The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation, or shortly AFIR, was created after the European Parliament identified an uneven development of charging infrastructure in the European Union. The lacking infrastructure combined with the lack of interoperability of the existing charging networks and the absence of common standards and practices of the Member States, has been causing an unstable and unclear EV charging environment. With the 2050 climate neutrality goal in mind, the EU felt the need to bring a change about.
AFIR is an integral part of the Fit for 55 package and was published on 22 September 2023 in the Official Journal of the European Union. The regulation provides a framework for the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure across the continent. It comes into effect on 13 April 2024.
This regulation confirms the ban on selling new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles from 2035 onwards and insists on developing charging infrastructure in cities and along motorways across Europe. Its goal is to impact the quantity and quality of the public EV charging infrastructure.
AFIR provides specific targets to be achieved by 2025 and 2030 for all transport sectors:
- Fast charging stations of at least 150 kW to be installed every 60 km
- Charging stations for heavy-duty vehicles with a minimum power of 350 kW are to be installed every 60 km
- Contactless payment to be made possible for EV drivers at charging points with complete transparency on charging prices
- Charging point operators to provide customers with complete information on availability and pricing
- Hydrogen refuelling stations to be installed every 200 km
- Electricity at the dock for ships with a minimum number of passengers or container ships
- The supply of electricity to stationary aircrafts at all boarding gates by 2025
In this guide, we'll dive into the key points of the EU's AFIR regulation - focusing on road transport and, more specifically, electricity-powered vehicles.
1. FOCUS ON ZERO-EMISSION and RENEWABLE FUELS IN TRANSPORT
The Parliament makes a simple observation: The transportation sector emits too much CO2. We’re talking about a quarter of all CO2 emissions in the European Union coming from the transport sector. Since the European "Green Deal" was created, the main target has been to find alternatives to fossil fuels for all modes of transport.
The European Union's climate neutrality objective
It’s crucial for new passenger cars and commercial vehicles to become less harmful to the climate and our health. It’s necessary to accelerate the adoption of alternative fuels to achieve that.
First, we have zero-emission fuels:
The EU has also identified renewable fuels that are intended to replace diesel, gasoline and other carbon fuels to reduce CO2 emissions:
- Advanced biofuels
- Synthetic fuels
- Paraffinic fuels
- Gaseous fuels
With these fuels emerging, the demand for charging and refuelling infrastructure will increase.
When it comes to electric vehicles (EVs) and their electricity needs, the Member States have to make sure the electrical network meets the demand of the planned charging infrastructure through continuous modernisation and maintenance.
2. THE BAN ON ice sales FROM 2035
The EU has banned the sale of new ICE vehicles beyond 2035. European car manufacturers have turned their production mainly to electric and are ready to stop making ICE vehicles altogether in the coming decade.
Only manufacturers in niche sectors such as sports or luxury vehicles, which have built their reputation with powerful ICE cars, ask for exemptions from this rule. Fortunately, most car manufacturers don’t intend to sell ICE cars beyond 2030.
Due to a demand for exemption by Germany, the EU plans to allow sales of vehicles running solely on electrofuel even beyond 2035.
What are electrofuels?
Electrofuels or e-fuels are made from renewable energy sources, water and CO2 with the help of electricity. E-fuels are compatible with ICEs, and their production doesn’t release additional CO2 emissions.
The manufacturing steps of e-fuels
To produce synthetic fuels, the first step is to capture the carbon dioxide (CO2) and combine it with hydrogen (H2). Hydrogen can be extracted from water by electrolysis, i.e. splitting water with renewable electricity (from wind turbines or solar panels) or low-carbon (nuclear) electricity.
An expensive process
The production of e-fuels is costly and highly energy-consuming as a vast amount of hydrogen needs to be extracted. According to the first studies, the production costs of e-fuels could be 100x higher than those of ordinary gasoline.
Another disadvantage is that even though the production of e-fuels is carbon neutral, the final product, when “burned", releases greenhouse gases, the same as fossil fuels. Experts are talking about possible re-capture solutions in the long-term development.
However, according to the NGO Transport & Environment, e-fuels emit as much nitrogen oxide (NOx) as E10 fuel (which includes 10% ethanol and 90% fossil fuels), almost three times as much carbon monoxide and up to twice as much ammonia. Compared to electric vehicles, e-fuel cars could produce around five times more CO2 emissions than equivalent EV models.Source: Global EV Outlook 2023
3. A CHARGING point EVERY 60 KM
European authorities urge all Member States to install new charging points to keep up with the increasing electrification of the continent’s car fleet.
From 2025, EU Member States will have to provide access to a fast charging station of at least 150 kW every 60 kilometres along the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). In addition, a charging capacity of at least 1.3 kW must be provided for each battery-electric car registered in the Member State (0.50 kW for plug-in hybrid vehicles). Charging stations along major roads must be installed within 3 km of the nearest exit.
