Successful charging infrastructure roll-out – study tour findings

During their study tours, two delegations – from the Ministry of Transport of Viet Nam (MOT), Ho Chi Minh City and from the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) – examined charging infrastructure development in Germany and the Netherlands. The two countries account for more than half of the charging points across the European Union. This article outlines five success factors for charging infrastructure development.  

The delegation from the Ministry of Transport of Viet Nam (MOT) in Arnhem. © Michel Arnd
  1. Demand from citizens and municipalities in the driver’s seat: Right to charge  

Globally, the Netherlands have the most electric vehicle charging points per capita and spatially have the densest charging infrastructure network. The country draws its strong position from collaboration with and interlinking of stakeholders. The Dutch government drives national policy focusing on encouraging electric mobility in general but assigns decision-making power to regions and municipalities. Local authorities structure local incentive programmes, such as Amsterdam’s city-specific decarbonisation strategy to drive electric vehicle penetration.  

For charging infrastructure, the Dutch government instated the Dutch “right to charge” as a demand-driven approach. It requires the municipalities to set up public charging points within 250m of a home at the request of the citizens who own an electric vehicle. The charging point operators (CPO) validate the demand and choose the charging points’ location based on transparent criteria, including available capacity, accessibility, visibility and local impacts. The charging point is set up in collaboration with government bodies and distribution system operators (DSO), ensuring grid stability, and that EV charging data flows to all parties. 

The municipalities work closely with DSOs and CPOs who build the network on their behalf and ensure interoperability with existing payment models and compliance with standards.  

  1. Decreasing public financial support and establishing a long-term investment environment 

Local authorities provide concessions to charging point operators based on public tenders. Dutch municipalities no longer need to subsidise but receive EUR 500 for each charging point from the public-private partnership. The generated money is reinvested in the development of smart charging pilots. The charging point operators benefit from the ensured demand which results from the right to charge, and from the long-term investment horizon. 

Municipalities and regions often cooperate for joint tenders for improved bargaining power. In 2016, Rotterdam and 16 other cities in the area awarded a ten year-concession. They set out technical specifications such as compatibility requirements, 100% renewable electricity, 15 years life span of stations and charging costs up to € 0,26/kWh (excl. VAT). The operators were ranked and selected based on their service quality, assessed through several action plans, including organisational aspects, communications, service provision to the user, innovation and sustainability and economic criteria. 

  1. Standardisation, Open Protocols and Collaboration 

The Netherlands emphasised standards early on. ElaadNL, a knowledge and innovation centre in the field of smart charging infrastructure funded by the DSOs, was founded in 2009. This vendor-independent equipment certification centre ensures that standards are met, and that all equipment is interoperable. ElaadNL also supports the development of charging standards and open protocols, which are crucial to the development of open markets.  

The delegation from MOT in Berlin. © Michel Arnd
  1. Grid Integration and Integrated Planning 

Standards and open protocols are also at the centre of the Dutch government’s National Charging Infrastructure Agenda. The multi-year policy programme, which entails a set of agreements between the various stakeholders, is an integrated approach to achieve the fast upscaling of charging infrastructure. Apart from implementation and price transparency, open protocols and open markets, the agenda aims to boost smart charging. Collaboratively, the stakeholders develop market modes and technical architecture and organise legislation and regulation.  

Grid integration and smart charging are also keywords in Germany’s Masterplan Charging Infrastructure II, published in October 2022. It includes 68 concrete measures with a timeline which will accelerate the network expansion. One aspect is planning and forecasting: For simplified planning procedures, DSOs will prepare detailed network plans to be made accessible online in a unified GIS (digital geographic information system) format. Industry stakeholders will be invited to share their forecasts and plans anonymously in so-called “cleanroom” formats. These results will improve the existing projections and foresighted grid development.  

