Published on February 16th, 2019 | by Zachary Shahan0
Technical & Design Guidelines For EV Charging Infrastructure — #CleanTechnica Report
February 16th, 2019 by Zachary Shahan
Below is one chapter of our free report Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure: Guidelines for Cities. This report was produced by a working group of EV charging and electric vehicle leaders led by CleanTechnica and GreenWay.
To Network or Not to Network…
There are two basic options with charging infrastructure. It can be connected to a central backend system via wireless internet (networked or “smart”), or not networked, meaning that it is not connected to an IT system (“dumb”).
While dumb/un-networked chargers are cheaper to purchase up front, the smart charger provides many more benefits and functionalities. As such, early leaders in charging infrastructure that started with dumb chargers are now switching to smarter ones (e.g., Norway and California). Because dumb chargers cannot identify users or connect to an invoicing system, they are free of charge when they are public, which has market consequences. When there is no cost to charging, vehicle owners may leave their vehicle charging for a longer period, thus blocking the charger for others. Furthermore, if the station is not networked, the operator can’t know if it isn’t working properly without visiting it personally. There is a high likelihood that a driver would discover that first, and have a very negative experience.
Smart charging infrastructure can be managed by the municipality, but it’s most common to have private EMPs manage the systems since they are complex and customer facing. Services offered aim to enhance the end user customer experience and further promote the ease and convenience of charging EVs. These could include smart end user applications to show location and real-time status of the chargers, simple methods of payment, expert customer support, and service and maintenance of the stations.
What Should the Charging Infrastructure Mix Be?
Just as there are different makes and models of combustion engine cars for different needs, there are various types of EV users who have different places they can charge at different times. A municipal EV infrastructure plan must consider these different users, as well as how to plan, zone, and legislate for the charging needs of the future.
Home & Work
Around 80% of EV charging is done at home if drivers have a place at home to charge. If they have home charging and workplace charging, 96–97% of charging is done at home or work. For people without a charger near their home, being able to charge at work is the next best thing.
The convenience and low cost of plugging in when you get home or get to work is such a major benefit of electric cars that cities should work hard to maximize these options. People who have a garage or designated parking place can install a plug or charger there. However, most people in European cities live in multifamily apartment buildings, often without their own designated parking space.
Drivers may have parking garages at their home, but getting permission from the building owner or manager to install a charging station is extremely difficult for an individual. Municipalities have tools to incentivize or encourage charger installation in these places, which we outline below.
People who don’t have parking garages or dedicated parking spaces at their homes (i.e., residents who use public on-street parking) have separate needs. They can’t just install a charging station on a public street themselves. These are locations where cities should either come in and install stations themselves (with a dedicated municipal budget for such infrastructure) or invite charging station companies to do so under specific guidelines.
Here are some suggestions for each area:
- In dense areas without reserved parking, allocate a certain percentage of the spaces (i.e., 10–20%) for EV charging.
- Create charging hubs. These would be areas with a large number of chargers next to each other (i.e., 10- 20). This could simplify grid access issues, create construction/installation economies of scale, be much cheaper, reduce queues, and allow siting near services or apartment blocks to attract and conveniently serve users.
- Adopt a policy of installing public AC charging stations as residents request them. This is a market-driven (not top down) approach that has worked exceptionally well in Amsterdam, one of the top cities in the world for EV adoption.
- Special consideration should be given to electric taxi charging and charging of other predictable, high-utilization vehicles. They can provide a regular revenue stream but also occupy available charging stations for extended periods of time.
- In dense areas, overarching EV charging station coordination is needed to optimally plan charging infrastructure (and maybe some charging hubs). Local government can best play this role.
Multifamily & Office Buildings
The core challenge with parking garages at many existing buildings is that tenants do not have permission to have an electricity outlet/charging station installed. Additionally, many parking spaces don’t have adequate wiring in place for adding a charging station.
- Require parking garage managers to permit individuals to add or upgrade the wiring to support charging stations at their parking space and have charging stations installed.
- Require that parking garage managers include a certain number of charging stations themselves.
- Educate key decision makers such as apartment building boards, parking garage and managers, etc. on the technical requirements, safety, and benefits of EV charging infrastructure, as is done in California.
- Offer incentives to employers who install charging points in their offices/garages, such as is done in France and the United Kingdom.
