Market Spotlight: IONITY in France
IONITY is currently experiencing a big wave of new charging stations opening up in France. Despite his busy schedule, Country Manager Brieuc de Tonquedec made time for an interview.
The rapid advancements in e-mobility motivate Brieuc every day. As an expert in the field of infrastructure, he tells us about the current development in the country and about one of Europe's most popular travel routes, the "Autoroute du Soleil" ("Sunshine Highway").
Brieuc, what brought you to IONITY? Can you tell us something about your background?
I have always been passionate about the energy transition. After completing my engineering studies, I worked in the Tesla Supercharger team as an intern. Providing a charging infrastructure across Europe for all car brands, and basically for everyone, motivated me to start at IONITY four years ago.
What do you enjoy about working at IONITY?
My main driver is making it possible for people in Europe to travel long distances efficiently and quickly. Building the necessary infrastructure for that is very rewarding. I also like cross-border organizations. Before I became Country Manager last year, I worked as a Rollout Manager for building charging stations in France, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. I strongly believe that people will not transition to electric vehicles unless they are as easy to use as traditional fuel cars. That's why IONITY's consistent customer experience across all countries is so crucial.
Brieuc de Tonquedec
Country Manager France
What is the current development state in France?
In France, electrification is really gaining momentum now. In recent years, other countries have been ahead of us. This is probably because we French people typically invest less money in our cars, and EVs have been very expensive for a long time. However, as these cars are becoming more affordable and the infrastructure allows you to go long distances, EV sales are skyrocketing now. With 123 operating stations and an additional 14 under construction, we are opening one station after another to match the tendency of the market. Additionally, we are no longer located exclusively on the left and right sides of the highways, but we are also moving closer to the cities. There, we're seeking the perfect spots between high traffic areas and service areas, including closer to retail sites and supermarkets.
What are some of the biggest challenges IONITY is facing in France?
The exponentiality of the demand is currently our biggest challenge. On the one hand, we want to provide the best charging locations for our customers with adequate services. On the other hand, we want to open new stations as quickly as possible. We have therefore worked on shortening the time between looking for a site and starting the building process. Thanks to these new processes, we have reduced the overall procedure, including the High Voltage grid connection, to nine months and sometimes six in the best locations.
What are the advantages of expanding in France?
The French market is highly centralised, which allowed us to standardise our permits and connection to the electricity grid. Our administrative processes are therefore industrialised and the same all over the country. While the process itself is as complex as in other countries, these optimisations help us roll out many sites in parallel. For example, permit requirements depend on each town in other countries, but in France, they are the same everywhere.
What motivates you?
The pragmatic aspect of it. From 2021 to 2022, we multiplied the number of charging sessions in our French network by three. And I can see the impact. A few years ago, you hardly ever met anyone at the stations. But now, when I drive up to an IONITY station, I always meet an EV driver charging. Personally, it makes me very happy to see how well EVs have been accepted and how IONITY is supporting this growth. Besides, the long-term vision of IONITY is a real game changer. When I started at IONITY, it seemed crazy to install 350kW charging stations when the most powerful cars on the roads could only utilise 120kW. Only now, 4 years later, I come across cars accepting 270kW several times a day, and these cars can charge at the stations we installed back then. We predicted this growth and built infrastructure to match future requirements.
How do you foresee the growth of IONITY in the coming years?
I believe property acquisition will become increasingly important for IONITY. We are now starting construction of new charging stations on our own properties, and these stations will generate traffic around them. Therefore, the synergies between adjacent services work both ways. For example, in Val de Reuil, we opened a station near restaurants mainly visited by workers and locals. After we opened a charging station there, restaurants saw a significant surge in the number of customers. Vice versa, these restaurants are also increasing the attractiveness of the IONITY station.
France is popular among tourists – and not only due to its good cuisine. Have you already noticed an increase in EV travelling?
Definitely. We see many tourists using our charging stations during July and August. They are familiar with the IONITY brand and use our charging stations located on specific highways, mostly from the north to the Mediterranean Sea, such as the "Autoroute du Soleil" ("Sunshine Highway"). The name comes from the fact that people from the north of France, and the north of Europe, traditionally use this route to travel to the south of France for their summer holidays. Of course, we are preparing for the increased holiday traffic. Our two charging stations near Mornas, which recently opened, are among the largest for tourists to charge.
Name: Brieuc de Tonquedec
Title: Country Manager France
Started to work for IONITY: January 2019
Main interests: Energy transition, Music, Playing the drums
How would you describe your work to a five-year-old? Making sure you and your parents arrive at your holiday destination the fastest.