The journey of a famous team of journalists a huge financial and industrial problem facing Europe when it tries to ban the sale of petrol or diesel vehicles within 13 years. From Paris no problem in traffic jams in the Paris area: the battery can last for hours at this rate. But on arrival on the highway, the electric reveals one of its main shortcomings: autonomy goes from 250 kilometers to less than 100, in a much shorter time than is needed to overcome them.
Fear of failure
After the first charge, we arrive with the meter at zero in the area of Verdun (Meuse). For ten euros, the battery is 80% charged, the last 20% is slower. Its route must be predicted according to the car and the outside temperature, in winter the battery discharges faster. To reach Belgium you will need to charge four times, approximately thirty minutes during each break.
“Roaming charging is essential in people’s minds so they can switch to electric power,” says Cécile Goubet of Avere, an organization of electric vehicle professionals. Tesla understood this when, in parallel with her sedans, she launched charging stations at her own expense, which today have up to 40 separate terminals, much more than competing stations.
When you exit the motorway to Belgium, consumption drops on the departmental roads, as does the fear of breakdowns. There are many medium power chargers available. With Brussels approaching, night falls: now you have to find a hotel or accommodation to recharge your batteries, just so you can leave with 100% autonomy. The offer is still limited to more luxurious hotels or a couple of Airbnb.
At the Nazareth rest stop near Ghent, the Dutch, encouraged by the performance of the terminal network, stop for the first quick charge on their way to France. “The problem is that there is France between Belgium and Spain,” jokes Frank Berg, 55, who is leaving for Spain with his wife Olga. The French network of fast charging stations is still very incomplete compared to the Netherlands or Germany. Following the failure of the Corri-Door network, which was launched in 2015 by subsidiaries EDF and Engie, operators such as Ionity, TotalEnergies or FastNed are taking over.
According to the decree, all French motorway service areas must be equipped by the end of the year. After years of hesitation, “there is a lot of enthusiasm for this business model,” confirms Florian Nägele of McKinsey. National and European giants should consolidate in the coming years, predicts a sector expert. Isabelle Inder, 34, is also taking a trip to Champagne with her partner Antalaya. They recently chose a small SUV from the Chinese brand MG, which has a range of about 300 km “to protect the environment” and to walk their big dog.
Lack of terminals
“We charge in small batches every time we stop.” It’s not that complicated and it’s not bad to take a break every hour and a half, “explains Isabelle. “You have to plan your trip, but sometimes the applications are out of date and the terminal does not work.” We have a bitter experience with this on the Lille-Paris motorway: there are still 60 kilometers to the finish line, the charging station is closed for work, we miss the exit for the next one and we find ourselves almost zero at the station. … Where fast charging does not work.