Competitiveness of Europe’s EV Charging Industry: CRA view

The electrification of transport is at the forefront of global decarbonisation efforts, accounting for around $120 billion of investment in the EMEA region in 2022.¹ EVs are central to this trend, totalling more than $350 billion of consumer spending last year.² As EV adoption grows, investors increasingly focus on eMobility opportunities in an effort to reach the €600 billion p.a. investment that Europe needs to meet its climate pledges.³  As a consequence, there is growing interest from stakeholders within the sector, and within related industries to understand the fast-evolving and complex electric transportation sector. The report brings clarity to this fast-evolving sector, supporting a diverse range of stakeholders in navigating three main areas: the appropriateness of current EV public charging infrastructure rollout levels, the main business models in the EV charging industry and the state of competition.  

Infrastructure rollout overview

The report highlights how the rollout of public EV charging infrastructure has been outpaced by rising levels of EV adoption throughout Europe. While that follows market laws, with EV charging developers reacting to rising demand, it may also have been influenced by government policies and incentives. In fact, while all EU27+UK governments provide some form of public support for EV adoption, state aid to public EV charging is less common and generally provided on a smaller scale. This results in an average of 11.3 EVs per public charger across the EU27+UK by the end of 2022, above the 10:1 ratio recommended by the European Commission.

Public charging is one of the key drivers behind the electrification of road transport. However, the EV to charger ratio in isolation is an imperfect indicator of the EV charging infrastructure’s appropriateness. In fact, in Europe, more than 70% of EV charging happens at private premises, either at home or the workplace.⁴ That is particularly relevant for suburban and rural areas, where a larger availability of single housing and private parking spaces makes the business case for public charging less attractive, resulting in a reduced public charging infrastructure rollout.

The 10:1 ratio should not be taken as an unalterable enduring target, as it will require review as the sector further develops. Specifically, as countries develop the interplay between private, workplace and public charging will undoubtedly change the requirements of the ratio. Equally, as EV drivers gain confidence through enhanced vehicle range, we expect to see a growing reliance on public infrastructure. In the early days of this market however, the ratio serves as a good proxy to provide adequate charging infrastructure that instils confidence among EV owners to ease charging anxiety.

A chart showing electric vehicle (EV) penetration rates across several European countries, categorized into "Nascent," "In-development," and "Leading markets." It highlights the percentage of EVs and the ratio of EVs to chargers, with Italy, Germany, Belgium, UK, and Ireland marked.
Figure 1, source: Charles River Associates

Business models in EV charging

The legal structure of the main charging players as well as the most common business models, were analysed within the report. Compared to traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) refuelling business, EV charging as a business is still developing, with less consolidation and more diversity observable across markets. The findings suggest that one of the key reasons behind the slower development of the EV charging sector has been its limited profitability, with high upfront capital costs for fast and ultra-fast chargers. The capital-intensive nature of the business made it a suitable sector for major players from adjacent industries to step in. Therefore, large energy companies from both the oil & gas and the energy retail space have developed charging subsidiaries. Similarly, automotive firms like Tesla and, more recently, Mercedes have been active in the charging segment. Specialised charging firms are also present throughout Europe. Usually, these pure-play firms, which include both start-ups and scale-ups, have specific business models focusing on individual charging segments in contrast to incumbent players from other industries which tend to stretch across the entire EV charging spectrum. While profitability is expected to increase as EV adoption rises, current conditions favour larger players who can invest to secure locations with higher utilisation rates. These land-grabbing efforts have been observed throughout Europe. Lastly, a general trend was observed towards the integrated offering of Charge Point Operator (CPO) and eMobility Service Provider (eMSP) across all markets.

An infographic illustrating the e-mobility ecosystem. It shows relationships between Pure-plays, public sector players, and players from other sectors, as well as integrated CPO and eMSP offerings. Key services include various recharging options, network operations, and software sales.
Figure 2, source: Charles River Associates

The state of competition

Similar to business models, consolidation is also ongoing regarding the state of competition. European markets have seen an increase in the number of charging providers over the last five years, in many cases eroding the first-mover advantage of early companies. In parallel though, the widespread acquisitions point towards a more consolidated industry, with the market being split between fewer larger players.

Nevertheless, significant heterogeneity was observed across countries with developed markets generally reporting higher levels of competition versus higher concentration in early-phase and expanding markets. The report details a taxonomy of competition concerns to be monitored going forward. Currently, no evidence of major competition concerns were uncovered, suggesting sufficient competition exists in the market with positive effects in stimulating innovation, lowering prices, increasing private investment and improving the quality of the service.

EU market evolution

The EU is unquestionably well underway with the mobility transition. Progressive EV adoption signals within member states indicate that the future of mobility can and will be electric. However, charging infrastructure must evolve in parallel to dispel worries of charging anxiety and provide confidence to the mass adopters. For CPOs and investors, the public charging roll out is far from a ‘one size fits all’ solution, but rather a series of bespoke solutions that are informed through detailed understanding of the industry dynamics between ecosystem participants, and a granular view of regional variations across all member states.

1. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “Electrified Transport Spending Soars, Transition Rolls On”

2. International Energy Agency, “World Energy Investment 2023”

3. Bruegel, “How much investment do we need to reach net zero?”

4. European Alternative Fuels Observatory (EAFO)

About Charles River Associates

CRA is a leading global consulting firm with more than 50 years of experience in advising clients. Its Energy and Mobility practice supports a wide range of clients to assess investment strategies and opportunities, devise winning strategies, identify and access value pools, navigate and decode uncertainty, and transform operating models. CRA worked on behalf of the European Commission to author a report on public EV charging across Europe that assesses the maturity of EV charging infrastructure rollout across Europe and the role of governmental policy and key market participants involvement in shaping the overall state of competition in the sector.

The conclusions set forth herein are based on independent research and publicly available material. The views expressed herein are the views and opinions of the authors and do not reflect or represent the views of Charles River Associates or any of the organizations with which the authors are affiliated. Any opinion expressed herein shall not amount to any form of guarantee that the author or Charles River Associates has determined or predicted future events or circumstances, and no such reliance may be inferred or implied. The authors and Charles River Associates accept no duty of care or liability of any kind whatsoever to any party, and no responsibility for damages, if any, suffered by any party as a result of decisions made, or not made, or actions taken, or not taken, based on this paper. Detailed information about Charles River Associates, a trademark of CRA International, Inc., is available at www.crai.com

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