To summarise, Member States must comply with two targets: A distance-based target for the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) and a target based on the size of the national electric vehicle fleet. The aim is to ensure that each Member State is equipped with sufficient publicly accessible infrastructure, tailored to its own needs.
Heavy-duty electric vehicles must be able to charge with a minimum output of 350 kW every 60 kilometres along the core TEN-T network, and every 100 kilometres along the larger TEN-T network.
Charging hubs must offer a total power of at least 400 kW and include at least one charging point with an individual power of at least 150 kW.
To avoid favouring one technology over another, the European Union decided that hydrogen refuelling stations should be installed every 200 km along the core TEN-T network.
The funding of this development might be stopped once the infrastructure becomes sufficient for the charging needs so we avoid ending up with more EV chargers than necessary.
4. ENABLING CARD PAYMENTS
EV drivers not subscribed to any specific charging provider’s service shouldn’t face any problems charging. That’s why AFIR demands ad hoc card payments to be available at all EV charging stations via a payment terminal. This card payment option will come on top of the other available payment options.
EV drivers who are roaming or don’t want to have a subscription with one single provider can pay with a debit or credit card directly at the EV charger on an ad hoc basis.
EV chargers that can’t be equipped with a card reader (as if often the case for AC chargers) must be accompanied by a stand alone payment terminal, such as the Virta Payment Kiosk. One Payment Kiosk can process payments from up to 100 individual EV chargers.
AFIR specifies that e-mobility service providers (EMSP) must provide EV drivers with transparent and updated pricing information via digital tools like a mobile app.
Card payments - convenient but anonymous
If a charging session is paid by card, it is done anonymously. This means one downside for you, the charging service provider – you won’t be able to follow the charging habits of your customers.
The possibility of ad hoc payments on public charging infrastructures is due to come into effect from April 2024 throughout Europe. For all CPOs who have not been able to install a payment terminal in advance, it's possible to offer payment via a uniquely generated QR code displayed on the charge point screen. Uniquely generated QR codes instead of QR code stickers significantly reduce the risk of QR code fraud - otherwise known as quishing.
5. BOOSTING PRICing TRANSPARENCY
The EU wants to bring consistency into the often-complex world of EV charging pricing. These changes regarding pricing policies puts pressure on CPOs but makes it possible to meet a strong expectation of EV drivers. The goal is for EV drivers to have access to accurate pricing information before the start of the charging session.
The question of ’How much will the charging session cost?’ often concerns EV drivers because of differing tariffs and pricing models from one charging network to another.
EV drivers now have access to over 550,000 EV charging points in the EU, but pricing transparency still must improve to boost convenience.
Reasonable, transparent prices
The AFIR specifies that charging prices must be reasonable, transparent and not causing any discrimination.
The regulation also indicates that CPOs are allowed to charge additional fees to prevent EV owners from blocking a parking space designated for EV charging long after charging their own car. These additional fees might be charged by the minute and must be clearly indicated.
Don’t comply and face penalties
The European Commission will stay on top of market developments and reprimand any attempt to limit charging services for EV drivers or hinder pricing transparency.
Standardisation of pricing models
Nowadays, the diversity of pricing models can be quite complex. Billing for public charging can be done in several ways:
- Time-based – based on how long the charging session lasts
- Energy-based – based on how much electricity is charged during a charging session
- Fixed-rate – e.g. a monthly subscription
- Hybrid pricing – a combination of time and energy based
AFIR requires that at charging points of 50 kW or more, the pricing is energy-based, i.e. per kWh.
6. SMART & CONNECTED EV CHARGERS
The European Union stresses that the installed charging stations must be able to connect to a back-end system and offer the possibility of roaming.
Chargers must have an internet connection via a SIM card for this to happen. The charging stations must constantly exchange real-time data to validate the payments, track energy consumption, and optimise the charging experience.
This is called smart charging.
Smart charging allows for instant communication between the charging point operator (CPO), the e-mobility service provider (EMSP), roaming platforms (Hubject or Gireve), and finally, the end-users: EV drivers.
There are currently no set common standards regarding communication between the EV and the charging point, communication between the charging point and the back-end system, communication related to the roaming service and communication with the electricity network. The EU plans to solve this issue to ensure higher personal data protection.
Finally, with the future development of V2G (vehicle-to-grid), generating energy consumption data is essential to guarantee the stability of the electricity network and promote the efficient use of EV charging services.
Smart charging systems help encourage charging at lower rates during off-peak periods, which benefits the end user.
Encouraging first steps in demand responseEV charging can help power systems cope with disturbances. Read how the Virta network responded to an unexpected disruption in the power grid in Finland.
