Charge Infrastructure

Life with an EV is presenting no obstacles that , as yet, cannot be overcome with just a tiny amount of planning.

To make it mainstream that planning should be unnecessary for the majority of journeys.

As the majority of journeys can be completed without charging away from home, there is not yet a massive demand on the charging infrastructure.  However it is far from adequate. The number of key sites with only one Rapid Charger is astonishing.  One unit failing or requiring remote intervention outside office hours could be a major inconvenience for any user.

This is made worse in many locations by the absence of Quick Charge points beside Rapids.  Park and Rides can be a particular issue.  To encourage people to drive into town and spend, destination charging is more desirable than Rapid.  A Rapid user typically stays 30 minutes, so cannot leave the vehicle long enough to get anywhere.  It is simply refuelling on a journey.  For a user who will be going into town, a slow charge is all that is required, having a Rapid actually becomes an inconvenience.  Although only an additional 30 minutes is required at one end of the stay to charge,  it shouldn’t be necessary.  A charge level that can match the period the EV will be parked is the ideal, but 7kW, as a de facto standard is probably a good beginning.  So how many destination chargers should there be.  I mentioned that in an earlier post that London planning now requires 10% of space in any development to be EV charging spaces, with a further 10% passively prepared.  Including on street parking.  Again could @scotrans  be doing more?  A recent paper, not exactly light reading, suggests that at high level they  know they can.  First thought on the paper  below, although I may add and revise after a more thorough read.

The application of Smart Grid technologies such as demand management, Vehicle to X (Home, Grid, Building), are all significant steps.  But right now they are aspirational.  If the infrastructure for charging is in place, designed with this in mind, then we can have a useful system now that is fit to meed the needs and aspirations of our future.

For me the paper is silo thinking.    It’s based around only the energy aspect.  Not the fault of Urban Foresight, they simply fulfill a brief.  It’s more the need for an integrated view.  Maybe I’m missing a cache of information somewhere, but what about assessment of placing chargers where they will enhance the local economy.  If paid parking includes a charge, that charge requiring a certain amount of time in an area, then spending will inevitably take place.  If that spending can be used to enhance the charge infrastructure, then a development cycle could enhance whole areas.  As EV costs decrease, subject to energy bills, then a greater disposable income could start to circulate in the economy.  Provision of suitable located chargers will play a part in this.



Update:  My initial view that the paper is an example of silo thinking still stands.  The topics are undoubtedly broad and far reaching, but don’t offer anything that reaches out to drivers beyond the financial aspects.  The report is principally about integration of EVs to the grid, looking at demand management, network support, infrastructure protection and consumer behaviour change at home.

In the summary there are two paragraphs,

There is the potential for technologies and business models that open up access to existing electrical outlets for commercial charging to create high density public charging networks to support widespread operation of EVs


Continue to explore how planning and building regulations can be used to encourage the inclusion of charging infrastructure in new developments to maximise the benefits of smart grid integration.


which loosely address the view of the EV driver, rather than  just the  bill payer element of the owner.  The need manage the uptake of EVs on the grid is essential, the use of the various techniques discussed to achieve this is complex, requiring significant planning and investment.  Yet unless investment in Rapid (Journey) Chargers as well as appropriate Destination chargers in useful locations occurs, EVs will be viewed, incorrectly, as niche.  The development of charging infrastructure cannot be left to chance.

So how does all that meld together. A coherent, holistic strategy is required.  The use of bi-directional charge points that provide grid support will help maintain low cost or even free charging.  As the paper says the business model will take a great deal of development.  The ability of cars parked up to assist in peak and valley management will benefit both supplier, network and consumer.  Since this is a value added service, there must be payback to the EV user.

So the pricing models for public chargers will become very complex.

Rapid users will always require to charge at the moment they turn up.  The infrastructure to support them is expensive, and potentially puts considerable load onto the grid.  However they will not represent the majority of the load.  Ideally pricing for Rapids will be set prices dependant on the time of day.

Destination and home chargers will be the key areas to address, something that the report goes into some depth on.  The discussion on Demand Side Management/Response is interesting but seems to miss some simple options.  It would not be difficult to integrate Smarter Grid functionality into Rapid, Standard and Fast chargers, reducing available output to suit momentary conditions on local or national grid infrastructure. Indeed the paper is very definite about this aspect of home charging.  The same principle should be applied to commercial/public charging, with variable charge levels perhaps offering tiered pricing.  Understanding of the different consumers needs is critical.  Which leaves me a bit despondent about the following paragraph in the summary .

While there is widespread agreement on the potential offered by EVs in smart grids, realising this potential and the attendant benefits will require engagement with actors across the energy, automotive and ICT sectors. It will also ultimately require the participation of consumers.  

This sentence is rather ambiguous.  That none of this will work without the consumer onboard is a given, so the meaning is left as ‘We will engage with the consumers eventually’.  As an EV driver I see myself as a stakeholder in this.  The government need to obtain the views of current EV drivers.  Research that suggesting that 90% of charging will be at home is a beginning, but does not address those who already use their EV as both work and family cars.  Feedback from this group is the link to help establish EVs as a replacement for every journey in an ICE vehicle.  This is where the User Experience (UX) needs to be involved early, as a poor implementation will provide limited enhancement to the grid or to EV uptake.

Please have a read of the paper, I’d be interested to hear other peoples thoughts.


All quotes  © Urban Foresight Limited, 2016


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Engineer, EV driver, dog owner.

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