Fast Charging Act: Turbo for e-mobility on German roads?

Daniel Wuhrmann

A year ago, the Fast Charging Act (SchnellLG) reached the Bundestag. What has happened since then? Back in February 2021, we reported on the draft bill for the Fast Charging Act, which was presented by the German Federal Ministry of Transport in December 2020. The government bill was introduced in the Bundestag in March 2021, passed two months later and came into force in June 2021 (PDF only in German).

Regulatory content and debate

The law is intended to ensure the provision of a nationwide infrastructure for fast charging of electric vehicles. A total of 1,000 new charging locations are planned, with the nearest charging station always no more than 15 minutes away. To this end, the law regulates in outline the tendering procedure for fast charging infrastructure and the associated rights and obligations of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

Despite the short period for comment following the presentation of the draft bill, the draft was sharply criticised by various industry associations (including the German Association of Energy and Water Industries and the German eMobility Association). However, the criticism remained largely unheard in the further proceedings:

The objection was to the overly narrow scope of application of the Fast Charging Act, which refers only to strictly electric vehicles and not to hybrid vehicles. According to the legislative intent, charging on long journeys is not absolutely necessary for vehicles outside the scope of application (e.g. plug-in hybrid vehicles), as they are predominantly charged at home or at the employer's premises. An opening clause was also not inserted into the Fast Charging Act, despite objections. An opening clause would have allowed new technologies outside the existing ones to be included in the scope of the Fast Charging Act without a lengthy amendment process and would have allowed the newly developed vehicle forms to be "quickly connected to the (charging) network."

The "technical, economic and legal framework conditions" for the provision of services to be defined by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure will be of key importance. The relationship between the operators of the charging points and the mobility providers is also relevant: According to Section 3(3) of the Fast Charging Act, operators are obliged to offer all mobility providers equal access to the charging points on a non-discriminatory basis at market terms. Operators must therefore come to terms with mobility providers in their business and contractual relationships.

Outlook

Tender procedures to expand the networks in Germany for fast charging infrastructure began in October 2021, with a final award expected in the third quarter of 2022. It is unclear how long it will take to actually build and expand the charging infrastructure.

A well-developed charging infrastructure is essential for e-mobility. Provided this ensures accessibility to the nearest charging station in 15 minutes, this will appeal to many consumers who are already thinking about purchasing an e-vehicle. However, the expansion of the infrastructure also offers opportunities for companies to gain a foothold in the future industry of e-mobility.

It remains to be seen what the market consequences of the Fast Charging Act will be, in particular whether and how the e-mobility sales market will increase. What is clear, however, is that the "technical, economic and legal framework conditions" will have an impact on the mobility industry, because both manufacturers and suppliers will align their business activities according to these framework conditions. In addition, the actual range of offers from mobility providers will influence consumers in their choice of e-vehicles, which will also affect (business) decisions by manufacturers and thus also suppliers. (New) challenges, including the (technical) suitability of the vehicles for the charging stations, should be mitigated by contract design (for example, quality agreements) through the supply chain.

[April 2022]