Recharging your layout: the pinch points to optimising EV roll-out
With the launch of a new dedicated office that will oversee Ireland’s transition to zero emission vehicles, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan is expanding the bandwidth of where you can charge an electric vehicle (EV).
The launch in July saw the minister announce a suite of grants and initiatives aimed at making it easier for people and businesses to make the switch to EVs. These include a new apartment charging grant; and an expansion to the home charger grant; a new trial to help electrify the commercial fleet; and funding for sports clubs to install a network of publicly accessible chargers.
It all sounds promising, but in the meantime, we still have a long way to go before there are anywhere near enough forecourt chargers to satisfy the demand that is forecast in one of the key charging sectors as we draw closer to the zero carbon target date of 2050.
According to Derek Reilly, general manager of Nevo.ie, which aims to help Irish drivers to make a seamless transition to EVs, there still are a number of pinch points hobbling many of the forecourt owners who want to lead the way on EV transition.
“We’re not bad here… but there are a couple of pinch points where forecourts are either waiting for government assistance or are waiting for grid connection or waiting not to be the first mover to make a mistake,” the founder of the Dublin EV Owners Club says.
“So there are a number of the petrol forecourt retailers looking at all of this right now, and here at Nevo.ie we’re chatting to some of them as to how we can advise, help and potentially partner with them at these sites.
“Some sites are doing it themselves, sourcing the hard work, keeping it internal, whereas there are others that are allowing people to either rent or profit-share on the site with them to provide that service.”
EasyGo, Ireland’s largest privately owned EV charging network is one such company offering this type of solution to forecourt retailers.
They provide installation of fast or slow chargers with revenue sharing options on their public charging network which is used by over 25,000 local EV drivers and will provide 50kW DC rapid chargers at zero upfront capital costs to suitable forecourts that make electricity supply available for connection.
Taking the plunge
To forecourt owners who haven’t yet taken the plunge, Derek advises that they think about their forecourt and whether they should be opting for slow or fast chargers.
“It depends on what type of situation they’ve got,” he says.
“If they’ve got an element of a takeaway or a restaurant or a food outlet where maybe people would sit down and spend a bit of time there having a meal, it would be a combination of slow and fast.
“But literally if you’re a forecourt with a convenience store, and there isn’t anywhere really to hang around, you definitely want to be looking at DC fast charging and how fast you can get the vehicle out.
“Like petrol or diesel, you’re in the business of selling kilowatts and so it’s a matter of fast can you dish out these kilowatts to the car or the van or the lorry or whatever it may be.”
The next consideration is the capacity of the site – physical and in terms of the local grid.
“Are you restrained with regards to grid capacity? We’ve had a lot of enquiries about this, where the grid isn’t able to take what the forecourt of the business wants to give out,” Derek says.
“So what they’re doing is working with a battery buffer system – it’s like a big battery that sits in the background and takes in electricity at a slower pace at the regular rate that they have and then when they need it to fill up an electric car, it dumps it out. And then when the next car comes along, it’s already had the time to charge up a bit.
“So rather than upgrading everything, that battery buffer system seems to be a good solution for businesses and forecourts alike.”
New EV models
Derek says the last few months have seen more mainstream models of EV appearing that are capable of taking a shorter and larger charge.
“The likes of the Kia EV 6 and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 are operating on an 800 volt architecture, which is able to take a bigger charge faster. This would only have been the likes of Porsche tech previously and would originally have been for a very expensive car.
“But now the EV 6 and the Ioniq 5 are becoming more mainstream – I’m not saying they’re affordable, but they’re able to take a full charge in 20 minutes if the charging infrastructure can give it to them. We’re going to start to see more and more vehicles like this – not just passenger vehicles, but it will also be commercial vans and trucks.
“So it’s important to understand what’s coming down the line, but also to look at your site layout – if it’s lorries and buses and trucks, are they able to drive past like a traditional fuel pump where they can park up either side?
“A lot of EV infrastructure is either drive-in or reverse-in, whereas that won’t be possible for the larger vehicles, so it’s about understanding the layout, how vehicles will get in, charge and get out, and not just cars at the moment.”
Forecourt owners engaging with the government and other authorities should be lobbying for easier grid connections and an understanding of what it will cost to upgrade their charging infrastructure,” Derek says.
“So any of the network providers, be that in the north or south, should be able to say, it’s an easy portal, you just email or send in your Eircode or your postcode or whatever that may be and we’ll come back. But it’s a first step and they should be lobbying to increase the grid capacity but also strengthen the grid capacity connection so that they’re not caught off guard.”
Another key consideration for forecourt owners looking at their layout should be to make sure that customers charging their vehicles feel safe, Derek says.
“Usually a petrol forecourt may not be 24 hours but an electricity charging section could be 24 hours unmanned, so it’s important to make sure that they’re in a prominent position, make sure that there’s CCTV and make sure that they have adequate lighting,” he says.
“There’s an initiative over in the UK called the ChargeSafe network, and they’ve set up guidelines for people who are setting up these EV charging infrastructure to make sure they’re ticking these boxes.
“And it’s not just about making people feel safe, it’s also about making sure that you’ve got enough space around the bay so that if you’re in a wheelchair you can get out, go around your vehicle and operate the EV charging infrastructure.
“We need to make sure it’s all inclusive – everybody has the right to charge and this is something that more and more people are looking at.
“Also, there’s the likes of making sure that the EV chargers are covered – that’s a bugbear for a lot of people. Petrol forecourts are usually always covered, so make sure that the EV charger is covered.
“And then there’s new technology coming down the line such as wireless charging, putting pads in the ground. The technology is always moving and it’s a balancing act when you’re in that fuel retail business – that is because fuel is highly flammable, EV charging is highly sparky, and sparks and flammable fluids don’t mix very well together. So it’s definitely important to understand how best to lay out your site to maximise both.
“What we’re finding is that some forecourt sites are actually purchasing surrounding land so that they can be adjoined to it but not on the same site, so there’s an area of proximity that needs to be adhered to as well.”
And while the prospect of investing in charging may be daunting, forecourt owners may quickly start to reap the benefits at the retail end, Derek says.
“What we’ve found in surveys over the years is that people who are there charging their EV usually spend more in a forecourt retail environment because they’re there for longer, which is part of the inconvenience, but also it’s then a benefit for forecourt operators,” he says.
EasyGo research also confirms this, with more than half of EV drivers who stop at a fast or rapid charger purchasing at the shop on site.
A forecourt operator with a DC charger could expect on average 4 charges per day, which over a 10-year period would bring 9,490 additional site visits and over 4,750 additional shoppers buying from the store, generating extra profit on top of what is made from the charger.
To read the full feature in IFCR, click HERE.