Even if you are a ‘Clarkson’ type petrol head, the days of the roaring V8 are over. Governments have made their minds up, and for good reason. Going to electric powered motoring is going to go a long way to reducing pollution, especially in cities.

As someone who finds this very interesting, I have researched the subject to see what the pros and cons are. From everything I have read, it seems to me that the Hybrid isn’t really the answer. It deals with ‘range fear’ but it still has a petrol engine, and the electric only range is very limited. It seems to me that if you are going to get all the advantages it’s got to be 100 percent electric powered. That’s where some of the challenges come in.

Where to charge?

If you live in a villa or similar you can connect up to a domestic power point every evening, and in the morning, you are ready to go, with probably at least 300 or even 400 kilometres of range. The cost of ‘filling’ the car from your domestic supply works out at around €5 to €10, especially of you use off-peak power. That’s a massive saving on petrol or diesel. This is clearly the best option if you are considering an electric vehicle (EV). By and large you can have little or no dependence on public charge points. Great if you have your own garage or drive, but what about if you live in an apartment block?

You can’t exactly drop an extension cable out of your window down to ground level, and the chances are that you can’t park right outside your block anyway. According to the law, if all your neighbours agree, you can have a charging point installed outside your block. Unless most of your neighbours have electric cars, getting their agreement to spend money on this installation might be ‘challenging’. If there are two or three electric cars in your block, who gets to use the charging point first? You can also be fairly sure that once plugged in, when the first electric car owner arrives home, it won’t be unplugged until the morning when they leave for work.

New apartment blocks are obliged by law to install a charging point outside for residents to use. A new apartment complex in Lagoa by the bus station has indeed installed two charging points on the roadside. But apart from being aimed at the use of residents, they can also be used by any passer-by. There must be 50 plus apartments and sometime soon, at least a few of them are going to go all electric. In fairness I often drive by and have never seem either charging point in use.

One of the leading motor journalist, Gustavo Henrique Ruffo, who specialises in electric cars has published some very informed articles. In one of his recent articles based on his experience around Lisbon, he says “So far, the conclusion is that it is not easy to be an EV owner in Portugal.” Why does he say that?

In use or out of service

He reported after a trip to Lisbon “I was sure there would be loads of charging points there. Most of them were busy. The ones that were not were broken.” He went on to report, “In a shopping centre, I found a free spot, but a BMW 330e owner took it first. After he parked his car, he left as if it was a reserved spot for EVs, simply put. The charging cable stood there, uselessly hanging while the Outlander PHEV I was driving could really use some more electrons”. Dare I suggest that EV drivers can be a little selfish and treat charging points as reserved parking for them.

Then we get to the subject of paying. The entity responsible for all electric charging stations is MOBI.E, S.A. It’s a public company that has been acting, since 2015, as the Electric Mobility Network Managing Entity (EGME), assuming responsibility for the management and monitoring of the electric charging stations network. Although they list about 20 companies who operate the various charging points, it seems that they all accept each others payment methods.

Public charging network seriously lacking

That’s just as well as one of the main issues seems to be a distinct lack of charging stations. In Lagoa, where The Portugal News is based, there are three charging points. One in the local supermarket, one near the bus station and one in a nearby low cost fuel station. On the A22 between Lagos and Faro there is just one fuel station with a charging point, (the one near Loulé). Trying to find out what you will pay is very difficult, and that’s putting it mildly. Perhaps you could tell me what you have to pay? Is one supplier less expensive than others? Even the CIA couldn’t keep these facts more secret.

Then we have to consider the lifespan of the battery pack in your 100 percent EV car. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) are addressing another potential reason for prospective buyers of electric cars to hold back, battery life. Bear in mind that a replacement battery pack currently costs in the region of €30,000 for the Nissan Leaf and €23,335.53 for the Peugeot iOn. I have been unable to verify these prices, it’s something the manufacturers don’t like to talk about. The CARB goal is that new electric cars have battery packs that retain at least 80 percent of their range for 15 years or 150,000 miles. They want that adopted by 2026. Where California leads, hopefully Europe will follow, I did say hopefully.

EV’s have a future, but also a lot of challenges

Clearly EV’s are the future, but there are still many challenges to be met. If you can charge at home, that’s a major advantage, both in terms of cost and convenience. The public charging network is far behind the needs of travellers who can’t charge overnight at home. Until there is a far superior charging network, EV’s may not be practical for a few years yet. It’s the legendry ‘Chicken and Egg’ problem. Which comes first, the charging network or more EV’s who want to use them. Who is responsible to build an extensive network? Don’t look at the fuel stations, they stand to make major losses on fuel sales. Don’t look at the government, think how much they are going to lose on fuel duty. EV’s are here to stay, but think carefully before you take the plunge.

You can find an up to date map with all the public charging points here, https://www.mobie.pt/en/redemobie/procurar-posto


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman