Linda Boll seems satisfied. The Germany boss of the charging network operator Fastned is leaning against a pump in the new charging park on the A4, Düren exit, a special place for her. Not that it is the Dutch’s first German fast charging station; They already operate almost 40 nationwide. But it is the first for which Fastned has received subsidies from the federal government.

State money for a charging park? The 33-year-old manager first had to explain this to her astonished colleagues in Amsterdam: “They wonder why so much money is being thrown at us here. In Holland we don’t get a cent for expanding the charging network.”

Why? German experts are also asking themselves this question.

Here, in the greater Cologne area, near the border with Belgium and the Netherlands, the traffic is so dense that the sale of charging electricity is worthwhile even without subsidies. That’s why the energy giants Aral and EnBW have long since set up several high-speed charging stations on the other side of the A4. At your own expense. Of course, Linda Boll still gets the subsidies. She calls them “the icing on the cake.”

This place shows how clumsily the federal government is tinkering with the transport transition and the expansion of the charging infrastructure. It wants to direct and regulate everywhere where simplification is called for. Suppliers complain that the government would rather juggle with subsidies than sustainably relieve competition of the oppressive bureaucracy. As a result, the expansion of the charging network is proceeding inefficiently instead of progressing quickly.

An example of this is the “Deutschlandnetz” funding program, from which Linda Boll benefits. It comes from 2021, when Angela Merkel was still in power. The idea was: The state just has to do a lot of buttering up, then providers will also install fast charging stations in the province. 1.9 billion euros in tax money were made available. Officials defined “search areas” for 1,000 locations and started a lottery process. In the end, it took almost two and a half years until the first “Deutschlandnetz” station was up and running, the one on the A 4 near Düren.

Kerstin Andreae, a former Green member of the Bundestag and now chairwoman of the Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), says soberly: “Government control, as is currently being sought with the German network, does not make the expansion of charging services faster, better or cheaper.”

A look at the Netherlands shows how things can work better. There are charging stations in almost every village. There is also a national pact there: in 2020, municipalities, provinces, central government, network operators and industrial and trade associations set up the “National Agenda for Infrastructure” (NAL). Unlike in Germany, it doesn’t waste tax money, but rather ensures building land and short administrative channels. Today there are statistically 5.1 electric cars per charging station in the Netherlands; in Germany it is 20.5.

There is a consensus among politicians that the German switch to electromobility will not be successful without a comprehensive charging infrastructure. But there are still too many holes. According to the DAT 2024 report, 38 percent of Germans shy away from buying an electric car for this reason. This is putting the German auto industry in trouble. It is currently experiencing a severe slump in sales of electric cars and could therefore fall behind worldwide.

No matter which charging provider you talk to, subsidies are not on any wish list. Everyone prefers a free market, willing municipalities, less paperwork. They also want technical relief, especially standards for transformers that fast-charging parks require. Today, each of the 866 German electricity network operators (there are six in the Netherlands) defines itself which components the transformer must have. This costs investors time, money and nerves.

The more favorable the market environment, the easier it is to run on its own, says association woman Andreae: “The market finds the best solutions. The companies, out of their own interest, set up the type of charging station at the locations that is attractive to customers. They want it ultimately operate economically.” Providers have already installed fast chargers on their own in more than half of all government-defined “Deutschlandnetz” search areas – because it’s worth it. Often together with supermarkets, furniture and hardware stores whose parking spaces they use.

And yet the billions in taxes will continue to flow. Whoever has drawn a lottery ticket for the “Germany network” has to build charging stations, that’s the deal. However, this can take a long time, as the federal government has not set any binding completion dates for the winners. According to Fastned manager Boll, whose company won two lots and thus 92 search spaces, the process is unlikely to be completed until 2027.

Meanwhile, the federal government is already working on the next market intervention. She wants to force every gas station to set up at least one fast charging station. Christian Küchen, general manager of the Fuels and Energy Association (En2x), who also represents gas station operators, makes it clear: “Mandating charging stations at gas stations would be purely symbolic politics.” The gas station companies have long been building the charging infrastructure where it makes sense: “Not just at gas stations, but also at supermarkets, on the side of the road, at home and at work,” says Küchen.

In fact, studies show that hardly any electric car user comes up with the idea of ​​driving to a gas station to charge. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing, FDP, does not dispute this: The draft bill for the new law is currently being voted on by departments, according to a spokeswoman.

In the Netherlands too, there are hardly any charging stations at traditional petrol stations. They even have separate areas at motorway service stations. Anyone who frequently travels to the neighboring country in an electric car will almost always find a free socket. In Germany, on the other hand, long queues often form in front of the petrol stations at rest stops, especially during travel times. 1,484 charging points on 13,200 kilometers of highway are far too few for a country in transit.

Especially since not all columns deliver top speed, which would keep loading times short. Only 809 charging points create 150 kilowatt hours (kW). If two cars hang on one column, the performance is usually halved. Then the electrons feel like they are trickling away. Fastned now only builds columns with 400 kW charging power, others are following suit. The “Deutschlandnetz” also requires 200 kW for funding.

The backlog could be quickly eliminated if the inventory was expanded. Only: The expansion of the charging network at motorway service stations is on hold. The former federal government is also responsible for this. In 2021 she gave the private company Tank

In June 2023, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court suspended the public procurement procedure and basically wants the question to be clarified by the European Court of Justice. Nobody expects that there will be legal clarity before mid-2025. And so no new charging station will be built at any German rest stop for at least another year. tank

Victor Perli, a member of the Bundestag for the Left and a rest stop specialist, considers the delay to be “a disaster with an announcement. The fact that the federal government is relying on the rest stops for better or for worse is taking revenge

Despite everything, Fastned manager Linda Boll doesn’t let anything take away from her good mood. Your company took part in another lottery process of the “Germany network”: 1000 fast charging points in 200 motorway parking spaces, where tank