If you’ve spent time in Italy, you may already be familiar with Autostrade per l’Italia (ASPI). It’s an Italian company that creates and maintains the country’s roadway infrastructure. That includes the roadways themselves, in addition to service areas, electronic signs you may see along the way, and the cameras as well. It’s the parent company to a number of smaller motorway companies that manage specific areas within Italy.
In various incarnations, ASPI has also been responsible for developing tollways outside of Italy as well. Examples include a design for the U.K. that began in 1992 and started operating in 2003, as well as the Dulles Greenway tollway in the U.S. state of Virginia in 1995. Although it’s changed and evolved over time, the seeds of the company go back to 1950, and Italy’s post-war reconstruction period.
Long story short, this is a company that knows a thing or two about transition. Thus, the news that it’s formed a new subsidiary dedicated to building out Italy’s electric vehicle infrastructure makes total sense. It’s called Free To X, and the plan is to build out 100 separate ultra-fast EV charging stations across Italian motorways, with no more than 50 kilometers (just over 31 miles) of distance between them.
How fast is “ultra-fast”? For EVs that can handle the Free to X network, each 300kW station should provide average charge times of 15 to 20 minutes, according to ASPI. Each station will include between four and six multi-client columns, each set to provide rapid charging to EVs. The 50-km goal between stations is meant to echo the average distance between gasoline stations on motorways in Europe. If all goes to plan, the idea is to put range anxiety to rest for electric motorbike and car owners in Italy.
In June, 2021, the Italian government announced that it would roll out its fully-formed electric vehicle infrastructure plan in Q4 of 2021. Presumably, this ASPI plan will be a slice of the larger picture. Motus-E, the Italian electric mobility association, estimates that around 41,000 EVs were sold in Italy in the first quarter of 2021. For the first time ever, it reported that EV and hybrid vehicle registrations in the nation surpassed those of combustion cars.
Free to X plans to do more than just build out EV infrastructure, and will eventually offer connectivity services to customers for more environmentally friendly means of transport. Carpooling, ride-sharing, and personal logistics monitoring (such as traffic flows) are also part of the company’s larger service goals, as well.
It sounds good, but how soon can it happen? As soon as the end of 2022, Free to X believes it can have at least 30 of these columns installed. Should it succeed, Free to X company director Giorgio Morono told Moto.IT, traveling from one end of the country to the other in an electric vehicle using only this network should be completely possible.
We’ll be interested to see how this all pans out, and we’re sure we won’t be the only ones. As countries around the world come up with various strategies to encourage EV use, learning from those who make that shift more quickly will be an essential part of the process.
Sources: Autostrade per l'Italia, Free to X, Moto.IT