The construction and operation of charging points for electric vehicles in Germany is subject to the Charging Point Ordinance enacted in 2016 (Ordinance on Technical Requirements for the Safe and Interoperable Construction and Operation of Charging Points Accessible to the Public or Ladesäulenverordnung).
In November 2021, this Charging Point Ordinance was amended in some significant ways. Most changes entered into force on 1 January 2022.
Definition of accessibility to the public
From its inception in 2016, the Ordinance applied to "charging points accessible to the public" (Section 1). Given the strict requirements imposed by the Ordinance, it is important for operators to know whether they fall under the regulation or not. Thus, the definition of this term has now been amended to better define “accessible to the public” in a way that will give operators clearer guidance on the applicability of the Ordinance to their charging points.
Under the new wording in Section 2 No 5, a much more lengthy definition of accessibility is offered to clarify the issue:
A charging point is "accessible to the public if the parking space belonging to the charging point can actually be used by an undefined group of people or a group of people defined only by a general characteristic, unless the operator has installed a clearly visible marking or sign at the charging point or in the immediate vicinity of the charging point to restrict the access to an individually defined group of persons. The group of persons cannot be individually defined solely by the fact that the use of the charging point is made dependent on registration."
This amendment makes it clear that “accessible to the public” excludes those charging points restricted to particular groups, for example, to employees, users of car sharing services, hotel guests, doctors’ patients and other similar cases.
New requirements for payment methods, another important change brought by the amended Ordinance, have been controversial. The industry claimed that this would increase costs, e.g., if operators have to replace charging points which do not currently offer such payment methods. From 1 July 2023, new charging points must allow customers to pay by debit or credit card or, in some cases, by web-based payment methods. This change aims at a higher degree of usability for customers, given that specific apps authorised by the charging point operator will not be required any more. This will make the charging points more accessible, for example, for travelers from other countries.
Proposed revision of underlying EU law
The German Ordinance is based on the EU's Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID) 2014/94/EU. There are plans for a revision of AFID on the EU level as part of the Fit for 55 Package. The proposal, which would be a regulation instead of a directive, sets out a number of mandatory national targets for the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure in the EU, especially a significant increase in the number of charging points across the Member States.
Whether the construction of new charging points can keep pace with the emerging sale of electric vehicles remains to be seen. The German government is using a number of subsidies and incentives to try to speed up the construction of new charging points. If charging infrastructure becomes the bottleneck for electric mobility, operators might try to limit access for customers based on commercial interests. The complex wording of the new law will still leaves room for uncertainty in such cases.