Appreciating France’s efforts to deploy a satisfactory charging network for electric vehicles, Fastned is moving off the highways to open new stations in cities. Interview with Pierre Courgeon and David Germany, respectively responsible for the French branch and France/Belgium public affairs for the Dutch operator.
A style that serves 3 purposes
If there is a charging network that you can spot from afar, that’s good. Fastned with its yellow-edged photovoltaic shades. It is currently made up of 280 establishments open in six countries. “ Our design serves three objectives: the economic performance of the stations, the ability to expand thanks to the modularity of the structures, and the user experience. This is what our in-house architects have in mind when designing new sites », explains Pierre Courgeon.
It is not without reason that the operator favors crossing stations: “ Customers therefore do not need to maneuver. They come in and then go straight forward again. It’s much smoother. This makes it possible to serve more vehicles in the same duration. The gain is 30% during busy periods ».
Even the space between terminals is calculated: “ The configuration takes into account all possible locations of the charging hatch, front or rear, left or right. In the Netherlands, caravanning with electric cars is already common. This is why the distance between the chargers must ensure that one is not blocked when a car coupled with a caravan arrives at the station. ».
Stations in advance
The layout of the stations is also ideal for utilities: “ They are growing tremendously for last mile logistics in urban and peri-urban areas. For them, the lunch break is a good time to recharge. The height of the canopy also makes it possible to accommodate heavy goods vehicles which we do not yet see in France. ».
However, the charging power is more than sufficient to accommodate all these vehicles: “ We anticipate it based on the arrival of new EV models so that it is always a little higher than what they can support. Currently, we are deploying 400 kW terminals. In our stations, the average charging time is 20 minutes, with a downward trend. We should one day be only about ten minutes away, and perhaps no more time than to fill up with fuel. ».
The network is deployed in an approach to reduce its environmental footprint: “ The production of solar panels on the canopies powers the chargers, the rest being injected into the national network. The wood used to build the stations comes from sustainable forests. Already in the Netherlands, we use electric machines for work ».
Interview – Fastned extends the style of its charging stations to cities
A brand image
Fastned stations are built in a clearly identifiable way: “ We have developed a brand image. With it, customers know where they need to go. We didn’t want accident-prone situations like when you have to look for a terminal at the bottom of a parking lot between trash cans. On Google, we get 4.4 stars out of a maximum of 5. Our stations are also highly rated on Chargemap ».
The operator benefits from a quality image: “ Availability reaches more than 99% in our stations. For transparency, it would be good for all operators to display their performance. We have worked on accessibility to make it easier for everyone, including people with reduced mobility. In this sense, we have a WhatsApp communication system with writing for the hearing impaired. Thanks to video surveillance cameras, our sites are perceived as reassuring ».
Pierre Courgeon remembers an anecdote at the opening of the very first Fastned station in France: “ It was a Saturday evening, a customer had a problem with the cable not wanting to come out of the connector. She had to go pick up her daughter. The French-speaking customer service operator was absent. Support switched the call to me. We managed to send someone there. This is the level of service that we want to develop, where the Country Manager can also be disturbed to resolve a problem ».
Stations in evolution
For the overall improvement of the service and its image, Fastned regularly makes new small improvements. for a moment of life full of meaning “. These are, for example, small vegetated islands or sports areas. And then there is the Gentbrugge project in Belgium. “ It is between Ghent and Bruges. This is where we will open our first station with a complete user experience in 2024. There will be a play area for children and a small shop next door where you can have a coffee while you recharge. », reveals David Germany.
In the next openings, in France, there is the urban station of Quimper, in Finistère. Like those put into service on the highway, it will adopt a modular layout. “ When we secure a space, it is for the next 10 or 20 years. This allows additional modules to be gradually added, depending on needs, each with its own canopy. », explains Pierre Courgeon.
The new Breton station should be inaugurated in December: “ It will be located near the ring road, one minute from the access ramp. It is an important place of passage, with many commuting journeys. It will be a real resort, with a range of services nearby for a good break. We work with the town hall and the local deputy ».
The good positioning of France and its shortcomings
« When it comes to electric vehicle charging, the Netherlands and Norway are ahead. Having caught up spectacularly, France is also a model country. Europe aims to become the first carbon neutral continent. Mobility is the sector on which we can act the most. In recent years, its emissions have continued to increase », says David Germany.
Pierre Courgeon confirms the efforts made in our country: “ France is today on the second step of the podium in Europe regarding recharging. In two years, 100,000 public points have been deployed on its highways. Its fleet includes 650,000 electric vehicles. We expect six million in 2030. Across Europe, there should be 40 million, with 500,000 charging points ».
A statement: « If the concessioned network was able to upgrade quickly, this is not the case for what the French State has of its own. On-road terminals take up public space and eliminate parking spaces, particularly for thermal vehicles. It is a shaky system with an economic model that is not stable. If there is no investment, it doesn’t work ».
Recharging to boost territories
Could charging stations serve the economic development of territories? The answer is positive for Fastned. Pierre Courgeon cites the village of impressionist painters as an example: “ Stations can energize less visible areas. I’m thinking of Barbizon where Tesla opened a station nearby. This is an opportunity for users of electric vehicles to take a break in this village. Recharging gives visibility to local businesses, and in particular to restaurants ».
In addition to acting on economic leverage, fast charging supports legislative actions aimed at improving the environmental situation. Not all territories are aware of the importance of deploying terminals.
David Germany cites Wallonia, Belgium as an example: “ We are struggling here to make people understand that there will be no electric vehicles if there are no means of recharging them. To get from Brussels to Marseille, once you have crossed the border, there are service areas almost everywhere that offer charging. The European Afir regulation on the deployment of alternative fuel refueling infrastructures has the advantage of requiring recharging stations every 60 km at least on major roads. ».
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Real stations in cities
The public affairs manager also thinks about “ 13 million French people who live in collective housing, with difficult access to charging “. He recalls that “ the government wants to go further than European directives, for example with the ecological bonus and social leasing at 100 euros per month to have an electric car “. This approach pushes for the development of fast charging in cities.
For Pierre Courgeon, it must be offered in real resorts: “ Just like traditional gas stations. We work a lot in the field with bakeries. Thus, on Saturday or Sunday morning, the motorist who goes to get his bread will be able to take the opportunity to recharge the battery of his electric vehicle, just as he fills up with fuel today. Fast charging in a city makes visible the actions of town halls for the energy/ecological transition ».
Fastned internalizes all the trades necessary for its activity. “ We have site managers, maintenance and customer service teams. In France, for example, we have four architects, and we are going to recruit two or three more », underlines David Germany.
Automobile Propre and I thank Pierre Courgeon and David Germany for their availability. A big thank you also to Eugénie Daly, in charge of communications, who organized the interview for us.
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