Binding EU rules for recharging points and hydrogen refuelling stations ‒ Council adopts the AFIR
On 25 July 2023, the Council of the European Union adopted the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR), thereby concluding the European Union’s long legislative process in relation to the Regulation. The AFIR replaces the 2014 Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Development Directive (AFID), which was implemented in Germany through the Charging Points Ordinance (Ladesäulenverordnung).
One of the AFIR’s main goals is to promote the establishment of charging stations for electric vehicles and refuelling stations for alternative fuels in Europe’s cities and along the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) in the future. As part of the Green Deal, the AFIR is one of the measures to achieve the EU’s goal of reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 as compared to 1990 levels and becoming climate neutral by 2050 (“Fit for 55”).
Alternative fuels as defined by the AFIR include electricity, hydrogen, gas (LNG and LPG) and biofuels. Besides the installation of charging stations for passenger cars and light and heavy-duty vehicles, seaports and airports are also to be better supplied with electricity and hydrogen refuelling points will be established. In addition, the AFIR contains numerous important new requirements for the operators and users of the infrastructure facilities.
The AFIR will enter into force on the twentieth day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. Unless any special provisions have been made, it will in principle apply six months from the date of its entry into force.
Regulatory framework for recharging points
Articles 3 and 4 of the AFIR contain detailed deployment targets for recharging infrastructure that are binding on Member States. These requirements partly specify the objectives of the German Fast Recharging Act (Schnellladegesetz). It remains to be seen whether the rollout of the recharging infrastructure, which is being driven forward by award procedures for the “Germany Network” set forth in the German Fast Recharging Act, will also be able to implement the European targets. As regards everyday practice, the requirements in Article 5 of the AFIR for the operation of publicly accessible recharging infrastructure will be particularly important. They will largely replace the German Charging Points Ordinance and section 14 of the German Price Indication Ordinance (Preisangabenverordnung) in the future.
The requirements in Article 5(1) of the AFIR on ad-hoc charging go beyond the current provisions in section 4 of the Charging Points Ordinance. In the future, it will be possible to recharge on an ad-hoc basis throughout the EU using a payment instrument that is widely used in the EU. Operators of newly established recharging points with a power output below 50 kWh will, as from the date the Regulation takes effect, have to provide payment card readers, devices with a contactless functionality that is at least able to read payment cards or a specific Quick Response (QR) Code as electronic means of payment. Operators of recharging points with a power output equal to or more than 50 kW that are located along the TEN-T road network in safe and secure parking areas will have to be equipped with payment card readers or devices with a contactless functionality that is at least able to read payment cards. A QR code, which is an electronic means of payment, will not be sufficient for these recharging points. These payment method obligations will also apply as from 1 January 2027 to infrastructure with a power output equal to or more than 50 kW that was established before the AFIR came into force.
Articles 5(10) and 21 of the AFIR in conjunction with Annex II No. 1 contain technical requirements that will replace section 3 of the Recharging Station Ordinance, but do not set forth any new content requirements.
Further requirements for operators of recharging points can be found in Article 5(4) of the AFIR. It sets out the requirements for how prices must be displayed at all publicly accessible recharging points established after the date the AFIR enters into force and will replace section 14(2) to (4) of the Price Indication Ordinance in this regard. Unlike German law, the AFIR requirements distinguish between recharging points with a power output equal to or more than 50 kW and those with a lower power output, both in terms of how price components are displayed and which ones must be displayed.
Furthermore, Article 5(3) and (5) also lay down rules for mobility service providers (EMSPs) for the first time. Charging point operators (CPOs) are not permitted to discriminate between the prices charged to mobility service providers and the prices charged to end users nor between prices charged to different mobility service providers. As is the case with CPOs, EMSPs must also be transparent with regard to their prices for end customers.
Member States are required to ensure that these regulations are complied with and that potentially unfair business practices are monitored (cf. Art. 5(6) AFIR).
Requirements for hydrogen refuelling stations
The AFIR sets targets for the build-up of the hydrogen network that must be met by 31 December 2030. This is because hydrogen-powered vehicles still have a low market penetration rate. To the extent that there are any existing hydrogen refuelling points in the Member States, these are largely unsuitable for heavy-duty vehicles. Accordingly, a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is to be deployed across the TEN-T core network to allow for the seamless travel of hydrogen-fuelled passenger vehicles and light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles throughout the Union. Publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling stations with a cumulative capacity of at least 1 t/day and equipped with at least one 700 bar dispenser for liquid hydrogen are to be deployed along the TEN-T core network. These refuelling stations may only have a maximum distance of 200 km in-between them.
As a rule, hydrogen-powered vehicles are to be able to refuel in urban areas and thus refuelling stations are to be available at urban nodes. Consequently, at least one publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling station must be put in place at every urban node by the end of 2030 (see Article 6(1) of the AFIR). In addition, hydrogen refuelling stations must be designed with a cumulative capacity of at least 1 t/day. It can be assumed for now that market-penetration of hydrogen vehicles in the short term will be possible primarily in the heavy-duty vehicle segment. Nonetheless, the AFIR requirements are intended to allow passenger cars and light-duty vehicles to be refuelled with hydrogen already now.
Moreover, Article 7 of the AFIR also contains further provisions for ensuring the user-friendliness of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, including through minimum requirements on payment options, price transparency and contractual choice. These provisions are similar to those for charging point infrastructure. Article 21 of the AFIR in conjunction with Annex II No. 3 of the AFIR also lay down technical specifications for the dispensers and the quality of the hydrogen.
Requirements for the provision of data
Finally, another important new provision is found in Article 20 of the AFIR. This Article contains requirements for the provision of data as these play a “fundamental role in the adequate functioning of recharging and refuelling infrastructure” (recital 69). For example, Member States are to appoint an Identification Registration Organisation (“IDRO”), which will be able to identify operators of recharging points and mobility service providers using a unique identification code (“ID”) (see Article 20(1) of the AFIR). Energie Codes & Service GmbH, a private company belonging to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft ‒ BDEW), is currently responsible for carrying out this task in Germany. It was hired by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs to perform this work.
In the future, operators of publicly accessible charging points and refuelling points for alternative fuels will have to provide more detailed static and dynamic data on the infrastructure they operate or the associated services at no cost. Static data includes things such as the geographic location of the recharging or refuelling points for alternative fuels, the number of connectors, operating hours, maximum power output of the charging station/point and type of current (see Article 20(2) of the AFIR). Dynamic data includes the operational status, availability, ad hoc price and the origin of the electricity from renewable sources. Finally, Member States must ensure by 31 December 2024 that data is made available to all data users, such as customers or EMSPs, on an open and non-discriminatory basis (Article 20(4) of the AFIR).
The AFIR creates important, uniform rules throughout Europe. Whether these will have the desired effect on the continued expansion of electromobility will ultimately depend also on whether the provisions in Article 5(4) and (5) of the AFIR are interpreted and applied in a manner that makes them suitable for use in practice. In the end, to encourage a large number of people to transition to electric vehicles in the coming years, a widespread, customer-friendly, and consequently affordable recharging infrastructure will be needed.