Offer hotels to charge electric cars

When Elisabeth Weidenbrück had her charging station installed three and a half years ago, her electrician was skeptical. And not just him. "A lot of people smiled at me," says the 40-year-old entrepreneur who runs the "Landidyll Hotel Weidenbrück" in Swisttal near Bonn. Back then, hardly anyone could imagine that electric cars would experience a boom in the near future. But Weidenbrück was not deterred. "I like to be at the forefront," says the hotel owner, who also otherwise focuses on sustainability. "Our vegetables come from the region and some of the electricity comes from our own combined heat and power plant."

Today nobody laughs at your idea anymore - at most the guests who are happy about the available charging places. "We are on the A61 and therefore exactly in the corridor between the Netherlands and southern Germany," explains Weidenbrück. Since electromobility is already much more widespread in Niederladen than in Germany, many guests gratefully took up the charging option. "Our parking spaces are well occupied and are used almost every night," says Weidenbrück, who offers its guests 39 rooms and three charging boxes: two for Tesla drivers, one with a regular type 2 connection. Sometimes the demand is even higher than the supply. "The guests have to change their connections after a few hours," says Weidenbrück. But that works surprisingly well - e-mobilists are a very good-natured target group.

What works well in the family-run hotel is a long time coming elsewhere. Electric cars are currently experiencing a real boom due to various funding programs. In 2020, a total of 194,000 pure electric cars were registered, tripling compared to the previous year. The other half of the Stromer, i.e. the plug-in hybrids, should also be charged as often as possible in order to improve the ecological balance. The demand for the e-models will continue to grow in three digits this year. But while charging at home is usually problem-free, electric car owners have to embark on a laborious search before traveling: Where is there a charging station at the destination? Is it compatible with your own charging card or app? How expensive is it to charge your own car there?

It would be more practical to simply park the car in the hotel parking lot, as you do with combustion models. Except that the electric version is plugged in overnight. However, only very few accommodations have so far offered this option. For example, the Accor Group, which operates 380 hotels in Germany alone, has a charging station at 57 locations. In Switzerland, on the other hand, there are already 30 hotels, as the company announced when asked. They work well there with the network operator "evpass". The Maritim Group, in turn, has set up electrical connections at eight of 29 German locations, and the trend is rising. According to the company, the electricity comes from green providers or from their own photovoltaic systems.

The hotels could use the Corona break to install charging stations. But many operators lack the courage to invest

If you ask how well such offers are accepted, you get very different answers. Example "Motel One": The budget chain currently has charging stations at three locations (Frankfurt, Hamburg, Amsterdam). "As far as we know, the demand is rather low," says Motel One spokeswoman Ursula Schelle-Müller. In Munich, the operator of the charging station even dismantled it because it was only used two to three times a month. Still, the company wants to move more power connections, at least in the near future. "It is planned to invite several bidders this year in order to find a suitable partner for the Europe-wide implementation of the e-charging stations in the course of a negotiation process," explains Schelle-Müller.

The reaction at Steigenberger is completely different. "We can see that the demand has increased more and more over the past few months," says press spokesman Sven Hirschler. 16 hotels in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are currently equipped with charging stations. "When we build new hotels, the charging stations are integrated into the planning right from the start," said Hirschler. "We are currently converting existing hotels so that we can soon offer this service everywhere." Charging with electricity at Steigenberger is free of charge for guests. In other hotels there are different models - from free charging to a flat rate to billing via an external provider.

The major international players are currently still cautious when it comes to electromobility. Marriott International, the largest hotel chain in the world, does not want to answer the question with reference to Corona. "Our focus is currently on the reopening of the hotels," announced the group. Hilton expresses himself similarly.

It is unclear how many hotels are now even equipped with wallboxes. At best, one can fall back on older surveys, for example a survey by the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga) from 2017. According to this, every fifth business questioned had a charging facility; 32 percent planned such an investment at least for the future. Incidentally, such a service has a positive effect on the star categorization. However, electricity tanks are not a minimum requirement for a certain star category.

But how can travelers even find suitable accommodation? The HRS booking portal has not yet offered a corresponding function, but its competitor Booking.com does. A search there shows that electromobility in the hospitality industry is far worse than the Dehoga figures suggest. Example Cologne: Here Booking.com lists a total of 253 hotels. If you only display the houses with a charging station, the list shrinks to 25. The "Hotels4EV" website delivers twelve hits; With the electric route planner "Going Electric", only five hotels are shown. Tesla's own navigation system, in turn, offers six possible destinations. On the one hand, there is still a lot of room for improvement. On the other hand, the example shows how inconsistent the results are.

One consolation remains: in the future, many hotels are likely to see that charging stations are good for their image. Solar systems, own electricity, a green concept - that goes down well with a certain target group. This is also how Elisabeth Weidenbrück, the hotel owner from Swisttal, sees it. "People appreciate the overall package," says the businesswoman. Above all, Tesla drivers are very ecologically oriented. She cannot say with certainty whether the charging stations brought her additional guests. But she suspects so. "The Tesla route planner automatically leads people here."

Until other hoteliers follow their example, e-mobilists only have to search for hotels via various portals. And a phone call before booking, just to be on the safe side. After all, the charging station should also work.