Driving Sustainability: European SMEs and Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Infrastructure

European Investment Fund (EIF)
8 min readJan 11, 2024
Electric vehicles, EV infrastructure, SMEs, EU, charging stations, European Union

In the rapidly evolving landscape of sustainable transportation, electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as the driving force behind a cleaner, greener future. As we collectively shift gears towards reducing carbon emissions and embracing eco-friendly alternatives to the internal combustion engine, the role of electric vehicles — and the European SMEs creating the infrastructure to power them — will assume even greater importance in the years to come.

Electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure needed to make them hum quietly along our motorways and city streets enjoy something of a symbiotic relationship. In order to support the growing number of electric vehicles on European roads, there needs to be a well-developed and accessible EV charging infrastructure, and various factors have come to define this relationship.

Range anxiety, for example, is a common concern among actual and potential EV owners, who worry about the availability of charging stations, particularly during longer journeys. Alleviating such concerns among European drivers, who cover much shorter distances than counterparts in other parts of the world, such as in the United States, will alleviate such concerns and encourage broader EV adoption.

However, other factors require more than a mere shift in consumer perceptions. Having diverse charging options or integrating EV charging infrastructure into smart grids will require public-private partnerships. Only through purposeful collaborations between governments and private companies will a comprehensive and well-connected charging network in Europe meet the mobility needs of the twenty-first century.

Laying the Groundwork for Europe’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

The electrification of transportation requires the seamless integration of vehicles into a reliable, affordable and easy-to-use infrastructure for public and private use. In the coming years, we will likely see a shift in emphasis from owning multiple cars for private use to the adoption of sustainable mobility practices, which will include the expansion of car-sharing initiatives, more seamless public transportation integration and even alternative mobility solutions.

Several key components and factors are essential to the overall success of this transformation, including affordable electric vehicles — whether battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles — a robust network of charging stations, advances in battery technology, the integration of renewable energy into the grid, government policies and incentives, greater public awareness, and continued technological developments.

The transition to EVs also fosters innovation across sectors and industries, promoting job creation and economic growth. European SMEs have already demonstrated their leadership in terms of research and development, manufacturing, and infrastructure deployment, and this trend will continue as EV adoption scales.

EV Infrastructure, Energy Security and EU Decarbonisation Targets

This transition is also essential for meeting the European Union’s goals for decarbonisation and energy security. EVs produce fewer, if any, tailpipe emissions, particularly if they are charged with renewable sources of energy, helping to mitigate the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

Crucially, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels will help us achieve the EU’s climate targets, such as an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (i.e., climate neutrality) by 2050. This objective is at the heart of the European Green Deal, and it is in line with the EU’s commitment to global climate action under the Paris Agreement.

It is by no means a stretch, then, to say that the expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure, continued investments in research and development, and consumer incentives will all contribute to the overall success of achieving both the EU’s energy security and decarbonisation goals.

Material Sourcing and Recycling: EV Lithium-Ion Batteries and Sustainability

Batteries, EU, European Parliament, lithium-ion batteries, portable batteries, automotive batteries
Source: European Parliament

The commercialisation of lithium-ion batteries in portable applications emerged approximately three decades ago, although the rechargeable battery itself dates to the second half of the nineteenth century. Today, rechargeable devices power virtually every aspect of our lives. From mobile phones, laptops, tablets, watches, bicycles and scooters to power tools, toys, toothbrushes and, increasingly, vehicles, lithium-ion rechargeable batteries literally power our world.

However, despite their ubiquity, the materials behind the magic, among them lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, are finite. And cobalt comes with additional concerns related to human rights and child labour. If we are to create a truly circular economy, one that obviates the ethical and environmental downsides of current mining practices, then a significant part of our ongoing commitment to sustainability will pivot around recapturing and recycling these elements rather than further mining.

As Europe continues to develop its battery recycling policies for the coming decades, a core portion of which has been detailed already in the EU’s new Batteries Regulation (July 2023), one may reasonably question whether other less apparent opportunities for achieving our sustainability goals vis-à-vis lithium-ion batteries and the electric vehicle sector have been overlooked. As nice as it would be to have one, there is no one-size-fits-all solution; rather, a multi-pronged approach is needed.

Innovative Charging Solutions: Battery Management System (BMS)

As its name suggests, a battery management system (BMS) is a system that monitors and manages a rechargeable battery (either a single battery or a battery pack), ensuring the battery’s safe operation, optimal performance, and prolonged life. The structure of lithium-ion batteries centres around three essential parts, namely the battery cells, battery modules, and the battery pack.

Since a battery pack contains numerous battery modules, which in turn are comprised of many individual battery cells, the performance of each battery cell can be difficult to manage because the cells tend to charge and discharge at different rates.