7. INTEROPERABILITY & OPEN data
Another point the European Parliament addresses is interoperability, meaning the possibility of any electric vehicle charging at any charging station. That's achieved by various actors in the e-mobility ecosystem being able to interact digitally.
To address that, all Member States should appoint an Identification Registration Organisation (“IDRO”) to be responsible for issuing and managing identification codes (“IDs”) to identify CPOs and EMSPs easily and to create a standard referencing system. The use of unique IDs supports the cross-border use of EV charging stations by EV drivers.
As open data is crucial to achieve interoperability in EV charging, each operator of publicly accessible charging points must set up an Application Programme Interface (API) that provides free and unrestricted access to static and dynamic data. Let's see what the difference between the two is:
8. BETTER ACCESSIBILITY FOR PEOPLE WITH REDUCED MOBILITY
A charging infrastructure must provide facilities for older people and people with reduced mobility and disabilities. A charging point operator must ensure that:
- There is sufficient space around the parking space
- The charging station is not installed on a sidewalk
- The buttons on the charger display are at an appropriate height
- The charging cables are not too heavy and are easy to handle
- The charging station is equipped with an emergency button and adequate lighting
9. AFIR & VirTA
What does the AFIR mean for us at Virta and for our customers? And how do we, as a company, meet the EU requirements?
EMSPs must make all pricing information available to end users before the start of the charging session. With Virta, you completely control the prices you set for charging at your charging points. Whatever you decide that price to be, one thing’s for sure: it will be displayed in the Virta mobile app or on our one-time payment website, clearly visible to your customers.
To make pricing as transparent as possible, Virta offers an Alternate Tariff feature that allows adding tariff settings that replace the default tariff at a set period. This is good for reflecting real electricity prices and increasing transparency with customers.
For charging points installed from April 2024, ad hoc charging will be possible either with a card reader or a contactless payment device. For those installed before this date, we have a solution to comply with the legislation: the Virta Payment Kiosk. This stand-alone device can be retrofitted to your existing charging infrastructure for a minimal cost and connect to up to 100 chargers.
By April 2024, CPOs must ensure that all publicly accessible charging points are digitally connected. In addition, all charging stations installed after April 2024 must support smart charging.
This paves the way for large-scale demand flexibility and bi-directional charging services in which EVs are used to create virtual power plants. Virta already offers several smart energy management services that future-proof your EV charging operations and bring added value to you and your customers.
The other requirements that AFIR addresses, such as accessibility and static and dynamic data availability, will gradually come into play. They require CPOs and eMSPs to introduce new features to existing charging services and/or improve them to comply with the regulations.
At Virta, we’re ensuring our services are all compliant with the new regulations so that all of our customers can also ensure compliance.
We work proactively with regulatory authorities, NGOs and industry lobbies to ensure that the Virta Platform offers capabilities that allow our customers and partners to take advantage of the rapidly changing EV charging markets.
10. WHAT'S NEXT? CONTINUOUS ADJUSTMENTS TO BE EXPECTED
Is AFIR ambitious enough?
According to ACEA - the Association of European Car Manufacturers - AFIR needs to go further. Car manufacturers fear that the new regulations won’t solve the current lack of charging infrastructure, hindering the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.
The association also mentions that the number of granted exemptions would further limit the charging network coverage. And that the infrastructure plans need to be revised to cater to electric trucks.
ACEA estimates there will be about 400,000 battery-powered electric trucks on European roads by 2030 and about 50,000 EV chargers adapted to charge heavy-duty trucks, including about 35,000 ultra-fast chargers. They say Europe’s objectives need to be more ambitious in this area.
Progress report and corrective measures
The EU, aware of the speed of technological advancement and the climate emergency, regularly plan multiple updates of the regulations, which should allow for adjustments over time to reflect newly found requirements.
Each Member State will have to provide a national progress report every two years justifying the national objectives’ achievement level and indicate what measures they plan to take to achieve the future goals.
What will be detailed in the report:
- the total charging power
- the number of publicly accessible charging points installed
- the number of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles registered on their territory by 31 December of the previous year
Member States will also have to assess, as early as June 2024, how EVs could contribute to the energy system’s flexibility, including their participation in the grid balancing market.
They will also evaluate the potential contribution of bi-directional charging to the power system and its power to reduce costs for the end users.
If a Member State doesn't achieve national objectives, it will be requested to take corrective measures.
AFIR represents a considerable investment opportunity for many industries. The regulation is a good ground for future innovations, especially in the field of payment solutions and the reliability of the charging equipment.
For companies, AFIR facilitates the transition to more environmentally friendly vehicle fleets by ensuring accessible charging. This clear regulatory framework paves the way for a significant expansion of the sector in the coming years.
With AFIR, the EV charging ecosystem in Europe is evolving towards enhanced accessibility and improved safety resulting in reduced ecological footprint.