Bundestag debates fast-charging law

The German Parliament currently debates the draft bill aimed at providing nationwide fast-charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (Fast Charging Act – “Schnellladegesetz, SchnellLG”, in German).

After having extended the subsidy for electrically powered vehicles until 2025 at the end of 2020 and the Building Electric Mobility Infrastructure Act (“Gebäude-Elektromobilitätsinfrastruktur-Gesetz, GEIG”) having passed the Parliament at the beginning of March, the SchnellLG is yet another electric vehicle initiative started by the Federal Government.

The SchnellLG is intended to be the next step in the implementation of the Federal Government's Master Plan for Charging Infrastructure (in German) and to enable part of the planned number of 1 million publicly accessible charging points in Germany by 2030.

What is the draft about?

To reduce carbon emissions in the transport sector and make it more sustainable, the Federal Government wants to increase the share of electrically powered vehicles in Germany. While the number of electric cars registered in Germany has almost tripled since 2020, the charging infrastructure - especially in rural areas - is still seen as a major obstacle on the way to a larger market share.

To accelerate the infrastructure expansion, the current draft provides for tenders for fast charging stations at a total of 1,000 locations, starting in summer 2021. At these locations, fast charging points with a charging capacity of at least 150 kW each are to be built nationwide by 2023, at an expected cost of 1.9 billion euros.

What will be regulated?

The draft stipulates that the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (“Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur, BMVI”) will launch Europe-wide tenders for charging infrastructure for pure battery vehicles at 1,000 locations.

For this purpose, the Ministry must define the technical, economic and legal framework conditions for the provision of services, which are to be observed by the contractors, in an ordinance. The ordinance also will establish requirements for the covered area, accessibility, performance, reliability, user-friendliness and environmental compatibility of the infrastructure and services (Sec. 3 para. 3 sentence 1 SchnellLG-E). Access to the fast charging points must be offered on a non-discriminatory basis and on market terms, and the supply shall only take place with electricity from renewable energies.

The tender conditions and parameters themselves will also be specified in the ordinance. As a rough framework, the draft stipulates that the tender will be divided into at least 10 lots and the locations will cover the entire federal territory (Sec. 4 para. 1 sentence 3 SchnellLG-E). Among other, the allocation of lots will be decided based on user and competitive interests. The cost efficiency of service provision and the cost efficiency of the electricity grid are also to be taken into account.

While fast-charging stations on motorways are also expressly considered as locations, the existing petrol station operator - within the scope of the possibilities under public procurement law – will be offered to construct, maintain and operate fast-charging points at the petrol station location prior to competitors.

The Federal government expects that it will not be possible to operate fast-charging infrastructure economically during the market ramp-up phase. Accordingly, it is planned to close economic gaps (Sec. 3 para. 6 SchnellLG-E). Operators of existing infrastructure for whom the construction of additional infrastructure would cause unacceptable economic hardship should also be granted a right to sell the infrastructure (“Andienungsrecht”) or be compensated (Sec. 6 para. 3 SchnellLG-E).

Prior to the invitation to tender, BMVI will assess the need which, in accordance with the objectives, will focus in particular on medium and long-distance traffic.

Evaluation and status

The draft has already been criticised by the Federal Council (“Bundesrat”) in a statement (BR-Drs. 156/21, in German). In addition to formal points, such as the inconsistent definition of a fast charging point in the draft and in the existing Ordinance on Charging Points (“Ladesäulenverordnung, LSV”), the Bundesrat suggests including the examination of the eligibility of buffer storage and increasing the minimum number of lots in the interest of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Furthermore, the criteria set for the charging infrastructure focus solely on purely electric vehicles. However, there is not the same urgent need for an area-wide charging infrastructure for hybrid cars.

It remains to be seen what requirements will be set on charging fees. In addition to the question of whether the implementation of card readers will also be discussed here - as with the amendment to the LSV - it remains to be seen what development the federal government can trigger with the considerable investment in the market.

A factor of uncertainty for interested infrastructure operators can be seen in the fact that the framework conditions for the provision of services can be defined or changed even after the ministry has commissioned the service (Sec. 7 (3) SchnellLG-E). According to the draft, such change is considered sufficient in case of demand changes (!), new scientific findings, technical developments or changes in the legal framework. Any additional costs caused by such a change are to be compensated, however.

After having referred the draft to the parliamentary committees in its first reading, it is currently open when the Bundestag will debate it again. As the further debate – originally planned for 6 May was cancelled without a new date being published yet, it remains to be seen if the ambitious current timetable can be kept.

Companies interested in tendering should have the possibility of forming bidding consortia in mind now, keep an eye on the legislative process and on the federal tender portals after the law comes into force.

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