Published on October 21st, 2017 | by Zachary Shahan0
GreenWay’s EV Charging Leadership & Vision (CleanTechnica Exclusive)
October 21st, 2017 by Zachary Shahan
Getting ready for our big EV charging conference November 6–8 (in Warsaw, Poland) — part of our Cleantech Revolution Tour conference series — I’ve been interviewing some of our presenters and panelists. Below is an interview with Rafał Czyżewski, CEO of GreenWay Infrastructure Poland, which is a co-organizer of this conference.
1. The Polish electric car market is still quite tiny. What compelled GreenWay, you, and your team to put such a strong focus on this country and developing a nationwide charging network?
We look with great optimism at the electric car market and its future. We believe revolutionary changes will occur in this market over the next few years, regardless of the level of government support. Electromobility is a trend which there is no retreating from. The development of technology and the efforts of automotive companies to make EVs cheaper will encourage it.
In our mission, we have stated that we want to make EVs the sensible, realistic option for drivers as far as driving long distances is concerned, and at the same time, we want to support the development of this market. We decided to build a nationwide fast-charging network in order to give a clear signal to potential EV users that one of the development barriers, the lack of charging infrastructure, has ceased to exist. We want an electric car to be a viable alternative to a combustion car. In addition, we want to create an infrastructure that will allow you to conveniently charge cars moving around the city.
For these reasons, we focus on the construction of a fast-charging network, and in the future, we want to reinforce it with ultrafast chargers. Our goal is to build 160 fast-charging stations in Poland in the next 2 years — 40 of them will be built later this year. These stations are built on highways, main roads, and major transport hubs of major cities. We choose locations that are convenient for the drivers. These are usually shopping centers, gas stations, hotels. We deeply believe that with our network, the development of electromobility in Poland and the region will accelerate.
2. Clearly, the large number of charging networks across Europe presents some challenges for electric car drivers who want to take long-distance trips. How do you (or how do you think you will) offer your normal Polish and Slovakian customers more seamless travel around Europe?
The key issue is to create a network covering the main transport routes and the appropriate location of these points. Our plan is to install charging stations on the main roads of the TEN-T corridors at intervals of no more than 80–100 km. This is to ensure that the EV can travel long distance easily. In addition, we place our chargers in large cities where traffic is high. Thanks to that, our project has been appreciated by the European Commission and included in the project of building a network of charging stations in the TEN-T corridors as part of the CEF project. The support we receive allows us to significantly accelerate our activities.
Apart from the development of the network itself, it is very important to offer our customers a complete service system. This includes modern mobile applications, properly working customer contact system, all of which will make using our network easy and transparent. With roaming and cooperation with partners, the EV driver will not need to look for the services of different suppliers. We want the Greenway card to serve as a gateway to a large amount of charging infrastructure in the region. For this reason, we are interested in and open to cooperation with other companies that want to support the development of electromobility.
3. Much of the hype and discussion these days is around superfast and ultrafast charging — I’m taking the liberty to define those as 100–200 kW charging and 200–350 kW, respectively. I see you have 13 ultrafast charging stations in place or planned for Poland & Slovakia.
3A. Can you say why you felt this is the time to put such stations in place?
First of all, it is very new technology and you can find only a handful of installations already in place in Europe at the moment. Greenway is committed to bringing the cutting-edge innovation in the EV charging to our region and therefore we want to deliver first ultra-fast chargers relatively quickly and send the clear signal that we are ready for a new generation of high-performance electric vehicles.
3B. Can you share anything regarding the cost of 350 kW stations vs 100 kW stations?
The cost of ultra-fast charging is hardly comparable with the existing 50–100 kW chargers mainly because of the very different setup of a typical charging facility. While the simple setup of FC is usually one charger per location with two reserved parking spaces, UFCH location will be a group of several power outlets supplied by a central unit which will intelligently distribute energy according to needs and requirements of the connected vehicles. Such a charging bay will naturally be significantly more expensive, but it will be able to serve many more customers at once.
3C. Do you have any challenges/complications with utilities when it comes to these ultrafast charging stations?
The construction of UFCH hasn’t started yet, but we do not envisage any special requirements or challenges except the fact that it will require a much stronger power connection, which is certainly not available at every location.
3D. Do you have much insight into automaker plans that could make 350 kW charging useful?
We expect the first model to be available in late 2019 especially by premium brands of German automakers.
4. The Polish government — surprisingly — has been quite supportive of electromobility, but there’s also criticism that there’s not much behind the PR about it. Can you point to any tangible things the national government has done to help grow GreenWay’s network or electromobility more broadly?
Undoubtedly, the discussion on the electromobility itself has a big impact on the development of this market. Compared to the situation from 1–2 years ago, there is no doubt now that e-mobility makes sense, the only question is about the pace of its growth. I believe that communication and education are extremely important, because even at the moment, without significant support, the market can be further stimulated. There are many people concerned about ecology, but some stereotypes about EVs restrict the desirability of purchasing them.
The Polish government is preparing specific regulations concerning the electromobility market. We are currently awaiting the final version of the legislation in this area. The new act includes support for buyers, facilities for driving EVs, especially in the cities (entrance on bus-lanes, etc.), and also eliminating some barriers to the construction of the charging network. We also count on the launch of additional financial support for the construction of charging infrastructure.
These activities undoubtedly contribute to stimulating the market. 2017 will be a record year in terms of sales of EVs — I expect to see growth of over 100%. Of course, we are starting from a very low level, but we have to start from somewhere. I see the future with great optimism because I observe interest in the electromobility growing month by month.
5. While the lineup of electric cars on the market today leave Poland with pretty slim pickings and limited uptake, I’m convinced that the next generation of hyper-competitive electric cars will lead to quick market adoption, but I also think many in the EV industry are ignoring Poland and other countries in CEE due to their limited market to date. Can you say much — positively or negatively — about interest in the Polish market from relevant EV companies to the west (automakers, charging companies, etc.)?
I agree that currently the Polish market is not a priority to large producers. This is due to the lack of adequate support tools for this market. I think, however, the situation will change quite fast. New regulations, a much wider range of EVs, and the growing interest in them together with the development of the charging network, education, and customer awareness will contribute to this change.
It is also important to remember that the Polish car market is one of the largest in Europe. There are around 18 million passenger vehicles in Poland, which cannot be ignored by manufacturers. We already see some symptoms of growing interest from major manufacturers. Key brands are increasing their sales promotional budgets and engaging in new EV-based solutions such as car sharing and taxi companies. I think that Poland and the whole region will soon be an important market for providers of electromobility solutions.