Charging stations are suffering despite subsidies for their construction

Drivers can now recharge their electric cars at less than eight hundred public stations, which have doubled the number of domestic roads and motorways in the last two years. Two thirds of the business belongs to the three main players: 38 percent of public stations belong to ČEZ, 19 percent to PRE and one tenth to E.ON. A total of 64 entities operate at least one station, the Transport Research Center said earlier, referring to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The stations are still suffering, which also applies to the energy giant ČEZ. So far, it has invested tens of millions of crowns in the construction of 342 stations and will increase the volume of funds spent in this way, while most of the planned stations are to offer an output of 50 kilowatts and higher.

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The duo E.ON and PRE also invested tens of millions of crowns in the stations. Most investment costs were covered by European subsidies. However, they apply “only” to investment costs, not to operating costs, energy companies state.

CEZ has so far earned only lower tens of millions and is losing money using the stations. “These funds, which we invest back into network development, are hardly enough to cover the operating costs of the stations. We estimate that the economy of traffic will get out of the red when the number of electric cars in the Czech Republic exceeds at least 40,000, but rather more, ”says CEZ spokesman Martin Schreier. Today, less than a quarter of the smallest required number of electric cars run on Czech roads.

In order for stations to earn a living, they have to be busy. Today, Europe’s busiest stations use about 40 percent of the day and up to 15 percent overnight, Schreier said: “Of today’s less than five percent, we would like to reach 15 percent over the next few years.”

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So far, PRE has built stations for two hundred million, which includes an 80 million subsidy. E.ON stations have cost over 85 million so far. “In general, we are talking about sales in the order of millions of units, so given the amount of investment, these are low numbers,” explains Martin Klíma, Head of Mobile Services at E.ON Energie.

At PRE, customers buy “juice” for electric cars 7,000 times a month. The company has so far built stations evenly across all districts, and will now focus on strategic points where more stations are to be built in one place. This is also the pan-European trend.

In addition, the construction and operation of stations are complicated by the pandemic. It is becoming more expensive to install stations, the delivery times of which have doubled in some cases. He only receives the “machines” ordered by ČEZ in June.

“We are uncomfortable with the sharp rise in the prices of some components or materials, typically cables, the price of which has multiplied, as well as the lack or very long delivery times of technologies and selected components,” says Schreier.

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Increasing the price of construction modifications, connection costs or the establishment of a supply point can thus double the price of one installed station, claims ČEZ. The prices of the stations themselves are based on framework agreements with suppliers, so they do not change for the time being. In the future, however, operators expect higher acquisition costs. These vary according to the performance of the stations. The cheapest prices start at the lower hundreds of thousands, fast chargers come to about three-quarters of a million. Ultra-fast stations cost up to three million.

Energy capacity and consumption

With some simplification, it can be assumed that a fleet of half a million electric cars on Czech roads would consume 1.5 to 2 terawatt-hours of electricity per year. The Temelín nuclear power plant will produce approximately 15.8 terawatt hours. According to ČEZ, the source base of the Czech energy sector is therefore completely sufficient to cover the consumption of domestic electromobility in all scenarios of its development.
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The adverse effects of the pandemic are also confirmed by E.ON. Although the station buys more cheaply than in previous years, overall it will pay more for their installation. “The prices of project work, and especially construction work, are growing extremely fast, and in total we are getting higher prices than the ones we built for chargers before,” says Klíma. The increase in prices is reflected, among other things, in those charging stations on the D1 motorway, to which power must be brought from a connection point hundreds of meters away.

At the same time, the Czechia is one of the European countries with a slower onset of electromobility, including the construction of infrastructure, recalls Petr Knap, an expert on the automotive industry, and EY partner, adding that the energy load of stations will increase in the future.

“When we consider the prospective numbers of the lower hundreds of thousands of electric cars in the next ten years or so, these are units of a percentage of national energy consumption. The current good practice in the EU is to have about ten electric vehicles per charging point. So we would be talking about about two tens of thousands of public recharge points, “Knap notes.

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There are now about 2,400 charging points in the Czech Republic, while the National Action Plan for Net Mobility envisages nineteen thousand for 2030. “Thanks to the low share of electric vehicles, we are currently moving at a ratio of eight electric vehicles to one charging point. Thus, most charging stations do not have economic operation, “states Knap.

For example, E.ON admits that the number of station uses is not increasing at a great pace. This year, it records less than forty thousand recharges. “This is influenced by the fact that the current construction of the public charging infrastructure is ahead of the sales of electric cars,” says Klíma. In the future, it expects fully commercial operation, which would mean five times more frequent use of stations compared to today.

Innogy, which expects charging revenues to increase, will want to build half of the 100-million-subsidized station next year. “Operators will project operating costs more into charging than before, when we are all learning,” assumes Innogy spokesman Pavel Grochál.

Stations are gradually being set up at petrol stations and retail chains. For example, Lidl attracts the possibility of free use of 29 charging stations. It records three thousand recharges a week. The station wants to gradually install at all its stores.

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