Nissans Leaf charger

Nissan's Leaf charger

It comes as something of a surprise perhaps, but two of the countries in Europe currently roaring ahead with electric vehicle infrastructure development are not those that might immediately spring to mind.

Far from it. The two in fact which are part of Europe's cutting edge with EV infrastructure are Portugal and Ireland - unwitting members of the not-so pleasantly-named 'piigs' club along with Italy, Greece and Spain, but which have defied the moniker in leading the way in EV R&D.

It's probably fair to say Portugal and Ireland have had to weather some of the worst the Great Recession - as some have called and capped it - has had to throw at Europe - but both small, geographically peripheral countries have pitched themselves head first into getting ready for the new technology.

Portugal has been storming ahead in EV infrastructure, with charging points established since June and 1,300 expected to be in place by next year - in time for Nissan's all-electric Leaf to make its debut in the Iberian peninsular.

But as impressive as the Leaf undoubtedly is, will the infrastructure be in place to sustain it should sales start to accelerate as quickly as the manufacturers - all EV manufacturers - are predicting?

According to Portuguese electricity provider Mobi.E's project developer Miguel Pinto, the country has charging points in 25 cities including locations such as airports, car parks and service stations.

Mobi.E even has a handy card to simply slot into quick charging points that could also be loaded for myriad purposes such as public transport, although maybe charging using mobile phones could also be introduced.

But the establishment of infrastructure in Portugal - and Ireland/UK for that matter - is surely only the tip of the Continental iceberg. A public initially entranced by the idea of paying a nominal EUR2/100km for their shiny new EV, might quickly become disillusioned by the thought of only having access to an initial 25 cities in Portugal and what about everywhere else?

Mass recharging facilities are still some way off in the same way that say, ubiquitous petrol stations are available. And as much as drivers dislike having to fill up periodically - and that really only takes five minutes - how will the practicality of waiting 30min for a quick recharge - and there might be a queue - actually work?

There's even talk of simply having batteries entirely replaced with another one - but at what cost and will those establishments be completely separate from normal garages?

Nissan says it is possible to charge its Leaf to 80% of its full capacity in less than 30min with a quick public charger, while home-charging using a 240v-16A outlet will take around seven to eight hours, usually overnight to use off-peak electricity - and with just a simple lead to boot.

But outside the home, will what works in Portugal work across the EU? What about non-EU countries such as Norway and Switzerland or will they simply adapt to conventional pan-continental standards? No-one blinks an eye at recharging phones, will it really be as simple to power up EVs? Is Tesla's recharging technology the same as the Leaf for example?

Those in Portugal - whose politicians and utilities appear to have embraced the EV universe with gusto - will also have the advantage that if purchasing a new build house, car chargers will come ready-installed - while evaluations are being made of older properties to see how such installations can become common.

The country is also developing technology allowing charging points to be found by mobile phone or PDA, while available charge can also be sold back to the network. A plethora of other incentives include EV circulation priority, preferential parking areas and corporate tax deduction of 50% for fleets - if that becomes a tempting reality for large operators.

Mobi-E describes Portugal as a "living lab" for EV development. Perhaps consumers will simply adapt easily to coming home and plugging in the EV overnight to the garage wall - Nissan certainly believes it's as hassle-free as that - and knowing precisely what range that affords.

But apart from that undoubted simplicity, maybe there just needs a bit more meat on the infrastructure bones outside the home charging arena to convince consumers this really is a great leap forward.