- When it comes to new construction, it is far cheaper for this wiring to be installed during original construction rather than added in later, so:
— Require or incentivize that new construction projects be “EV ready” by including wiring for charging stations in the walls, floors, or ceilings near parking spaces. This is already the case in London and many cities in California, and the EU has already proposed legislation requiring this by 2025.
— Go a step further by requiring that new construction projects include EV charging stations as a certain percentage of the parking spaces. Require that 10% of parking spaces be parking for electric vehicles, including the station, signage, and special coloring on the pavement.
Shopping Centers, Cafes, & Restaurants
It is also very important that a public charging network offers convenience in terms of location and charging speed for those persons needing a “top up” during the day or for EV drivers who don’t have home or workplace charging. Key locations for such charging stations should be medium-stay “hot spots” such as:
- Shopping centers
- Coffee shops
- City centers
- Sports/exercise facilities
- Major government administrative offices
While 3–11 kW charging stations are okay for “topping up” an EV, real-world experience shows that such charging rates often don’t serve the full needs or preferences of drivers. It is ideal to have at least 22 kW charging stations at these locations, and/or CCS and CHAdeMO DC fast chargers (see glossary).
Charging stations along motorways are important for people driving long distances. In general, major points of entry/exit into a city should also have charging stations nearby. These should be fast charging locations with a minimum power capacity of 50 kW, but more ideally 100—350 kW. Such charging stations need to be highly visible and easy to access, especially for visitors coming from others cities or countries and unfamiliar with the area.
Charging Station Design
Critical Design Guidelines for Charging Stations
EV charging stations should be highly visible and easy to access. As such, the following are some key tips for charging station design:
1. Strong colors
Colors that catch the eye should be a notable element of any charging station.
Lights should be included as part of the station in an elevated position designed to catch the eye and illuminate the whole space. Lights should also be included around the charging ports and/or control screens to help with user visibility at night and to help signal if a car is charging or not.
3. Good height
The tops of charging stations should stand well above the height of an average car, including an SUV.
4. Cords/cables included
Instead of just including a port for charging, stations should have the cords/cables included, so that a driver can just get out of the car, grab the cord from the station, and plug it in.
5. Cord/cable holders
The charging stations should also have integrated systems to help keep cords/cables completely off the ground and limit tripping.
6. Clear instructions
Stations should have very clear, simple instructions for how to use them, ideally in a graphical or illustrated format. This is especially helpful with new drivers or those coming from abroad.
7. Clear and simple pricing information
People like to know what they are paying for and how much it costs. It also helps with transparency and building trust, especially as e-mobility is still a young industry with differences between countries and providers.
8. Customer support information
A 24/7 phone number is almost essential. It is guaranteed that some drivers will have problems and you can usually make sure they are quickly and responsibly handled with a short phone call.
Charging stations also offer an opportunity for city placemaking, branding, and public education about the benefits of using EV or renewable energy. Slogans such as “My Warsaw” or “I ♥ Lviv”, an environmental/health message about the source of the energy, a carbon offset tracker/thermometer, etc. can look nice, make people care more about their environment, and enhance community cohesiveness.
For many drivers, the most important design elements of a charging station are the quality of the area around it. Like a favorite cafe, if they have a choice, they will go to the station that they enjoy being at. These important considerations are highly correlated to how much a station is utilized.
The convenience and ease of getting to and from the charge points matters a great deal. Is there road access from both directions? Are there other barriers? Is it handicap accessible? In a parking lot, having the stations near an entrance or elevator is helpful.
The overall look and feel of the place can drive utilization a lot. Is it clean or is there trash everywhere? Is there a nice view or park nearby to look at, or a collapsing building? These things matter.
Does the space look and feel safe? It should be safe to get to (not having to cross a lot of busy traffic) and then safe to sit or leave your car at for a while. Is it safe from other cars, bicyclists, and people? Lights help here. There should be minimal obstructions or things to trip over.
Protection from the weather
While it is safe to charge your EV at an exposed, outdoor charging station in the rain or snow, it is far more pleasant to do so at an indoor station or under the protection of a canopy.
Opportunities for recreation and relaxation
Drivers spend from 20 minutes to a few hours charging their vehicles. Shopping malls, restaurants, and coffee shops which have charging facilities all benefit from these customers. Being near a park provides the opportunity for some exercise. These things all matter to EV drivers.