French Charging Laws Could Leave Electric Car Adoption in Flames

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Scenes from dedication of electric-car charging station at Creekside Inn, Palo Alto, CA

Scenes from dedication of electric-car charging station at Creekside Inn, Palo Alto, CA

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Earlier this week we told you about the Danish town refusing to allow charging station and battery provider Better Place from installing charging points unless it painted them green. 


Now the electric car craziness has headed south to France, where officials at the French Ministry for the Environment have detailed guidelines which could dramatically affect the way in which electric car charging stations are deployed and used throughout France.  

If implemented at its most severe, the guidelines could lead to laws allowing only one public charging station per floor of a public parking garage, or requiring parking lot owners to separate electric vehicles being recharged with fire-walls. 

2011 Chevrolet Volt using Level 2 240-Volt charging station in Vacaville, California

2011 Chevrolet Volt using Level 2 240-Volt charging station in Vacaville, California

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A less draconian version of the law would mean public charging points would have to be sited nearly 50 feet apart or placed together in a semi-confined space,  increasing the cost of installing multiple charging points significantly. 

The charging guidelines continue into domestic installations too, with the ministry imposing strict laws to limit the charging of electric cars on domestic outlets. 

While charging from a 230V power outlet will be allowed, the ministry wants to restrict the charging current to only 12 amps. That would result in a charging time for cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf of around 12 hours. 

If an owner wishes to drop the charging time to a more acceptable 10 hours, they will have to pay for their home to be inspected and verified for 13 amps, or have a dedicated, hard-wired charging station installed. 

Both options are unlikely to be cheap. 

Why the laws? The ministry claims it is to help prevent electric cars from bursting into flames when charging due to badly designed battery packs. 

Burning electric cars? Either French electric cars are more combustable than electric cars from other countries, or French authorities are seriously overreacting. 

Ultra-Capacitor Bus in Shanghai after fire; photo from Eastday

Ultra-Capacitor Bus in Shanghai after fire; photo from Eastday

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Okay, we have to admit we’ve heard stories of electric cars bursting into flames, but they represent a tiny proportion of the electric cars in the world today.

About the same as the number of gasoline cars which burst into flames then. 

Of those electric vehicles which have spontaneously combusted, all of them have either been custom-made electric vehicles, conversions of gasoline cars or vehicles made by automakers we’ve never even heard of

In other words, we think that France’s potential new electric car laws go a little too far, especially for a country in which it is possible for someone to drive a tiny, underpowered, gasoline automobile without so much as a crumple zone or airbags on the road without even owning a drivers license. 

Only in France...


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Comments (4)
  1. The Danish are very childish in their requests and the French have never been known for their superior intellect. I can understand the French wanting to be cautious about electric cars heating up and catching on fire though. GM's Chevy Volt's electrical cord heats up and even melts, and that is because of the shotty craftsmanship of all of GM vehicles.

    The French should demand higher quality control on the electric cars they build and allow to come into their country, but don't make electric cars more difficult for their people to buy and use. After all, isn't France's main purpose is to get away from fossil fuels of all kind?

  2. Welcome to the wonderful world of govt regulations.
    The regulators don't have to prove anything. They are simply working "to protect your health."

  3. Only two years ago France announced a €2.5 billion program to get one million charging points in place by 2015 and now new these new laws make sure that that's never going to happen. This is a familiar pattern: governments that dream of EV's and bureaucracies with close ties to a countries energy sector that throw spanners in wheels to make sure everything stays the same.

  4. The 12 amp safety limit for portable EV charging devices is exactly the same as the US National Electrical code on a 15 amp circuit for longer than 3 hours:
    (BIG file)
    My Think City EV charges a bit below the limit at 10.5 amps with a portable charger, and the outlet still gets quite warm. Hard wired is the way to go, except for occasional use.
    At 13 amps, it takes me only 8 hours to charge at 240 volts from zero to 105%. I believe the Think battery capacity is the same as the Leaf. UK mains voltage is slightly lower, perhaps the charger built into the Leaf is a bit less efficient than the Think. The Think charger is over 95% efficient, better than the Mini E especially at 120 V

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