“Fast charging in the city is in our DNA”
For Electra, the French operator in fast charging of electric vehicles, 2022 was the year that allowed it to find a place for itself in a field that has begun to be occupied by companies from other European countries, such as Allego, Fastned or Ionity. While continuing to develop in France, it will also cross borders. Aurélien de Meaux, co-founder and director of Electra, explains and answers your questions.
Powerful network acceleration
” The news at the moment is that we are benefiting from a strong acceleration in our network in France, but also in Belgium and Luxembourg thanks to the cooperation with the supermarket chain Delhaize. 250 sites in these 2 countries will be equipped with our terminals “says Aurelien de Meaux.
Gradually, 1,800 charging points should be made available in the parking lots of these stores. ” We want to develop as wide a network as possible across Europe. This is useful for reducing technology and control costs. Our goal is to have 1500-2000 stations by 2030 “.
New countries will welcome Electra: “ We are in the process of launching ourselves in Italy, where there are more electric vehicles, while the charging network there is not satisfactory. We are already making progress in Milan. We are also interested in Spain, Switzerland and Austria “.
45 resorts in France
” We have opened 45 stations in France. We go through the steps one after the other. As operators such as Allego and Fastned come to France, we will not deprive ourselves of international expansion, where we intend to launch two-thirds of our facilities. To date, we have identified 250 active charging points. In order to succeed in our expansion program, we have already secured many sites to build Reveals Aurelien de Meaux.
As we win new contracts, the network expands: ” We pay a lot of attention to the user experience, especially the technical part. Internally, about thirty people work on software development, some of it to meet the needs of fleets. We know how to adapt to requests that we can respond to quickly. This attracted project leaders, which allowed them to win many sites “.
A fourth network in fast PDCs
The number of networks is increasing every year. How is Electra located in France? ” We are in fourth place for the number of charging points above 100 kW. We add 2 to 4 new stations per week to our network. The investment for each is between 400,000 and 500,000 euros, and the return on investment occurs after 6 to 10 years. “.
Construction time for new facility construction remains variable: “ Due to certain restrictions, the construction site usually lasts between 4 and 8 months. For example, network connection time by Enedis. A connection at a distance of 200 meters will be higher compared to a 20 m connection “.
Electra stands out by opening fast charging stations in cities with Indigo. ” It’s in our DNA to open access to fast charging in urban areas. We have 16 or 17 stations in Ile-de-France. Electra is also the first company to open a high-power intramural charging station called Porte d’Italie. “.
Are other openings planned for 2023? ” We have 6 or 7 planned this year, including 3 or 4 in Paris and the suburbs, one in Bordeaux and one in Lille. The construction site for fast underground charging is very regulatory in terms of safety. Therefore, projects take longer to complete “.
Facing other networks, Electra tries to stand out with a different user experience. ” We want to encourage people to electric vehicles and create mass adoption. The user journey should be made easy with highly readable pricing, credit card payment options, and reservations. “.
” This last feature is widely used by taxis, VTC, logistics and car rental companies. Most of these reservations are followed by a top-up operation. Except, this is not the case. The charging point is released 10 minutes after the allotted time », adds Aurelien de Meaux.
Although the operator does not plan to use stations that will facilitate the charging of electric vehicles pulling caravans or trailers, it does intend to build shelters above its terminals. In a few days, Electra will announce an Auto-Fill feature that will allow you to start refueling without identifying yourself via a badge or application.
A growing team
Electra’s workforce continues to grow as operations grow: ” We have just one hundred people who bring together the best talent in the market. About forty of them are active in industrial and operational excellence “.
The profiles sought today are very diverse: We are in the middle of recruitment. For example, we are looking for project managers, architects, project management assistants, electrical technicians, marketing and human relations specialists. Currently, we offer about twenty positions on WelcomeToTherJungle.com. “.
With a network now extending beyond France, positions are also available in other European countries: “ We have offices in Brussels and Milan. New openings are coming “.
” Electric cars are developing in France. About 220,000 new registrations in 2022. That’s about 15%, compared to 10.5% of sales the year before. We can congratulate ourselves for this growth. But they also say that about 85% of buyers prefer thermal or hybrid models. We are not yet at the mass adoption of electric vehicles Aurelien de Meaux warns.
Elektra employees are guided by a certain philosophy: ” We wish the French would no longer question themselves and spontaneously choose electric cars because they still take thermal models. We have 2 convictions to back this up. First, electric cars should be cheaper. To keep the price down, you need smaller batteries of no more than 40-50kW, not 90kW packs. It will also improve the ecological balance of EVs “.
… And a more effective network
Elektra’s second conviction is related to the dramatization of autonomy: ” Today, with a thermal vehicle, we do not ask ourselves the question of autonomy, because we know that anywhere in France, the tank can be filled in about 3 minutes. This model should be replicated for electric models where this radius of action is mentioned in advertisements. “.
How to achieve this? ” We need a station everywhere. But what matters is not the number of terminals, but how many cars can be filled from each. So it’s better to have fast terminals than lots of slow terminals everywhere “.
Reliability of operations is also a serious concern at Electra: “ We enjoy a 98% success rate on our refills. This is 10 points more than the average reported by Afirev. To achieve this, we have developed our own terminal controls. There are 80 steps that must be successfully completed before the power flow can be activated. If only one is missing, the connection cannot be established. We worked hard on it “.
EUR 0.54 per kilowatt hour
Recently, the price of a kilowatt hour at “Elektra” has increased: ” For 300 kW terminals, we went to 0.54 euros per unit. Which this power is reasonable. We had to pass on the increase in energy prices, but in a reasonable way “.
What can we expect in terms of prices in the future? ” The price of electricity is closely related to the price of gas. In August 2022, we were around €1,000 per megawatt hour. Today it has decreased to 150 euros. This is more of a situational problem than a structural problem. Electricity supply contracts are signed within a few months. The situation should improve soon “, our interlocutor completes his opinion.
Automobile Propre and I would like to thank Aurélien de Meaux for taking the time to answer our questions.
Automobile Propre participated in the launch of Lidl’s fast and cheap filling
The development of a reliable network for fast charging of electric vehicles is very valuable. In addition, if the operator is French and knows how to take into account needs that have been largely neglected until now, such as the presence of high-powered terminals in the center of large cities.
AC charging should not be neglected or minimized unless it is also to be carried by the Electra. And this is for several important reasons.
Today, the share of electric motorists who cannot charge an electric car at home or at work is still small. But if the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is maintained and low-emission zones become more widespread, it will increase in a decade.
Living with electricity means living differently. Those who can charge at home know this well: it is a great relief not to have to systematically pass the station to charge. This facility should also be replicated for the benefit of motorists living in collective housing. By offering simple sockets on lampposts for local residents, just like in London.
There is also a technological reason for this. In a fast station, for a good rotation at the terminals, it is rightly required not to charge the battery to the maximum. However, lithium-ion cells require a 100% full tank from time to time for proper balance. For this, those who do not have access to an outlet at home or at work will have to resort to AC terminals available in public places. In the future, there will be more people who know this need.
There doesn’t seem to be any competition between fast charging and AC terminals. Both meet real needs, some overlap and others differ. Therefore, Electra’s work to develop fast charging is one of the cornerstones of connected mobility. Just like the efforts of operators, including departmental power unions, trying to implement 22 kW AC.