500 charging points in the parking lot of brands such as Cora and M. Bricolage and franchises of E. Leclerc or KFC. Objective: reach 7,000 fast charging points by 2025.

“It’s the chicken and the egg: people will buy electric vehicles when they can charge them. We are convinced that it will be a subject of everyday life: Saturday mornings at the supermarket, Wednesday lunchtimes at fast food with the children”, explains, to La Tribune, Nicolas Mallet, partner at Antin Infrastructure Partners.

This fund is not the only one to position itself on the subject. From 2018, the “company with a mission specializing in the development, financing and long-term management of sustainable public infrastructure” Meridiam has purchased 100% of Allego, operator for all power and all types of electric vehicles, including scooters, bicycles and scooters. In a factory in Valence, the stations are assembled, before being transported, deposited and connected to its customers.

The fund has thus signed a partnership with Carrefour to deploy, by the end of 2023, 2,000 charging points distributed in all 200 hypermarkets, more than half of which have ultra-fast charges. Meridiam, which claims other partners such as the metropolis of Toulouse or the car manufacturer Nissan, covets other targets, such as shopping centers and leisure activities.

What return on investment?

Still, its return on investment is already assured: purchased “for about 200 million euros”, declares a spokesperson for the group, Allego, listed in New York, was worth 3 billion euros at the start of 2022. It is obviously too early to talk about it on the side of Antin Infrastructure Partners.

“We are looking at our return on investment over time”, confides Nicolas Mallet, partner. “It is a less mature investment than a water concession for example and which requires making capex”, he adds. In other words, if for a water concession, the investor is remunerated and reimburses his investments on the price of water; for an electric charging point, he must also incur material investment expenditure.

If a terminal, which has one or more points, “not a very big investment” – of the order of 50,000 euros -, “the network effect”, that is to say, the fact of linking a given territory, offers the fund an infrastructure at the same time « agile » and answering “long time” investment in infrastructure, continues the Antin executive.

Predictability software to study the best locations

Anyway, with a minima 7,000 electric charging points for the latter and 2,000 for Meridiam, the two funds can contribute to achieving at least 10% of the 100,000 point objective.

“Installing a terminal, connecting it to the network and getting people to come may seem easy, but it’s much more complex than that, many terminals don’t work. I don’t know if we can help keep the bet but our know-how is beneficial to the whole sector”, affirms, all in nuance, Nicolas Mallet, of Antin Infrastructure Partners.

“There are means, technical, financial and human to put in place”, eludes the spokesperson of Meridiam.

The latter, however, says he is developing predictability software to study the best locations for electric charging points, but he will say no more. “for obvious reasons of competition and confidentiality”.

Electric car: the puzzle of charging stations in “white areas”