Italy Goes Electric

The secret of fast growth in a growing market? The right partnership.

Italians love cars. They’re learning to love electric cars.

With a population of 60 million, and 40 million cars powered by internal combustion engines, Italy has one of the highest per capita car ownership rates in Europe, yet there are only 40,000 electric vehicles registered in the country.

But Italians are beginning to enthusiastically embrace EVs, says Paolo Martini, CEO of Be Charge, Italy’s largest independent EV charging company. “In January of 2020, the number of EVs registered in market broke the two-percent wall. That’s more than 3,000 cars in a single month and a clear message about growth to come.”

The legendary Italian sports cars – Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo – are all either manufacturing EVs or have added them to their product road maps. Italy’s federal government is offering 6,000 euros to any citizen who’ll go electric, and the country’s 21 regions offer additional incentives up to 8,000 euros. “Perhaps 14,000 euros isn’t a major incentive to buy a Tesla,” says Martini, “but for the mass market it will have huge impact.”

Matching the pace

Martini believes the two most credible market scenarios are two million EVs registered by 2025, and nine million by 2030. And where there are electric vehicles there must be chargers.

Be Charge, though it currently operates only 1,200 charging points in Italy, is adding them at the rate of 200 per month. By 2025, it plans to operate 15,000 stations, or 30,000 charging points.

“We’ll move as fast as the EV market can carry us,” says Martini. “We’ll be present from the north to the south, in both urban and rural areas, serving both city- and long-range cars.”

Experience, responsiveness, technology

To ensure its charging network can grow at a pace to match EVs, Be Charge has partnered with Ensto. Martini says there were three reasons for doing so. “First, Northern Europe is one of the most advanced parts of Europe in terms of e-mobility, and Ensto is a leader there. Second, in terms of company size, Ensto is quite close to Italian companies. It’s family owned and fast to react.”

“We had discussions with large companies that had good products,” says Martini, “but they were often slow in their processes. Our market is growing fast, and to compete we need fast interaction with our counterpart. With Ensto it’s a partnership, not a supplier-customer relationship.”

Martini says the third reason is technology. Alberto Botteri, Ensto Italy’s Sales Manager for OEM and EV charging, lists the advantages: "Our product is metal plate. Most of our competitors’ products are plastic. We can follow the customer 360 degrees, customizing graphic details. Our product is like Legos: add pieces to get a different product. We can use sockets that competitors can't install. We've added a special meter for the client."

Botteri also notes that Ensto has implemented ISO 15118 in its chargers, the standard to regulate plug-and-charge which will eventually permit cars to be recognized in a charging network without RFID cards. Ensto chargers also enable vehicle-to-grid (V2G) transfers and come pre-commissioned to Be Charge's backend system.

‘A new industrial revolution’

Be Charge’s Martini is astounded by the change taking place before his eyes. “What really surprises me is that electric cars are being advertised on prime time television in Italy – the most expensive slot of the day. This is a sign of real commitment of the industry to move from internal combustion to EVs.”

“We’re witnessing a new industrial revolution in the automotive industry,” he says, and he views it as validation of Be Charge’s investment in infrastructure. “I have a good feeling about this.”


Pictures: Be Charge