White paper

Charging infrastructure to support the electric mobility transition  in France 

(Version française ici.)

This report investigates the amount, type, and distribution of charging infrastructure that will be needed to support the transition of the electric passenger car, taxi, private hire vehicle, and light commercial vehicle fleets through 2035 to put France on a path toward achieving 100% fully electric vehicle sales by 2040. The number of chargers is estimated at the level of metropolitan France departments, for six charging settings: home, workplace, depot, public normal, fast urban, and fast highway chargers.

The resulting estimates for public normal and fast charging needed in France suggest that building sufficient charging infrastructure is a real but surmountable challenge. Powering 8.5 million battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2030 will require 350,000 public chargers, implying an annual growth rate of 28% from 2020. Overall, 8.6% and 12.7% of France’s 2030 normal and fast (respectively) public charging needs were in place by 2020 as shown in the figure below. Results varied greatly across France, with regions having between 1% and 25% of their 2030 overall public charging needs met through 2020.

The results of the analysis lead to four high-level findings:

The growing French electric vehicle market requires a greatly expanded charging infrastructure network. To support growth from 470,000 electric vehicles in 2020 to approximately 8.5 million on French roads in 2030 (including 1.1 million electric light commercial vehicles), public chargers will need to grow from 31,000 to about 350,000. Including public and private infrastructure, 5.7 to 6.0 million chargers are needed by 2030, 15% to 19% less than France’s original 2015 goal of 7 million chargers by 2030. However, in an alternative scenario in which full electrification of new sales is reached in 2035, France would need a total of 7.3 million chargers, including 430,000 public chargers, in 2030. Accomplishing the French government’s goal of 7 million chargers could thus put the country close to a path towards full electrification of new sales by 2035, 5 years ahead of the current target. Improving home charging access will be key to managing public charging needs, and greater public charger utilization and improved business cases can be expected in the future.

Urban areas, which tend to lead in electric vehicle uptake, show the largest increase in charging needs, but major infrastructure support is also needed across France’s rural areas. Denser, affluent urban areas like Paris and Marseille had the highest electric vehicle uptake through 2020. Such urban areas show the greatest need for expanded public charging infrastructure by 2030, in part due to lower home charging availability in their denser urban cores. For France to decarbonize its transport sector and realize electric vehicles’ benefits equitably, electric vehicle uptake and overall charging infrastructure will need to increase more quickly in less affluent and more rural areas.

Projected growth in energy demand for electric vehicles is manageable. To support electric vehicle growth, the annual demand for charging energy will grow from 1.0 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2020 to 16 TWh in 2030, amounting to an average annual increase of 32%. The projected 2035 EV electricity demand amounts to just 7% of France’s overall 2020 electricity demand from all sectors, 439 TWh. Electric vehicles’ energy demand would be offset, up to 2026, by the annual 7 TWh of electricity savings spurred by the Energy and Climate Law. Any grid impacts from electric vehicles’ energy demand are within the scope of utilities’ capacity to manage with general grid upgrades.

A new coordinated charging infrastructure framework could galvanize investments. While providing basic charging coverage has been important in building confidence during the early market, further targeted charger implementation is needed to spur charging investments and meet drivers’ needs. Based on developments in France and elsewhere, a promising approach would be to implement a coordinated charging installation process based on identified charging demand, clear guidance to ensure equitable access, and streamlined permitting. Doing so could inform, coordinate, and catalyze investments across different stakeholders to enable France’s electric mobility transition.