Going electric

As electric vehicles become more popular, charging stations are increasingly popping up everywhere. This has been enabled due to changes in the law as well as the raised awareness of ESG issues. Will real estate players be able to keep up with new legislation and the soaring demand when it comes to providing new stations?

At the end of 2022, more than 64,700 electric vehicles had been registered in Poland. According to figures from The Polish Automotive Industry Association (PZPM) and the Polish Alternative Fuels Association (PSPA), this total represents a growth of 33 pct y-o-y. However, according to Grigoriy Grigoriev, the general director of Power Dot for Poland and the CEE region, compared to the total of around 20 mln registered vehicles, this doesn’t appear to be a very large proportion, but: “The growth in the number of electric vehicles has now taken off and legislation is supporting the increase in electromobility. We already know that from 2035 the registration of petrol-driven vehicles in the EU is to be outlawed, but in the shorter term, this trend is being supported by, for instance, the concept of ESG,” he explains, and goes on to state that by 2025 every second vehicle operated by the Polish public sector is to be zero-emission, while for local government this figure is to be as high as 30 pct. The increasing number of electric vehicles and new legislation have prompted more real estate owners and managers to take a serious look into the electromobility technology available. Grzegorz Pióro, the technical development manager at SPIE Building Solutions, notes that according to the amendment to the electromobility and alternative fuels act passed by the Sejm (the Polish lower chamber of parliament), and particularly article 26, which comes into force on January 1st 2025, at least one electrical charging point must be installed together with cable routing equipment for each non-residential building with more than 20 parking spaces that is not owned by a small or medium-sized enterprise. This requirement will be equally applicable to office buildings, hotels, hospitals, retail and service centres, cultural venues as well as industrial and warehouse facilities. He also points out that the electromobility legislation will also eventually apply to residential properties and that the EU has already stipulated specific requirements for them. In effect, every newly constructed or recently modernised residential building with more than ten parking spaces must have the cabling for charging station to be installed. Moreover, their car parks should include at least one charging station and it should be possible to install charging stations in every parking space. “But it has not been established when these regulations are to come into force in Poland,” adds Grzegorz Pióro.

Too few charging points

According to the E-Mobility Index cited by SPIE, more than 600 new public charging stations were installed in Poland in 2022. As a result, at the end of December 2,565 were in operation (including a total of 5,016 chargers), representing a 40 pct increase y-o-y. This is much more than in previous years. Grzegorz Pióro admits, nonetheless, that a widening chasm exists between the number of charging stations and the number of electric vehicles. Three years ago, for each publicly available outlet there were 7.4 vehicles, but by the end of 2022 that figure had increased to 12.8. These are some of the worst figures in the EU. In order to meet the goals set by the EU’s Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive, the combined capacity of the charging station network has to undergo a fivefold expansion over the next three years. Unfortunately, says Grigoriy Grigoriev, knowledge is still lacking the particular requirements, the procedures, the costs and of the operations in this field. “We surveyed 1,044 retail centres, including both malls and retail parks, across Poland and it turns out that only 20 pct of them currently have charging stations, while the remaining 80 pct barely have 20 months to meet the requirements and that is very little time,” he stresses, and predicts that the operators of distribution systems are going to be inundated with connection requests. “We are seeing many companies that are currently in the middle of developing their projects going into panic mode. This is because many investors have failed to notice the regulations that have been in force for over a year for facilities currently under construction and, as a result, local authorities have not issued building permits in time and projects are being delayed,” he explains.

What, where, how?

It should be pointed out that the responsibility for installing charging points rests on the owner of the building and not on its tenants, so the situations faced by shopping centres and retail parks and that faced by supermarkets are somewhat different, depending on who owns the property. The challenges are also very different for office owners, sports centres, cultural facilities, schools and hospitals. Grigoriy Grigoriev believes that some owners will probably limit themselves to doing the bare minimum to abide by the law, and so they will install normal 3.7 kW chargers. “It takes a vehicle around 12 to 24 hours to charge up, so such a system might be alright at home, but not for a public place, after all, in an hour you’re only going to charge a car battery by a few percentage points,” he points out. Real estate managers and owners should, therefore, decide as quickly as possible what kind of system they want to install as well as their business model for providing car charging services. “You can do this yourself by being both the investor and the operator of a network of charging stations – some large groups have such know-how and financial resources – or you can entrust this task to a specialist company,” urges Grigoriy Grigoriev.

Buying up green stations

Looking at the market data, you might come away with the impression that new facilities (whether they are warehouses, offices, retail centres or whatever) rarely come without electric vehicle charging points or the facilities for them. You could therefore hazard the guess that the real estate market has been reacting to the demand, the regulations and implementing ESG strategies – which are becoming increasingly important and for which electromobility is an important factor. Charging stations are also emerging as a new and enticing asset class that is arousing the interest of investors. Indeed, the first large transaction has already taken place, with Budimex Mobility having acquired a package of 109 charging stations across four cities in Poland. These stations, which were sold by Enea Operator, are located in Szczecin, Poznań, Bydgoszcz and Gorzów Wielkopolski. “Budimex Mobility has been pursuing the Budimex group’s strategy since the end of 2021. We intend to design, build and maintain public vehicle charging stations as an operator in accordance with Polish law as part of our organic growth. Nevertheless, we will try to seize the opportunities that arise to buy completed projects already available on the market,” explains Jakub Długoszek, the construction director at Budimex.

It is also worth recognising the potential use of charging stations as outdoor advertisement points. PureCity has already launched the first two such charging stations. “This concept is an excellent fit for the smart city concept,” declares Wojciech Bieńkowski, the CEO of Pure City, who maintains that his company’s charging stations are not only places for recharging electric vehicles, but also education and information points for city residents. “As well as advertisers’ messages on our screens, you will also see educational content about climate change or improving communication between cities and their citizens,” he explains.

What next?

Jakub Długoszek of Budimex points out that charging stations are still not installed as standard in new buildings. “We estimate that new equipment is generally tending to appear only on the initiative of an operator or an installer, rather than as part of any carefully considered strategy of the developer. Nevertheless, we expect that over the next few years this trend will turn to the advantage of those who drive electric vehicles,” he enthuses. Grigoriy Grigoriev of Power Dot feels that we shouldn’t regard the legal requirements for installing electric vehicle power points as if this were a burdensome requirement. Above all, this is an opportunity to improve the natural environment and an important means to attract new customers (and thus added revenue). “Whoever doesn’t jump on this bandwagon is going to be left behind,” he concludes.