A hike in electric car charging rates by European electric car fast charging network Ionity has drawn a backlash from the Norwegian electric car association Norsk Elbilforenig, which says the new rates make powering an electric vehicle more expensive than fuelling a similar petrol or diesel car.
On Friday Ionity, a joint venture between BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Volkswagen including Audi and Porsche, announced a new pricing structure that will see the previously fixed rate of 8 euros ($A12.90 converted) replaced on January 31, 2020 with a new price-per-kWh rate.
This fixed rate meant that owners of electric vehicles (EVs) with larger, long range batteries gained a pricing advantage over those owning EVs with smaller batteries, who paid more per kilowatt hour.
A study released in July 2019 and reported on by The Driven noted that in Norway, which leads the globe by market share in EV penetration with 56% of all cars sold in 2019 able to be plugged in, electric vehicle fast chargers were more commonly used by owners of long range electric vehicles with larger batteries.
Ionity’s new rate of 0.79 euros/kWh will see Norwegians pay around NOK7.80 (gross price in country-specific currency), which becomes NOK 8.40/kWh ($A1.37/kWh converted) after Ionity has added an additional fee.
This means long range electric vehicles could now cost NOK20 per mile ($A0.327/km converted) to drive when using Ionity’s network (many sites of which features 350kW Australian-designed Tritium Veefil-PK ultra-fast chargers) according to a statement issued by Norsk Elbilforenig.
“It may seem that the German automotive industry does not understand the bearing of the Norwegian electric car market,” said Norsk Elbilforenig general secretary Christina Bu in a statement (translated from Norwegian).
She argues that as Norway’s electricity prices are cheaper than several other European nations, an across-the-board EU rate does not make sense and only serves to fund EV charging in other European countries.
“Such a price level for charging is unprecedented, and in practice means that Ionity is priced higher than fossil fuels. In addition, Ionity chooses to demand a higher price in Norway than in the rest of Europe,” she said.
” This means that in the most developed market, electric motorists will be exposed to highway robbery in order to finance further development elsewhere.
“Power is cheaper in Norway than in a number of other European countries, and we have many more customers, and that must of course be reflected in the price of charging. Ionity is now getting out of the market, and the result will inevitably be fewer customers,” she says.
In a statement issued regarding the pricing structure change, Ionity CEO Michael Hajesch said: “It has always been Ionity’s aim to build a uniform and coherent network to make seamless, high-speed, long distance electric mobility across Europe a reality. Providing customers with unparalleled levels of service is key to our business.
“With regard to the rapid developments in electromobility our new pricing scheme offers a viable and transparent pricing structure in Europe. Depending on their individual needs, our customers have the freedom to choose the most appropriate scheme available.”
Ionity defended its position via Facebook saying, “Depending on the charging needs, customers can choose attractive charging offers from one of Ionity’s charging service providers such as; Audi e-tron charger, Mercedes me Charge, BMW ChargeNow, Porsche charger, Volkswagen WeCharge and many more.”
In effect, the change in pricing structure means drivers could be forced into subscription agreements with carmakers in order to access cheaper charging rates.
An example given by Norsk Elbilforenig is that of Audi, which costs NOK189/month ($A30.89) and NOK3.2/kWh ($A0.52/kWh) for a 12 months subscription.
The announcement was met with numerous negative reactions that caused one follower of the network on Facebook to comment: “This is messed up, daylight robbery!!! The price is absurd. My BMW i3 winter consumption is 20 kwh per 100km , so 16€ per 100km. I think that a BMW X5 is cheaper to drive than that.”
“That is pure theft!! Meaning 50kw worth of charge would cost 40€?! More expensive than gasoline. Shameful!” said another.
Another follower from France said, “Nice. In France with an average of 15c/kWh that’s a 400%+ mark-up. You guys must be high on something.”
By comparison, electric vehicle fast chargers in Australia cost between $A0.35-0.40/kWh, although a recent add-on $A0.25/minute rate by Evie Networks was also met in early January with concerns about fairness for owners of electric vehicles that charge at slower rates.
Correction: A previous version of this article used an imperial mile (1.6km) instead of a Scandinavian mile (10km) to calculate equivalent EV mileage.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.