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APRIL 11, 2021 - newcivilengineer
Electric vehicles | The challenge of providing enough charging points

The electric vehicle takeover has begun but adequate charging infrastructure is needed.

We have all seen them – the electric vehicle (EV) charge points that are popping up across the country.

Having the infrastructure to facilitate EV uptake is crucial at a point where the government aims to end the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 while seeking to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

But the deployment of this infrastructure – and the uptake of EVs themselves – comes with a complication: the potential divide between the “haves” and “have nots”.

“My biggest worry is that you’re going to see a two-tier adoption with the haves, who have a driveway, adopting an EV and then urban areas, where you need EV most, actually not having sufficient access to public charging infrastructure,” says Connected Kerb chief executive Chris Pateman-Jones, whose firm provides EV charging infrastructure.

This is where the Agile Streets project comes in. The two-phase scheme will install over 100 Connected Kerb smart charging points in public areas covered by four local authorities in England and Scotland, including residential streets and shared parking.

Smart charging enables operators to monitor and manage the use of the charging point to optimise energy consumption.

To make non-driveway EV charging viable, Connected Kerb believes the deployment of EV infrastructure should focus on five core principles:

Network convenience and confidence. Charging points must be reliable and readily available where people need them
To minimise disruption and maximise benefits, deploying other smart technologies – such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors – should be considered alongside EV charging points
Sustainable infrastructure deployment.Today’s charging infrastructure typically has a short life, is costly to maintain or upgrade, and made of non-recycled or unsustainable materials
Future proof the technology so it does not become obsolete and is flexible enough to accommodate future developments. Most existing EV charging infrastructure is inflexible to advancing technologies
Effective engagement and education programmes are necessary to increase EV adoption rates in target areas.

Last year the first phase of Agile Streets was awarded more than £722,000 as part of the government’s Beyond Off Street programme, which aims to help determine long term policy for EV smart metering.

The project also aims to demonstrate the benefits of a smart metering system, which can be used to set charging times and rates for when EVs are charging over a period of several hours.

Smart charging has the potential to improve customer experience, allowing drivers to charge their cars during off-peak hours when prices are lower and with renewable energy. It also balances load across the electricity grid to protect the distribution network.

“The government is very keen to make EV charging as attractive to users as possible,” Pateman-Jones explains.

“One of the challenges is that you have fixed tariffs and little ability to incentivise people to charge on street relative to the incentives that exist for people who have a driveway.

“If you have a driveway, you have flexible tariffs [due to fewer time constraints on when you charge] and the goal with Agile Streets is to move to a similar ability for people on streets. This partnership means we can start to offer some of the agile tariffs.”

Led by Samsung Research UK, the consortium delivering the Agile Streets project also includes smart metering technology manufacturer Smets Design, energy supplier Octopus Energy, the Energy Saving Trust and research hub Power Networks Demonstration Centre.

The project was launched in August 2020 and is nearing the end of phase one, which involved work in a test environment. Phase two will involve the deployment of test units across four local authorities.
EV Targets

But as the project gathers momentum, analysis of government data by manufacturer EO Charging shows that the number of public EV charge points in the UK is not keeping pace will sales of EV vehicles. The number of charging points has increased by just 26% over the past 12 months to 4,270, compared to a 186% rise in sales of EVs to 108,205 in 2020.

As such, EO believes public charging infrastructure is being put in place too slowly for it to cope with surging demand.

Pateman-Jones similarly highlights the infrastructure need.

“When we look at EV adoption, the 2030 target is great but it is meaningless unless you get some other things in place,” he says. “If you don’t get the infrastructure right and the vehicles right then when you tell people they have to stop buying new cars, they’ll buy second-hand [petrol or diesel] ones unless the EVs are available and easy to use.”
Forward thinking

Planning ahead could enable the efficient rollout of charge points. Connected Kerb has been working on a housing development project in Wichelstowe, for example – a joint venture between Swindon Borough Council and Barratt Developments. The estate has been future-proofed for the uptake of EVs, with charging infrastructure deployed as part of the 3,000-home scheme.

“The cost of putting the base infrastructure in with our system is not very high and on a new build site they are already putting other infrastructure in,” Pateman-Jones explains. “Whereas, in an existing street we have to dig the street which costs more.”

At Wichelstowe, Connected Kerb has installed passive charging infrastructure below ground during the construction phase of the development, along with active charging sockets. There is also capacity to add more charging points at a later date.

“If clients are intelligent, they’re planning the next five years and they know that in five years’ time a significant proportion of the UK will have an EV,” says Pateman-Jones.

“So an important aspect to a house sale will be whether there is an opportunity to home charge.”
Challenges and opportunities

A key challenge with the rollout of charge points is that often councils or developers want to remove clutter from streets while at the same time encouraging EV use.

Pateman-Jones explains: “Those two things are opposing because you need charging points and you need to add infrastructure to the streets. So we’ve tried to have charging points that are as invisible as possible and use existing street furniture like bollards, for example.”

An additional feature of the Connected Kerb system is that it can also support IoT sensor technology – sensors that can monitor air quality or traffic, for example.

While this is an exciting opportunity, the IoT capability does pose a cyber security challenge, with each charging point having a fibre and power connection that could be hacked. As such, the government is keen for the Agile Streets project to factor this in.

According to Pateman-Jones, it’s an issue that will increasingly become apparent “as the charging points move from being disruptor technology to being critical national infrastructure”.

“We want to make sure in this project that our kit is as safe as it can be,” he says.

Despite the challenges ahead, the EV revolution continues.

Read more: https://www.newcivilengineer.com/innovative-thinking/electric-vehicles-the-challenge-of-providing-enough-charging-points-07-04-2021/