Home charging of plug-in cars looks set to be displaced by charging stations in car parks and petrol stations, as investment in EV infrastructure soars, says Jessica Twentyman.
For electric vehicle (EV) owners today, charging their car at home is a vital part of the daily routine. If they’re lucky and they plan their trips well, they can avoid the worst symptoms of ‘range anxiety’ – the fear that their vehicle’s battery will run out of charge before they arrive home or are able to locate a charging station.
The paucity of public charging infrastructure heightens that anxiety, which is why home-based charging is a lifeline for many. It’s an irritating downside to owning a cleaner, greener, and cheaper-to-run vehicle.
But all that’s set to change as new – and faster – charging stations come online, according to a report released this week by Navigant Research. Analysts at the research firm predict that personal electric vehicle (PEV) energy demand will shift away from the home charging that it is currently tethered to, and towards fleet, private, and public chargers.
For example, charging stations could become a common feature of parking facilities, whether these are located on an employer’s premises for use by the workforce, or are public car parks at out-of-town shopping malls, for example. Petrol stations are another obvious spot.
Meanwhile, Porsche has been exploring the concept of branded charging stations at upscale venues, such as hotels and casinos.
Either way, Navigant’s analysts reckon that annual revenue for sales and installation of EV supply equipment is expected to grow from $6.5 billion this year, to over $36 billion in 2027.
A higher power
“The focus in the market is on increasing charging speed, with the rollout of ultra-fast chargers just getting underway,” reports Navigant analyst Scott Shepard.
That makes perfect sense: after all, if you need to charge your car in order to complete your onward journey, you don’t want to be hanging around for hours until your car’s ready to hit the road again.
Early to the game of ultra-fast charging is Swiss/Swedish firm ABB, which last month launched its newest EV charging solution, the Terra HP, at Hannover Messe. This is claimed by the company to be the first 350 kW product on the market, with a charging time of just eight minutes for a range of 200km. By contrast, a home charging point for a Nissan Leaf, for example, is more likely to charge at 7 kW.
That makes the Terra HP ideal for highway rest stops and petrol stations, according to ABB. And charging operators benefit from the underpinning technology, ABB Ability Connected Services, which means that the chargers can be integrated with back office systems, payment platforms, and smart energy grids.
In addition, the IoT aspect of these smart charging stations means that remote diagnostics, repair, and over-the-air software updates can be used to minimise the equipment’s downtime and keep running costs low.
Also heavily involved in the race to bring new ultra-fast charging infrastructure online are automakers themselves. Ionity, the new EV charging network from BMW, Mercedes, Ford, and Volkswagen, is planning 400 stations across Europe by 2020, boasting equipment with capacity “of up to 350 kW”.
In mid-April, Ionity announced that it had begun operations at its Brohital-Ost site, based on the A61 motorway in the German state of Rhineland Palatinate, to be operated in conjunction with the German service station group Tank & Rast.
Perhaps the most recent company to take its position on the ultra-fast starting grid, meanwhile, is Italy’s Nidec, which this week launched its Ultra Fast Charger (UFC), which the company claims can recharge EVs up to 80 percent of their capacity in less than 15 minutes.
Nidec recharging systems are designed to be supplied both from the electricity grid and from renewable sources, such as solar energy, and can be bi-directional: they can be used not only for recharging electric vehicles, but also for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) solutions.