As we face landmark changes in how we commute, we must examine the enablers for electric-vehicle charging. Mark Daly outlines how building developments must sustainably prepare for EVs and the technologies and standards involved

For many years, items such as air conditioning, fire detection and access control have been list-items on almost every construction development. For most of these, there is a myriad of case studies and previous projects that can guide the engineer; moreover, the terminology and standardisation is all well matured, so conversing on the topics is straightforward.

One of the newest members of the ‘A-list’ is electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), which is required for more and more new developments.

While working with a number of companies that manufacture and supply EVSEs, we review an increasing number of requests for tender (RFTs). The occasional one is accurate and well thought-out. However, the majority demonstrates one of three common errors: outdated specifications, inappropriate specification or vendor-restricted specific models.

Furthermore, discussions with both potential EVSE hosts and engineers highlight an understandable confusion regarding terminology, e.g. the term ‘fast charge’ means different things in different countries.

Electric-vehicle technology has made significant progress, even in the short time since 2010 when ESB started to tackle the idea of installing publicly accessible infrastructure. Since then, connectors have changed, communication protocols have changed and now charging powers are set to take a leap up to 350kW from the existing high of 50kW.

As a result of regular requests for information about EVSE specification, Eninserv has developed a training course for engineers faced with the task of specifying EVSE installations. This course considers the areas pertinent to designing a sustainable, ‘best in class’ specification.

In order to create a specification for a new development, an engineer needs a basic understanding of the key technologies and a clear knowledge of the use-case for which charging is required.

The engineer must also consider the future: a handful of charge points now, will almost certainly progress to a large percentage of parking spaces with charging equipment in the future. A poorly thought-out system can lead to increased distribution board capacity requirements and even an increased maximum import capacity (MIC) on the electricity supply.

Who pays for energy and O&M costs?

Charge points in a car park

There are other considerations, such as who pays for the operations and maintenance (O&M) and energy costs. Again, we can look at the short-term view, agreeing that the energy consumption is low for a small number of users. However, what happens when next year the number of charge events has increased and the year after, some 10 per cent of employee parking is utilising charging facilities every day?

Looking first at the use-case, the engineer will need to know if the site is a motorway service station or a city centre car-park, if it is a residential or a commercial development, or if the site is a mixed-use development. A key factor might be whether the site is single- or multi tenant. For each of these scenarios, the optimum solution differs from the others. Charger output powers, access control and metering requirements will all need to be considered.

One of the biggest risks of a poorly specified system is that the equipment installed will become stranded or obsolete before its time. The most likely reason for this is that many of the entry-level charge points are not capable of connection to the outside world and therefore cannot communicate with a payments or energy management back-office.

There are significant opportunities for connecting EV charging with building energy management. This might include battery storage systems and rooftop solar. Although this area is still emerging, having a charge point equipped to talk to the outside world is essential to ensure that the value of the investment is protected. An OCPP (open charge point protocol) capable charger will allow the widest option while avoiding the risk of vendor lock-in.

The issue of payment systems, allowing the reclaiming of costs through a tariff or subscription, is regularly discussed. There are a couple of obstacles that have slowed progress on this requirement, primarily the fact that vehicle numbers are still low, therefore making it difficult to support the cost of maintaining a payment system.

This is amplified by the fact that the public infrastructure under the guardianship of ESB is still free of charge to use, therefore reducing the appetite for drivers to pay for charging in a non-ESB location. As the Commission for Energy Regulation is expected to issue a decision on the future of the installed infrastructure in the coming months, it is more than likely that subscriptions or tariffs will become the norm in the near future.

Energy management and EVSE reservation

Charging an electric vehicle

Sustainability and environmental managers at many locations are also interested in how the provision of EV charging facilities impacts the carbon and particulate footprint of the organisation. Amongst the many advantages of an ICT-connected charge point is the possibility of reporting the energy usage and consequent offset of fossil fuels. This is highlighted further when EVSEs are required for fleet vehicles.

Tied in with energy management is the topic of EVSE reservation. One of the ways of reducing peak power consumption, and ultimately investment, is to install a reservation system. This also has the added benefit of providing the driver with the comfort that they will secure their turn on a limited resource.

While there are a number of ways of managing reservations, having ICT visibility of the EVSE allows for a comprehensive solution. Authentication of the user ensures only the specified user can charge and they can be notified when the charge is complete or their time has expired.

Discussions with clients tend to start at either end of a spectrum. In some cases, the client wants to install EVSEs. However, the view is short term and the cheapest day-one capital cost is desired. In other cases, the client wants the most powerful charge point, often not understanding the true impact of the charger output choice.

Let us consider two examples: a 50kW DC fast charger sounds attractive, however if the user is parked for a couple of hours, they can achieve the same charge from a less powerful EVSE. The vehicle battery will be happier with the more gradual approach and the smaller EVSE and installation will be a fraction of the cost of its larger cousin.

The further difficulty with fast charging is that the vehicle should be removed from the charger after charging is complete, typically 30 minutes, otherwise further drivers will not be able to access the EVSE.

On the other end of the spectrum, if cost is the main driver and consequently dumb charge points are installed, the net effect may be that cost recovery is not possible or that the client is tied to a single service provider for any back-office services.

Unified approach to installations

As mentioned earlier, connectors and protocols have changed over the last number of years. This has led to a more unified approach even though the industry standard has been adopted by way of a power struggle. While there are a number of potential changes lurking over the horizon, a comprehensive approach to installations will protect the core investment.

All in all, when you consider the variety of requirements and the equally large number of product options, it is wise to do your homework before compiling a tender specification. Be aware that if you are seeking advise from the equipment vendor, it is bound to come with an element of bias.

As Eninserv is active in both the commercial and the technical side of e-mobility as well as the wider energy domain, we can provide a comprehensive service. Our activities across Europe and beyond mean we are abreast of new developments and opportunities in the industry, allowing us to offer the most comprehensive support to our clients.

Engineers Ireland is running a course on ‘Electric Vehicle Charging for Sustainable Developments’ on Thursday, 5 October 2017 in 22 Clyde Road, Ballsbridge. The course will consider the technologies and standards and will use case-specific design. It will offer an opportunity for discussion as well as practical specification writing. Click here for more details about the course.

Mark Daly, Eninserv

Eninserv Ltd was founded Mark Daly to provide consultancy services to companies of all sizes in the area of energy and e-mobility. We work closely with other professionals in these fields, collaborating on projects across the Eurozone. Our proactive approach to technology and market development ensures we are at the head of the industry.

Having qualified in electronic engineering, Daly’s early experience was in electronic manufacturing and production, later moving into wider electro-mechanical roles. He first came to the energy Industry in 1998 on the commissioning of a combined cycle gas turbine. With considerable expertise in control systems as well as O&M for ESB at one of Ireland’s largest generator sets, he has taken his experiences into the next generation of challenges to hit the energy business.

2011 saw him transfer to ESB ecars, where his multi-discipline background was used to find close fits between the energy sector and other industries such as ICT, automotive and telecoms. His stakeholder management skills were honed during this time while leading ESB’s input in a number of EU-funded projects as well as working with state agencies towards the development of policies and the support of Irish industry in an emerging market sector. Daly has been a key player in the energy sectors’ engagement with one of the energy industries most disruptive and exciting technologies. O'RiordanElecelectric vehicles,ESB,sustainability,transport
For many years, items such as air conditioning, fire detection and access control have been list-items on almost every construction development. For most of these, there is a myriad of case studies and previous projects that can guide the engineer; moreover, the terminology and standardisation is all well matured,...