European Commission Backs Mennekes Type 2 Electric Car Plug
The European Commission last week unveiled a plan for cleaner fuels while reducing the continent's dependency on imported oil. The plan states that, by 2020, the leading alternative fuel in Europe shall be (drum roll): natural gas. There's about one million vehicles running on natural gas today in Europe, and this should increase ten-fold by 2020. But the electric car is right behind, and there should soon be millions of EVs everywhere in Europe.
The Commission's plan addresses a central problem regarding EV charging stations: lack of interoperability. Everyone understands that to make EVs widespread, Europe needs a single plug. The question is who should choose this plug, the market or a regulator?
Actually, the market has already chosen. In Germany, Italy or in the U.K. the most widely used plug by far is the one known as "Type 2", invented by German company Mennekes. The European Commission just gave it its official backing.
It's a great relief as there were still some doubters, but now, we know. All EVs sold in Europe should have this plug, and we can move forward. It's true that all European car manufacturers which previously endorsed this Type 2 plug have now stated plans to use the new Combo SAE plug, but that new standard just doesn't exist at this stage in Europe. The Commission moves on, and now tries to answer a much more difficult question: how many charging stations a country should have?
Most European countries have already thought about it, but that doesn't mean much. France has set an ambitious plan for hundreds of thousands of charging stations by 2020, but France has always been better at setting targets than achieving them. The government says every year that it will reduce the deficit and the country's debt, but it fails every year.
It's different at the European level because the Commission has the power to make legally binding objectives. If a country fails to meet them, this country will get a fine (though the people responsible for the failure will not pay it with their own money). But nobody should be afraid of that, because the people in Brussels are quite reasonable and their objectives are much more modest than what several governments have already planned. And that's the idea, the regulator sets a minimum with the hope that most countries will largely exceed it.
The European Commission says that by 2020, France should get 97,000 public charging stations. Germany should get 150,000; Italy needs 125,000; the U.K. target is 122,000, etc. There's a target for each member of the European Union, and it should be nice, but it's hard to understand how they were calculated. Why should Italy, a country smaller and with less people than France, have more chargers?
Actually, instead of quantitative targets, I think it would be better to have qualitative ones—for example, that EV drivers should never be more than about 15 miles from a fast-charging station. Or that there should be a fast charger for every 5,000 people. Wouldn't that be better? There's still time for changes like this because this plan is still at the proposal stage. It will be a while before it actually becomes law, and this is time for debate.
Whatever is finalized as a plan by the European Commission, it will likely be a source of conflict with the British government, which said only a few days earlier that its action wasn't needed to help EVs.
We should also note what the Commission doesn't say: there's nothing about battery swapping. Israeli company Better Place once had a plan to install battery-swap stations all over Europe, and there were some people in Brussels who were supportive of the idea, but that's no more. People now realize that the economics were wrong, and chassis engineers went further, explaining that designing EVs with an easy to remove battery will make the cars heavier.
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