Electric Vehicles: Infrastructure
Where are all the charge points?
The headline is always claiming that the UK/Europe/World is short of EV charge points, but is that really the case? Unless you own an EV can you really remember the last time you saw one? We’re not saying that there aren’t any, it is just one of those things that you only really notice if you are looking for them.
As we have said before there doesn’t appear to be a lack of infrastructure. Just look at the accompanying figure, there are charge points all over the UK, not to mention, if you own an EV you can charge it at home! The infrastructure is there, just perhaps not consistently so. There are different types of chargers, different connectors, issues with maintenance and price differences. Chargers range from 3kW to 120kW (Tesla Supercharger), which obviously impacts upon charging time. Not an issue if you are leaving it plugged in at work all day, but definitely a problem if you wanted to make a quick stop on a longer journey. There are also different connectors for different vehicle types; fortunately, most charge points support a few connector types. As we mentioned in a previous blog, the support for this infrastructure is thin on the ground, if it suffers a fault it could be days before a charge point is up and running again. Finally, prices vary according to who owns the charge point, for example driving an extra 5 miles can be the difference between free charging and >20p/kWh.
Yes, the infrastructure is everywhere, but it does have flaws. The good news is that as technology advances and our understanding of EVs and how they are used improves, the charge points are becoming smarter and representing a more unified system.
The next generation of charge points puts a firm focus on greater and greater power demands for even faster charging. Ionity are leading a project to install 350kW rapid chargers across Europe. This sort of power would reduce fill times to a few minutes (if the vehicle can accept that charge rate). Six of these chargers in one EV filling station results in a potential power requirement of 2.1MW. There is clearly a challenge in providing that much power, as well as putting in that much investment in a single charging station. That is another factor affecting the positioning of infrastructure, the ability to put it in a location where the business case begins to make sense. Think back to petrol stations, the smaller local filling stations are less popular and slowly going out of business replaced by larger more effectively located filling stations.
To overcome the challenges of high-power filling stations, we think renewables in combination with energy storage is a great solution. The use of renewables opens up many more potential locations without the excessive cost of DNO installed cabling for multi-MW charging infrastructure. The use of “green” energy is also of great value to EV drivers with 78% wishing to obtain their energy from renewable sources. Combining wind turbines, solar panels, run of river turbines and so on, with energy storage solutions could create ideal, flexible EV charging locations.