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Spain, the black swan of the electro mobility. The charging network.

Spain is the 5th biggest country in population in Europe and the second biggest in area. It is also one of the most important countries in Europe because of the tourism. The roads are almost in a perfect condition (only couple of them should be avoided) and until we have to put a toll in every highway almost all are completely free

Spain is one of the most attractive countries in Europe thanks to the different cultures that combined in the country. This mix of past cultures and the excellent weather and beaches make the perfect cocktail for having tourist pouring in all year long. And tourist comes not only from outside our borders, also spanish people like travelling and getting to know other regions of the country. The food, the architecture, the orography or even the colours can be so different inside Spain that you have the feeling of being abroad even when you have only travelled a hundred kilometers.

Madrid (the capital) is positioned in the middle of the country, with the other main cities near the coast of the country (such as Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga, Coruña and Bilbao). The roads are formed like in a spiderweb, with Madrid in the center and the other cities as the main tension points. They are normally connected with each other forming a circular system of roads that also helps to communicate the rest of the cities in spain (a total of 52) in several other secondary roads (that nevertheless have the same quality as the main roads). Of course, the Balears and Canary Islands are outside of this spider web, as well as Ceuta and Melilla (situated in the cost of Africa).

The distance between Madrid and the other main cities is between 350km (to Valencia) and 650km (to Barcelona). All the other cities are in between this distances, making it for sure a no brainer for where the charging stations should be placed.

A quick search in EV Navigation (a website to see how much range you would have with any EV of the market) show us how likely is to travel from Madrid to anyplace charging only once, or charging three times in the longest route (Malaga-Coruña - 1120km). We are not just talking about big capacity ultra luxury EVs.

The importance of this system, compared to other countries in europe, is that 15% of the population lives in Madrid (autonomous communitie) meaning that it is very safe to asume the traffic coming in and out of this small region. Also, being a place without beach, it is also safe to asume that most of the trafic going out of the city by road will be towards the sea.

Such long distances make it more complicated for the general population to adopt the EV. In comparasion, other countries with less extension may be “easier” to electrify. For example Portugal have little over 500km between Porto (in the north) and Faro (in the south), and less than 250km to cross the country from east to west. Italy is also much easier, from Trieste to Genoa (east to west) is 550km, and from north to south (Milan to Naples) 770km.

On the other hand, the centralization of the population in big cities make easier to know where the cars will need to charge, but at the same time bring preasure into a charging infrastructure. Not difficult to plan, but requires a big investment to break these bottlenecks. Countries like Germany with a population divided into smaller cities (but a bigger amount of it) make it easier to plan, but at the same time requires a bigger charging network (more points with less chargers), but requires also a bigger investment. On the bright side for Germany, the economy is much more distributed inside germany, having big industries in small cities and even villages that bring more options to both rural and city citizens.

In anycase this doesnt justify why Spain is running so late in the EV race, but shows a Black swan for good and bad. The economy doesnt allow the investment on a new car, being the average of the vehicles in Spain is over 14 year. This means that Spain is in one of the last places in Europe, but the economy is the fifth in the European union.

Here we have another two key factors. One, Spain is not the first in the line to adopt any new technology. And second, most of the country prefer the short term gain but long term pain rather than running the numbers.

But (there is always a but) the electricity is one of the cheapest in europe, while the petrol is just in the average meaning this should be a factor for many people to understand how the long term is actually more favorable for the electric car than to the petrol car (you just have to research, understand and plan). But i dont want to repeat my prior Blog entry, there can be found all the reasoning as to why the electric car is the way best option right now.

I will know show how I would plan the charging stations in Spain, if I have to.

To do this I will take the road between Madrid and Bilbao (404km) as example. The middle distance is 202km.

Now lets check the 10 best sold car in Spain right now:

I have adjusted the autonomy to a more realistic 18kWh per 100km, as any range system is really showing any helpful information. From that number I have only considered the autonomy between the 10% and 80% as this is the best range to charge the batteries and also the best range to keep the batteries as healthy as possible.

As we can see, of the 10 models only 1 wouldnt manage to make 202km using the full battery, and 3 fall of the 10%-80% list. All others make it perfectly to the half, meaning that spot would be the perfect to build not only a nice amount of charging stations but also services and even energy production to have a closed loop as much as possible.

What kind of chargers should be built? To avoid making people lose too much time the ideal should be 250kW chargers (400kW would be better but the investment will be too big and none of the list have such charging speed).

As we can see, the charging speed will go from 9min to 55min, with an average of 20minutes. This means that users will (in comparison with driving a petrol car and stoping no time) increase the travel duration from 4h to 4.10h, 4.20 (average) and 4,50 in the worst case scenario. In term of percentage we have 4%, 8% (average) and 21% in the worst case scenario.

Of course we want to create a charging network perfect for everyone (or for the cases you are not driving in the best weather, the battery completely charged or driving with the car fully loaded. For these reasons we will have to also place a good amount of charging points (but not as many) around the 100km and 300km mark.

Last but not least we will need destination chargers. This could be medium speed (50-150kW) that will be placed normally in shopping malls, hotels and open streets. Perfect locations for both people arriving and about to depart.

But, how many? Well, the amount will go growing with the time, as more and more users step into the EV mobility. Right now only a 3,7% of the spanish cars are fully electric (way under the tipping point, but no need to worry since all europe already crossed it, forcing the rest to move in the same direction). The road from Madrid to Bilbao is used daily by (according to the Spanish road traffic information website) by 18.000 cars, being the busiest hours between 17 and 21 hours. To make it even more critical, we will consider the 18.000 cars are travelling only between this hours, meaning 3.600 cars and hour. 3,7% of that 3.600 cars are EVs, meaning 133 cars. Of course not all the cars will travel from Madrid to Bilbao. Probably during the normal days around 30% of the cars will go all the way, while during holidays this will be closer to 60%.

Since they use 20minutes in average to charge we can charge 3 cars per hour and charging station. Meaning we will need around 30 charging points around the 202km mark, and around 10 around both the 100km and 300km mark since it will be the least common spot, but nevertheless very well covered.

And how many will we need with a 100% of EVs? We will need around 750 charging points that will more than cover the worst case scenario. Right now in this road there are already 100 chargers next to the road with only 2 250kW chargers. Plenty of work to do… but already a lot done. Of course having them not only in 3 places but very well distributed, with a bigger concentration in the specified points is the way to create a network healthy for the electricity grid that offer the customers the most confidence.

But… if you consider the petrol network is much easier and smaller as the EV network, you will be surprise to find out that in this road there are (next to the road) over 300 pumping points (in a total of 26 gas stations)... not that little…

So yes, the future will require plenty of charging stations, even more as gas stations right now. But given how easy they are to use, their low maintenance and their low need of workers in each station it will have a wonderful ROI and a very fast growing curve.

Last but not least, when we are choosing an EV, we should also consider the charging speed. We have seen how big the difference could be from one car to other, and what it would mean to the travel time. From 4% more to 21% more. From 9 minutes to 55 minutes, in cars with a similar range.

Also, when you search for the best electricity provider on the road (Acciona, Repsol, Total energies, Ionity, Fastned,...) you have to see how much kWs they offer in their charging stations and compare that with how much your car can take. This will help you to charge, literally, as fast as you can.

Here is a wonderful tool from Carwow to check how much range you will need your EV to have to suit you 100%. You will be surprised.


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