Carmakers and policymakers in Europe are staking their futures on a race to electric vehicles. But the vast charging network needed to sustain their vision is patchy, and it’s not clear who’ll pay for it. The central German city of Ruesselsheim, home to carmaker Opel, wants to build 1,300 electric car charging points by 2020, plans that would make it a frontrunner on the continent. It has advantages enjoyed by few in Europe, including a powerful local car industry player and wealthy national economy. In Germany itself the city has an edge, having won a government grant of 12.8 million euros ($14.4 million) to fund the rollout.Yet, even here, red tape, shortages of qualified staff and the requisite hardware are likely to delay the installation by around two years, local officials told Reuters. The project will also need more money, said the officials who are running up against the complexity of civil engineering, potential power grid overloads and unwieldy payment processes, illustrating some of the difficulties facing cities and nations across Europe.“We are not doing this for profit,” said Marianne Floersheimer, Ruesselsheim council’s mobility chief. “But we cannot afford to top up the government money.” The number of electric cars on German roads grew fivefold between 2015 and 2018, and have risen strongly across Europe. However the growth in electric cars is outpacing the charging infrastructure.The ratio of electric cars to each charging point in Europe deteriorated to 7.0 from 6.1 in the same period, consultants AlixPartners found, although Europe is still better equipped than the United States at 19.7 per car, and China’s 7.6.Some analysts say a lag in infrastructure could drag on sales as customers hold off until electric becomes a convenient option.Any logjam could prove a problem for carmakers which, faced with emissions penalties, are pumping tens of billions of euros into electric technology in an industry-wide charge. German champion Volkswagen, for example, aims for electric vehicles to account for about a quarter of its sales by 2025.Obstacles to electrification could also strain the European Union’s plan to become “carbon neutral” by 2050 to combat climate change. A quarter of climate-harming emissions come from transport and, within that, most from passenger cars.However some campaigners, including Transport & Environment, a group that promotes clean transport, say good progress is being made in rolling out charging points in many countries of western and northern Europe, although central and eastern Europe are further behind.They say limited infrastructure is not having a significant effect on Europe’s electric car sales, which still represent a fraction of the vehicle market, and the ratio of cars to points is within the EU recommendation of 10. Given most charging will be done at home, they add, a lack of off-street parking in some areas could deter drivers from switching to electric.‘No Overload’Like other German cities, Ruesselsheim is under pressure to roll out charging stations as environmental activists have started suing those municipalities that fail to comply with EU-wide rules for nitrogen dioxide emissions.With just 67,000 people, it has only a few charging points at the moment, some way behind the likes of wealthy and populous Hamburg on about 880 and Berlin with some 780.It is however aiming to provide one charging point per 72 people, the highest level in Europe, with the help of carmaker Opel, which will build around half of the points, plus the technical know-how of the local RheinMain University. Opel is owned by France’s PSA Group.Ruesselsheim’s electric plan won one of the highest grants under the German transport ministry’s clean air program. But local officials described some of the complications in implementation.The installation of every charging point needs to be agreed with authorities such as those in charge of water, monument protection and civil engineering, for example. Charging equipment makers, meanwhile, have long lead times.“We are chasing the same charging points, employees and supply technology as all the other cities,” said city spokesman Asswin Zabel.Hooking up inner-city charging points on low voltage lines will be relatively easy although some local people may object, said Matthias Schweitzer, head of technology at the local utility, Stadtwerke Ruesselsheim.But laying 2 km of medium voltage lines and ordering new transformer substations could take up to nine months, he said.