France’s government launched a working group this week to coordinate installation of a standardized national charging network for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery-powered EVs. Many may be experience deja vu, so to speak, because this would apparently be the second such charging network the country has installed.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has set a goal of seeing 100,000-plus electric-mode vehicles on the road in 2012 and has offered French automakers bailout funding partially tied to development of EVs as summarized by Earth Times. But as French state minister for industry Luc Chatel told French business magazine Usine Nouvelle [French], “Their battery serves no point without the infrastructure to go with it.” Hence the working group struck last week, representing automakers, energy distributors such as state-owned nuclear utility EDF, municipalities and other players, which is to deliver a plan in June.
The move could be a boon to EDF, which has already partnered to develop sophisticated charging stations that are in use in London and part of EDF’s demonstration program to test several prototypes of Toyota’s plug-in version of its Prius. The Elektrobay charging stations installed by Brighton, UK-based Elektromotive uses EDF technology to set up a secure data exchange over the electrical connection between the EV and the charging station, through the car communicates its charging needs and the station takes billing details.
Then again, EDF knows better than any other utility that there is a risk to the “build it and they will come” approach to infrastructure, having installed hundreds of chargers across France during the last EV craze of the 1990s. EDF had over 200 charging points available at 51 locations in Paris alone, according to this 2001 proposal to install a similar network in Brussels.
While all trace of this network has been wiped off of EDF’s websites, at least some of the charge points remain active as the sign above in the Montparnasse district of Paris attests. Business has presumably been slow and could continue to be so if battery costs remain high and gas prices low. But who can say what the next decade will bring?
This post was created for the Technology Review Potential Energy blog