For two weeks I’ve been driving through Italy, saw how the EV infrastructure is developing and talked to insiders about the current state and future of E-mobility in this great country.
Italy has many faces. The landscapes are stunning, the people have great character, flair and temperament. Driving through small towns and big cities is a pure joy, it’s like you’re in a movie set. On the other side you have the expensive highways (which I avoided) and the controversies in the political system. People in the north of Italy pay way more taxes as the southern’s do. Unofficially because of the maffia who is still active in the southern regions.
Interesting enough there are some parallels with e-mobility in Italy, well, not as huge as maffia business but there are good and bad sides. Perhaps “the good, the bad and the ugly” is a better comparison to the current state of e-mobility here.
To start with the good: Italy lends itself as an ideal country to drive electric. The temperature is mostly around 20 degrees and distances are not big, which is ideal for the range. Every medium to big city has multiple charging stations, almost all placed and operated by Enel Net, a national power company. The stations are easy recognizable and the Enel Drive (which is the official name for Enel’s charging network) app shows all the stations on a map. What’s even better: all public charging stations have free parking, even right in the center of Milan. Sometimes it feels like being a VIP as many parking spots are separated from the regular ones.
There are many small companies and initiatives who are promoting e-mobility and play a big part in the development of the infrastructure and make others enthusiastic to start driving electric. For example e-move.me who’s mission is to electrify all the transport in Milan and around. They sell e-scooters, e-bikes, e-motors and install wallboxes wherever needed. Then there is Marcos from Vado Elettrico who places stations at restaurants, hotels and more. Evbility does the same in the Bergamo region.
Currently there is a plan to install 14 fast charging stations before the final of the UEFA Champions League, as they expect a lot of tourists from other countries. Speaking of fast chargers, this brings us to the bad.
The bad: the lack of fast chargers! I haven’t seen any of them. I have to make a side-note here that I haven’t been actively searching for them as my car cant fast charge but in other countries I did bumped into them. Fast chargers are a must as you want to travel longer distances.
Another problem is the lack of charging stations outside of the cities. Near highways or villages they are very rare. A mistake in your planning, a not working station or an unexpected detour can cause problems and range-anxiety.
Then the ugly: the unreliable electricity network of the country! It happened many times that the charging station stopped after a few minutes. Unplugging the car, waiting for a few minutes before the station resets itself and then plugging it back in again is the only solution. And possibly you have to repeat this ritual a few times in the process. This way you have to stay around the car, avoiding the risk that the car is still empty when returning from a day sightseeing in one of the beautiful cities. At first I thought it was a problem with my car in particular, but from other Italian e-drivers I heard its happens to them too.
Another remarkable fact is that they have plugs which a slightly different as the conventional ones. Besides the regular Type 2 cable they have a Type 3A and Type 3C plug. It looks a bit like a Chinese plug. I didn’t see the cable itself nor a car with these charging possibilities.
The country has the potential of becoming a tourist attraction for electric drivers too but few steps have to be made. Hopefully on my way back Italy has become the e-paradise that it promises to be.