All you need to know about AFIR

A man driving an EV on a road with windmills

What is AFIR, and why does it matter?

The European Parliament created the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation, or AFIR, to accelerate the transition towards alternative fuels.

AFIR, an integral part of the #fitfor55Package, focuses on decarbonising transport to bring Europe closer to its climate-neutral ambitions by 2050. The regulation states specific targets for all transport sectors: road, maritime, and air. We would only focs on road transport in this article.
AFIR, which was presented in July 2021, will now be implemented on April 13, 2024.

Road transport: Overview of the regulatory requirements

The European Parliament identified the uneven development of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in Europe in terms of road transport. This was combined with the absence of interoperability and common standards and practices among Member States, which led to an unreliable and unclear EV charging environment.

AFIR lays the foundations for the charging infrastructure for the eMobility industry. It includes a ban on the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2035 and various regulations to improve interoperability and payments.

The AFIR mandates that all public charging stations comply with the requirements related to pricing, payments, billing, interoperability, and third-party data sharing. Here are a few details about the regulation components:

Deployment of EV charging infrastructure

AFIR wants the EU Member States to fulfill two objectives: a distance-based target for Europe’s primary corridors, known as the Trans-European Transport (TEN-T) Network, and a target based on the size of the national EV fleet.

  • Cars, vans ahd heavy-duty vehicles: The regulation asks all the Member States to provide fast charging with a minimum capacity of 150 kW every 60 km along the TEN-T Network. Plus, it asks to install charge stations with at least 1.3 kW of charging capacity for every battery-electric light-duty vehicle (a car or van) and 0.8 kW for each plug-in hybrid EV. Heavy-duty vehicles: AFIR asks for charging stations with a minimum capacity of 350 kW to be installed every 60 km along the TEN-T network and every 100 km on the larger TEN-T comprehensive network starting in 2025, with full network coverage by 2030. It further states the need for charging hubs with a total power capacity of at least 400 kW and to include at least one charging point with an individual capacity of at least 150 kW.
  • Hydrogen refuelling: In addition, AFIR calls for hydrogen refuelling infrastructure to serve both cars and trucks to be deployed from 2030 onwards in all urban nodes and every 200 km along the core network.

Enabling ad hoc payments via debit or credit cards

The AFIR regulation calls for ease of payment for EV drivers who are not subscribed to a particular eMobility service provider or are roaming. The objective is to offer a smooth driving experience and ensure drivers can make payments via debit or credit card whenever they want. The regulation calls for the possibility of ad hoc payments at all charge stations via a payment terminal, in addition to the already available payment options EV drivers use.

A contactless reader is thus mandatory for all the new charge stations with a power output of 50 kW, installed starting April 14, 2024. And retrofitting must be done until 2027 for charge stations installed prior to this date. If a contactless reader cannot be installed (as in the case of AC charge stations), a QR code for an ad hoc payment method must be available.

Boosting price transparency

EV drivers have often wondered how much the EV charging session will cost. AFIR addresses this issue and makes sure drivers have access to accurate pricing information before they start the session.

  • For DC charge stations, pricing can be displayed via the payment terminal’s screen or the charge station screen, if the model is equipped with one.
  • For AC charge stations, pricing can be displayed via a QR code page, either through mobile apps or an ad hoc charging web page.

In addition, AFIR calls for non-discriminatory pricing. This means EV drivers would not need to pay additional fees for roaming abroad.

Furthermore, the price component needs to be presented with precise specifications to ensure drivers know exactly what they are paying for and can also compare tariffs. The pricing for EV charging has been based on different models so far, such as:

  • Time: For how long was the vehicle charged?
  • Energy: How much electricity was used during the session?
  • Fixed: a monthly subscription with a fixed price.
  • Hybrid: a combination of time- and energy-based pricing models.

A man paying with his card at a charge station

AFIR calls for the standardisation of pricing models. This means that for all the charging stations above 50 kW, the pricing will be energy based, i.e., kWh. For charging stations less than 50 kW, the price will first be stated per kWH, then per minute, followed by the price per charge or any other price component, if applicable.

The regulation also states that the CPOs can charge additional fees if EV owners block a parking space long after the charging is complete. However, this fee needs to be charged by the minute and must be clearly indicated.

Smart charging functionality

According to AFIR, ‘Operators of recharging points shall ensure that all publicly accessible recharging points operated by them and built after April 13, 2024, or renovated after October 14, 2024, are capable of smart recharging.’ The regulation calls for all charge stations to be digitally connected, share real-time data to validate payments, track energy consumption, and optimise the charging experience.

Smart charging automatically increases or decreases the charging of an EV to the optimal time, which leads to benefits for everyone. It is a way to optimise power distribution across a grid and leads to considerable savings for grid operators, CPOs, charge point owners, and EV drivers.
With smart charging enabled, not only are EV drivers well informed and empowered, but it shifts the loads from expensive peak times to lower price periods, which results in lower costs for everyone.

Interoperability and open data

AFIR calls for operators of public charging stations to provide static and dynamic data about their stations for free. This requirement will come into force a year later, on April 14, 2025. The real-time data availability will make the lives of EV drivers easier, as they will be able to navigate and compare prices.

A car moving in the middle of a forest

  • Dynamic data includes details such as whether a charge station is operational or not, available, or not, ad hoc price, and source of energy.
  • Static data includes information such as location and opening hours, number of plugs, charging power, number of disabled parking spaces, etc.

Furthermore, AFIR also calls for collaboration on charging infrastructure among Member States to enhance cross-border mobility for EV drivers. By digitally connecting to the e-mobility ecosystem, EV drivers will be able to easily travel from one country to another in their EV.

To make interoperability a reality for open data, each operator of a public charge station will have to set up an Application Programme Interface (API) that would provide free and unrestricted access to static and dynamic data.

This data would also be used by the relevant stakeholders to better plan distribution network expansion. For instance, the grid operators will consider the EV charging plans, consult CPOs for grid expansion, and state the potential flexibility of smart charging and V2G to operate the existing grids more efficiently.

Better accessibility for people with reduced mobility

AFIR calls for accessible charging infrastructure. This means the infrastructure must be comfortable for older people, and for people with reduced mobility and disabilities. This means an operator would have to make sure there is sufficient space around the parking areas, charge station cables are easy to manage, and they have an emergency button, among other things.

Harmonised EV charging experience

Overall, AFIR highlights that electricity, and in turn, eMobility, is one of the most flexible alternative fuels that would not just offer a smooth experience for EV drivers but can be used for managing grids, supporting energy systems, and fighting decarbonisation all at the same time. The AFIR helps ensure a harmonised EV charging infrastructure in the European market, thereby making sustainable mobility for all an actual reality.