Energy

Buildings will Play Crucial Role in Growth of EU Electric Vehicle Market

The electric vehicle (EV) market has experienced exponential growth in recent years and expects even faster growth in coming years as markets aim for close to 100% EV penetration in the medium term. EV sales as a share of total vehicle sales has tripled in just three years, from 4% in 2020 to 14% in 2022, according to the IEA, and EV sales in the first quarter of 2023 are 25% higher than the same period last year. However, to maintain this pace, we must also develop the charging infrastructure necessary for this new world of electric vehicles. Data shows that EV market penetration is directly linked to the availability of charging infrastructure, with China leading the world on both fronts, making up eight million of the 14 million EVs sold in 2022. Europe is in second place with less than half that amount (3.4 million) but is now taking strides to close the gap […]

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The electric vehicle (EV) market has experienced exponential growth in recent years and expects even faster growth in coming years as markets aim for close to 100% EV penetration in the medium term.

EV sales as a share of total vehicle sales has tripled in just three years, from 4% in 2020 to 14% in 2022, according to the IEA, and EV sales in the first quarter of 2023 are 25% higher than the same period last year. However, to maintain this pace, we must also develop the charging infrastructure necessary for this new world of electric vehicles.

Data shows that EV market penetration is directly linked to the availability of charging infrastructure, with China leading the world on both fronts, making up eight million of the 14 million EVs sold in 2022. Europe is in second place with less than half that amount (3.4 million) but is now taking strides to close the gap through a range of building regulations that would revolutionize its EV charging infrastructure to spark growth in its EV sales.

Progressive approaches to electric vehicle charging recognize that EVs are not tied to the gas station model we have become used to with petrol vehicles and that our buildings now have a crucial role to play.

“Promoting green mobility is a key action in the European Green Deal. Buildings play an important role in transforming the mobility sector by providing the necessary infrastructure for recharging electric cars,” states a 2023 European Commission report.

“Ease of access and characteristics of EV recharging infrastructure have been identified as key factors for the uptake of EVs. In addition, smart unidirectional and bidirectional charging of EVs can significantly increase the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the electricity system and contribute to a higher level of variable renewable electricity generation within the energy mix.”

The uptick of EVs in combination with smart charging infrastructure not only reduces reliance on fossil fuels but also contributes to the optimisation of electricity grids by creating a growing source of flexible energy storage. By connecting your EV to your home via a smart charger you instantly get significant battery capacity for your home and, in larger buildings, this becomes a fleet of batteries that support energy management and optimization for the building and the grid. 

“Convenience of recharging is one of the principal factors affecting adoption,” explains the same report, which was titled: Promotion of e-mobility through buildings policy. “It can therefore be concluded that energy policies in the building sector can encourage the uptake of EVs by deploying recharging infrastructure in buildings.”

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) in its current form promotes electric vehicle charging in buildings, requiring all member states to transpose its provisions into their national legislation for minimum numbers of recharging points and ducting infrastructure.

New non-residential buildings and non-residential buildings undergoing major renovation, with more than 10 parking spaces must install at least one recharging point and ducting infrastructure. New residential buildings and those undergoing major renovation, with more than 10 parking spaces, must ensure the installation of ducting infrastructure for every parking space, with policies for recharging points for every space planned for the future.

Electric Vehicle Charging

Electric Vehicle Market Penetration

While most agree that this is a positive step, many argue that it is simply not enough, considering the potential speed and scale of EV penetration, as well as its vast benefits for homes, buildings, and the grid.

The EU’s focus on new buildings and those undergoing major renovation is good but ignores the vast majority of existing building stock and its slow rate of renovation. Without policies to introduce EV charging in existing buildings, the EU has missed the real opportunity to drive EV sales and tackle the climate impacts of vehicles and buildings.

“We will need millions of new smart charging points across Europe to support the shift to electric mobility. Today’s proposal means a crucial step in that direction,” says Luka De Bruyckere, program manager at the Environmental Coalition on Standards. “However, requirements for residential and existing buildings are still far too low.

Only those with more than three or even 20 parking spots will be obliged to install charging infrastructure. This is not enough, given that building renovation rates in Europe are low. We need stronger requirements to make sure that our buildings are ready for smart e-mobility. We need a true ‘right to plug’.”

The ‘right to plug’ essentially means that any EU resident that wants access to electric vehicle charging at their home should be able to achieve it. However, while the union’s more developed economies (i.e. France, Netherlands, Belgium) are moving towards that goal, less developed economies such as Italy and Spain appear to be a long way from developing such regulation.

In Italy, for example, previous EPBD regulation has been poorly and unevenly implemented, and there is no mandate to equip existing multi-family buildings with EV-ready infrastructure, leaving little hope for rapid electric vehicle development. In Spain, where nearly 65% of people live in multifamily buildings, the homeowner’s association under the Spanish Property Law has the ability to de facto block and reject requests to install a charging point, which has proved a challenge.

As a bloc, the EU is one of the most economically and socially advanced regions of the world, and the data clearly demonstrates a strong appetite for EVs from EU residents. However, without more ambitious policies and stricter implementation for the development of charging infrastructure in buildings, the EU risks missing the opportunity to maximize EV sales growth and minimize the impact of EU vehicles on the environment.

The impact of buildings on the environment is even greater than that of vehicles. And, in a fragmented smart buildings industry that is striving and struggling for market penetration, EV charging regulation represents a real opportunity to spark interest in smart technology that works with EVs to elicit even greater sustainability benefits.

The momentum is rapidly growing in the electric vehicle market but unless the EU seize the opportunity with stronger EV charging regulation in buildings they could lose pace versus other regions of the world and miss key opportunities to increase sustainability across their diverse territory.

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