In addition, conditions such as current, voltage, and temperature will vary across individual cells, making an overarching electronic control system — or battery management system — necessary. Based on this information (i.e., current, voltage, and temperature), the BMS monitors (and can necessarily adjust) the state of charge (SOC), state of health (SOH), thermal management, and power optimisation parameters.

Aachen’s Accure and the Power of Predictive Battery Analytics Software

Data may be king, but you need to know how to interpret it — assuming, of course, that the data is accessible and indeed of sufficient quality. Battery management systems generate a tremendous amount of data, but the information contained within a simple microchip can often be inaccessible. The issue necessarily begs the question: what if there was a simple way to access and then extract that data in order to optimise lithium-ion batteries over the course of their approximate decade-long lifespan?

Aachen’s Accure aims to transform battery data into business intelligence through its innovative Battery Intelligence cloud platform, which can process thousands of complex data points and translate that information, providing useable insights in terms of battery safety, performance, and longevity. Harnessing data from a range of sources (e.g., field data, data sheets, lab tests, and warranty conditions), Accure offers off-the-shelf as well as bespoke battery analytics solutions.

The company’s battery analytics software focuses on three primary areas: safety monitoring, performance management, and maximising longevity. Rather than a strict focus on EV vehicles, Accure provides safety monitoring for a range of applications, including public transport, e-scooters, and e-bikes as well as grid, wind, solar and home energy storage, using physics-based models and statistical approaches that exceed the capabilities of a typical battery management systems.

Plugged In: The Growing Importance of EV Charging Software

Windows or iOS — the choice can have severe social consequences depending on one’s answer (obviously, Linux is the hands-down winner). All joking aside, whilst the issue of lithium-ion batteries receives the lion’s share of attention, the critical role of the operating system powering EV charging solutions can at times seem like an afterthought (unless, of course, it breaks down or proves to be too unwieldy to use).

Similar to the battery management system of a rechargeable battery, the operating software of chargers (particularly fast chargers) is akin to the brain of the EV charging infrastructure. As anyone who has ever used or owned an electric vehicle can attest, the charging software can make or break the experience: clunky software becomes tedious to use, while an intuitive interface results in greater ease, convenience, and accessibility.

The software also plays an important role in power management, ensuring optimal and reliable power delivery, which has significant implications for the charger (e.g., fault detection), power grid (through things like load balancing across a network of chargers), and the vehicle being recharged (facilitating payment transactions, among other things).

Munich’s EcoG and Integrated EV Charging with the Grid

As Europe’s electricity transition accelerates, the continent’s SMEs are tackling a number of pressing challenges in terms of scaling electric vehicle use. Governments and energy companies, for example, worry about whether there will be enough capacity to meet peak power demands resulting from an exponential growth of EVs in the coming years, while drivers themselves can often suffer from range anxiety — or the fear of being unable to recharge their vehicle due to a lack of charging infrastructure on longer journeys. And then there is the issue of the amount of time it takes to charge and go, with many concerned about inordinate delays due to lengthy charging times.

Founded in 2017, Munich’s EcoG has established itself as a leading manufacturer of operating systems for the EV charging industry, and their EV integrated charging solutions are helping to make Europe’s e-mobility transition even greener. Driven by an overarching goal of creating sustainable, fast-charging EV infrastructure, the company offers solutions for EV charger manufacturers (e.g., charging station development, manufacturing, and maintenance), operators (e.g., a centralised EcoG IoT platform), and integrators (e.g., charging apps). In addition, EcoG continue to streamline the process of developing DC charging stations quickly and efficiently for charging station manufacturers.

The Future of Mobility Is Small, Green and Electrically Charged

For all of the benefits of EVs and the infrastructure to support them, the careful calibration of lithium-ion battery management systems coupled with the growing sophistication of EV charging infrastructure are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg, which, incidentally, continues to melt at an alarming rate. Obstacles to EV charging implementation still remain, and government support for electric vehicles and subsidies for charging infrastructure will need to be front and centre in policy discussions on electric vehicle adoption.

If Europe wants to realise the complete spectrum of environmental benefits from electrification, then it is absolutely crucial to foster a climate of innovation, one backed by financial instruments designed to support early-, mid-, and late-stage European small and medium-sized enterprises. For their part, European SMEs will continue to play a vital role in creating truly transformative green infrastructure for the current and future crop of electric vehicles.

Crucially, electric vehicles are only as energy efficient as the infrastructure used to charge them. Whilst advances to EV battery technology will continue to drive improvements vis-à-vis range, density, and longevity, the corresponding infrastructure, to say nothing of more eco-friendly business practices (e.g., sustainable fleet management), will need to be updated and optimised in order to harness the full potential of green technology, as we continue along our journey to achieving carbon-neutral transportation.



European Investment Fund (EIF)

Europe's leading provider of risk financing for SMEs. Cornerstone investor in VC and PE funds. Making debt financing more affordable for entrepreneurs. @EIF_EU