To promote the integrated planning of charging infrastructure, the German National Centre for Charging Infrastructure provides stakeholders with three different publicly available tools. Firstly, the Standorttool which indicates the currently installed CPs, the planned CPs and the forecasted future demand. Secondly, the Flächentool, which allows CPOs to identify potential sites for projects. Finally, the Ladelerntool, which aims at increasing the know-how on charging infrastructure within municipalities. 

In contrast to the Netherlands, Germany focuses on non-public charging points, such as private homes, for smart, bi-directional charging. It aims to improve the legal, technical, tax and economic framework conditions to remove any obstacles to the non-discriminatory use of bidirectional charging and the integration into the national grid. Southwest-German DSO NetzeBW also highlighted grid-serving charging management as key for avoiding grid bottlenecks while ensuring a high level of customer acceptance (e.g. Forecasting load peaks, Dynamic Charging Management (smart charging)). 

The delegations from NITI Aayog and MOT Vietnam visiting BVG bus depot in Berlin. © Stephen Draexler
  1. Freight and logistics 

Currently, road freight transport relies on diesel engines. Light and heavy-duty vehicles are responsible for roughly 35 % of EU transport GHG emissions. In addition, vehicles heavier than 40t account for nearly half the emissions from freight. The ambitious European CO2 emission standards for new heavy-duty vehicles will increase the need for more low carbon freight vehicles. Battery-powered electric trucks, catenary electric trucks and fuel cell electric trucks are technologies that can step in to fill the gap. The delegation focussed their exchanges on the first two of the aforementioned technologies.  

Battery-powered electric trucks, require a demand-oriented charging network and sufficient coverage to allow successful mainstreaming and planning security. For long distance trips, Electric lorries will require  specific charging infrastructure that allows much higher charging power, than what is required by high power charging for electric personal vehicles.  

The expansion of the charging network for freight vehicles in Germany follows the Dutch example. The manufacturers are requested to develop standards for all essential steps along the truck charging process by the end of 2023. The initial charging network will be tendered and will be expanded at a later stage. Meanwhile, the agencies responsible for charging networks and motorways design sample layouts for the arrangement of charging points, parking spaces and transformers at the charging infrastructure locations at rest areas of motorways.  

Catenary electric trucks are being piloted in several small test tracks on the German motorways. The VDI/VDE IT presented one of the projects currently being tested in northern Germany, the eHighway Schleswig-Holstein. In these pilot projects several tracks of 5 km are being equipped with overhead powerlines which the catenary electric truck can connect to via a pantograph. This allows a reduction of the size of the batteries and of the demand for truck charging infrastructure along the highways. 


The delegations from Vietnam and India could draw individual conclusions from numerous talks and site visits to Europe’s most successful countries in charging network development. They may have identified the following key factors:  

  • Increasing standardisation of the infrastructure, protocols, payment options and grid integration. 
  • Open data, tools and protocols enable market stakeholders to collaborate closely and create a common ecosystem for the user’s benefit.  
  • Long-term planning is important for private investors, such as charging point operators or vehicle manufacturers, to secure their investments. 
  • Market mechanisms within concessions are a successful and cost-efficient way to build a standardised, high-quality charging network for citizens and logistics companies to decarbonise. 
  • Piloting and testing of technology is important to gain insights real-life application.

Delegation visits included Amsterdam City Hall, the Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure and Water Management (with the kind support of the Netherlands Embassy in Hanoi), ElaadNL (EV charging knowledge and innovation centre), the German National Centre for Charging Infrastructure (department of BMDV), VDI/VDE IT (knowledge and innovation centre), NetzeBW (distribution grid operator) and EnBW (charge point operator and emobility provider). We thank all hosts for their hospitality.  

In September, two study tours, as part of the NDC Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA), explored decarbonization policies, pathways and good practices within the transport sector across Netherlands and Germany. NDC-TIA is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. It supports China, India, and Viet Nam as well as regional and global decarbonisation strategies to increase the ambition around low-carbon transport.

© Stephen Draexler, EnBW Charging Infrastructure in Lünen, Germany