European Union climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard thinks she knows the answer to "the chicken or the egg" debate when it comes to selling more electric vehicles or installing more charging stations. Hedegaard, who served as climate minister from 2007 to 2009, wants to see her home country Denmark, lead the way by providing 5,000 charging points by 2020.
Hedegaard said that if the 27 EU member states supply the charging points, an increase in electric car sales will follow. "It has to make sense to buy an electric car and it doesn't if you can't even drive halfway across the country without running out of charge," Hedegaard wrote on the European Commission website.
The Danish government previously focused on the other side of the debate – electric vehicle sales. Its political initiatives have been structured around EV sales and not charging stations. Denmark has become one of the better-equipped EV owner nations per capita, but it only has 280 charging points. Electric car sales have dropped more recently, and the government drastically downgraded its expectations – from 400,000 EVs on its roads by 2020 to only 200,000.
Hedegaard hopes that will turn back upwards throughout the EU with new proposed binding goals for charging points. One issue that has to be ironed ou is charging station uniformity. As of now, there are two main types of charging points in Europe, which could mean that a car traveling from Denmark to Germany wouldn't be able to recharge once it crosses the border.
The European Union thinks the problem is being worked out – that there will be common standards for charging points across Europe by 2015. The government would also like to see the member states reach a target – 795,000 charging points in EU by 2020. This target needs to be approved by the European Parliament and all of its 27 member states before it can go into effect.
Back home, Denmark's government has aligned itself with Hedegaard's idea that the charging infrastructure needs to be improved. Denmark has decided to enter strategic partnerships to develop infrastructure for vehicles to run on electricity, as well as natural gas and hydrogen – and to have 5,000 charging points by the end of 2013 and 200,000 in place by 2020.
"I hope the partnerships will get the ball rolling. We have made funds available but if we are going to get anywhere we also need the private sector to contribute to developing the infrastructure and vehicles," Martin Lidegaard (Radikale), Denmark's climate minister, told The Copenhagen Post.