Electric vehicles, or more commonly referred to as EV, were once a novelty, but they’ve entered the mainstream in recent years. While gas- and diesel-powered cars still make up the majority of traffic, EVs are slowly replacing them. Europe has emerged as a global leader in this movement.
EV growth in Europe went up by 44% between 2018 and 2019, while it declined by 12% in the U.S. This trend continued in the first quarter of 2020, with U.S. EV sales falling while European sales increased. The rest of the world hasn’t kept pace with Europe, either, rising by just 9% in 2019.
Europe’s impressive lead in the EV revolution is hard to ignore, raising a question: Why are they so far ahead? It may be tempting to blame cultural barriers to EV adoption, but that doesn’t represent the whole picture. The most significant differences come from Europe’s progressive policies and technological adoption.
Here’s a closer look at why Europe has seen such successful EV adoption.
Implementation of Pop-up Chargers
One of the most significant barriers to widespread EV adoption is convenience. Today’s electric cars have sufficient range for their batteries, but charging is still an issue in many areas. European nations have addressed this in several ways, one of them being pop-up chargers.
A British company called Urban Electric recently finished a trial of pop-up charging posts. Drivers can use these to charge their cars while parked on the road since many people don’t have driveways. They also lower into the ground when not in use, avoiding roadside clutter.
Respondents in a post-trial survey rated these chargers 4.3 out of 5, indicating high user satisfaction. With such a positive reception, these pop-up charging stations will likely see further implementation in the future. In turn, charging will become more accessible, making owning an EV in Britain more convenient — convenient being the operative word.
Conversion of Roadside Cabinets
Street cabinets encasing telecommunications equipment and wiring are common throughout Europe. These sturdy, widespread protective boxes provide the ideal location for EV charging stations, and European companies have taken note. Telecommunications businesses are converting these cabinets into convenient roadside charging stations.
Since these boxes are already present on many roadsides, they eliminate the need for additional construction. As a result, new charging stations can go up quickly and at a minimal cost. Cities can provide more places to charge EVs without disrupting people’s routines.
German and U.K. telecommunications companies have already started converting roadside cabinets into EV charging stations. As smart cities grow, more of these cabinets will appear, providing even more potential chargers. This marriage of the smart city and EV movements will help both reach new heights.
Expanded Utility of Lampposts
Roadside telecommunications cabinets aren’t the only piece of infrastructure that European companies are converting into chargers. Some cities have started to equip lampposts with charging capabilities, increasing roadside accessibility. Since there are as many as 90 million lampposts throughout Europe, this movement could dramatically increase EV ownership convenience.
Lampposts’ abundance isn’t the only factor that makes them ideal for EV charging. Their height makes solar power a viable option for drawing energy, providing EVs with green electricity. Many lampposts already have solar panels installed, so this wouldn’t require further construction and expenses either.
Installing new charging infrastructure would require new wiring, which could cost considerable amounts of time and money. Converting lampposts and roadside cabinets — which already have access to the grid — into chargers prevents this problem. This trend is catching on quickly, too, as there are already 1,300 lamppost chargers in London alone.
Development of Electrified Roads
Even with more stations, charging EVs isn’t always a convenient process. Some chargers can take hours to refill an EV’s battery all the way. Sweden is developing an answer to this problem in the form of electrified roads.
Sweden plans to build more than a thousand miles of electrified highways and has already installed two kilometres. These roads feature a conductive rail built into the ground that EVs access with a movable arm under the vehicle. Electricity flows from the rail, through this arm and to the vehicle’s battery, similarly to how bumper cars work.
The electrical current in these roads disconnects whenever a car stops or changes lanes. That way, they only deliver as much electricity as they need, reducing waste and saving money. With more of these roads, EV owners could drive most of their commute without depleting any of their battery levels, increasing their range.
Of course, increasing charging accessibility isn’t the only necessary step to improve EV adoption. Another one of Europe’s most prominent advantages is the government incentives many of its nations offer. Tax credits and manufacturing requirements help increase both EV supply and demand.
In Germany, for example, an EV worth less than €40,000 is eligible for a €9,000 credit incentive. That drastically reduces the total ownership costs of a new electric car, making them more appealing to consumers. Tax credits for EV ownership do exist in the U.S. but aren’t consistent or as substantial.
European nations also hold auto manufacturers to a higher standard, encouraging them to produce more EVs. In line with the Paris Agreement, EU automakers have to reduce their products’ emissions, and making EVs is a straightforward way to do so. As a result, manufacturers increase the available supply of EVs, giving consumers more options.
Europe Leads in EV Adoption, but America Could Follow
Europe’s aggressive policies have improved the accessibility of EVs, making the continent a world leader in the field. As climate issues continue to grow, however, other nations could follow the EU’s example to encourage higher EV adoption numbers. While Europe leads now, it’s not too late for countries like the U.S. to ramp up their efforts.
The EU’s leadership gives other nations an example of how to improve EV adoption effectively. The numbers speak for themselves, so other governments wouldn’t have to worry as much about risk in pursuing these strategies. With the broader implementation of similar approaches, the world could give EVs the push they need to overtake fossil fuel-powered cars.