By Christoph Steitz
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's Hubject plans to roll out its payment and information service for electric vehicle charging stations across most of Europe over the next two years, betting on a pick up in the popularity of battery-powered cars.
Uptake of electric vehicles in Germany and elsewhere in Europe has been slow due to their limited range, the small number of fast charging stations and different payment methods.
At the end of June, there were fewer than 63,000 electric vehicles in Germany out of around 45 million cars on its roads, according to industry association VDA.
But the government aims to raise the number to 1 million by 2020, and earlier this year announced a 1 billion euro ($1.1 billion) support scheme to boost demand, including 300 million euros for charging stations.
Like rivals such as France's Gireve and e-clearing.net, Hubject is trying to establish its service as the standard payment system for charging stations.
The companies also map the stations and supply drivers with information about locations and availability, provided they have a working internet connection.
"We are trying to unravel the chaos of the differing infrastructures," Thomas Daiber, Hubject's co-chief executive, told Reuters in an interview, adding about 25,000 charging points in Europe were already included in its database.
This is about a third of Europe's total, according to rough estimates from industry experts.
The companies have powerful backers, reflecting the cross-industry effort needed to create infrastructure for electric vehicles.
Hubject's include carmakers BMW and Daimler, autos supplier Bosch [ROBG.UL], engineer Siemens and energy firms Innogy and EnBW.
Gireve, meanwhile, counts automaker Renault, Compagnie Nationale du Rhone, Caisse de Depots, utility EDF and grid operator Enedis among its shareholders.
Founded in 2012, Hubject is currently loss-making and has annual sales of less than 10 million euros. But it has big ambitions, aiming to achieve a market share of at least 90 percent by the end of 2018, Daiber said.
"We're already in a good position in many markets," he added, pointing to Germany and Austria. Hubject also has a market share of more than 90 percent in Japan, bringing the total number of charging stations in its database to 40,000 currently.
E-clearing.net says more than 9,500 points are connected to its platform, while Gireve aims to add 1,600 points in France by the end of the year.
Daiber did not rule out cooperation with competitors if it helped to build up a functioning network across the continent.
(Editing by Mark Potter)