Europe Bets Big On Electric Cars, Plans 500K Charging Stations By 2020

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2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

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The market for electric cars is a dynamic beast, different companies offering different options and usage varying all around the world.

As with the U.S, European drivers now have access to a small selection of genuinely usable electric vehicles, from the Nissan Leaf, through the Chevrolet Volt and its GM cousin, the Opel Ampera, to tiny electric quadricycles like the Renault Twizy.

European policymakers are also taking notice of electric vehicles. So much so, that the European Union is drawing up plans to have half a million charging stations around the Union by 2020, reports the International Herald Tribune.

It's an ambitious plan, and one that could make recharging stations more numerous than gas stations.

"We can finally stop the chicken and the egg discussion on whether infrastructure needs to be there before the large scale roll out of electric vehicles." said Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action. "With our proposed binding targets for charging points using a common plug, electric vehicles are set to hit the road in Europe."

The increase in charging stations is part of an eight billion Euro "Clean Power for Transport Package", which also includes plans on developing hydrogen, biofuel and natural gas networks.

That's in addition to certain countries' own plans--such as Germany's target for 50 hydrogen filling stations.

Europe's plug-in car adoption rate is currently low, but are expected to account for between 2-8 percent of total vehicle sales by 2025. Annual sales of plug-ins are still in low four-figure sums.

A proliferation of charging stations could help change that, though a look at the figures shows how high some of those targets are--to reach the EU's target, Germany would have to install 148,000 public points--up from the current 2,000.

By comparison, the U.S. currently has around 5,300 public stations, according to official figures.

In the meantime, Europe still has other issues to overcome, including adoption of the new Combined Charging System plug, and convincing people that plug-ins can save people money over economical, cheap-to-run diesels.

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