THE LOWDOWN ON EV CHARGING OPTIONS

20th Jan 2021

 

For decades, drivers have been conditioned to visit petrol stations for a fill-up every time we see the orange fuel light ping. Electric vehicle drivers no longer have that inconvenience.

Much has been made about the ‘refuelling’ of electric cars, since charging the battery is a complex science lesson and requires a shift in driving behaviour. What’s more, headline reports on poor infrastructure experiences can be off-putting to those curious about electric vehicle ownership.

Let’s take a look at the charging options when owning and renting an electric vehicle.

Home Charging

When a driver buys an electric vehicle, plugging into your existing three-pin socket, while possible with the right cable, could take days to charge, since the flow of electricity on such an outlet is restricted to 240V, a maximum 3000 watts (13 amps (A).

Installing a government-incentivised wall box, either on the driveway or in the garage, offers more convenience. A choice of 3.7 kW (13A), 7kW (25A) or 22kW (72.3A) charging points are available, with a £350 discount. Long-standing EV drivers report that their daily driving amounts to recharging every 2-3 days, rather than every day. 

Getting into a habit of plugging the car in every time you’re home is helpful, since most chargepoints can be remotely controlled by a companion app on a tablet or mobile handset. Thus, if you wish to switch charging on at a particular time—i.e. when the price of energy is cheapest—you can do so. 

Like mobile devices, not all charging ports are created equal. EVs can have type 1 and type 2, or a combination, somewhat confusingly. The good news is, suppliers like Podpoint, ensure your box is fitted with the correct one for your vehicle. 

Of course, high speed home charging isn’t always an option if you’re hiring an electric vehicle, so what are the alternatives?

Street charging

The trend towards urban apartment living is putting a great deal of pressure on local authorities and property developers to provide residential and communal charging points. While some councils have been very proactive, e.g. Brighton and Westminster, efforts across the UK are not consistent. 

These points offer the same charging capacity as a home charger, 3.7kW, 7kW and 22kW with the expectation that they’ll be used overnight. Companies like Ubitricity, which has created a way of attaching an EV charging port to a pre-existing street light, have innovated to find solutions without adding more street furniture. When it comes to the payment conundrum, Ubitricity has created a charging cable with its own meter, so drivers can be charged through their usual energy supplier and local authorities have another income stream, resolving a distinct thorn in the side of a wider chargepoint roll out, i.e. who pays for the energy used.

Destination charging

Destination charging refers to the chargepoints at places where ‘dwell times’ are sufficient enough to cover the energy discharged on the drive to the location, and beyond. These chargers can be 7kW-22kW and are known as ‘fast’ chargers. 

Found at shopping centres, hotels, national parks and town centre car parks, hairdressers, libraries and pubs make ideal destination charging locations too. Businesses can generate income when partnering with suppliers, like ChargePoint, which provides the hardware point, installation and fully customised software interface to enable payment from customers; win-win since many customers may go onto another destination, rather than return home, after their visit. 

Rapid charging

The dawn of rapid charging was heralded by Tesla, which, seemingly overnight, installed its red and white supercharged soldiers at service stations up and down the UK’s motorways. The Tesla Supercharger network was launched offering free mileage for life to all Tesla owners. That perk was rescinded in 2016 when it materialised that owners weren’t bothering to charge at home at all. Luckily for all EVHIRE clients, all our Tesla fleet come with unlimited free supercharging as standard.

For purchasers, Tesla now offers 1000 free miles with every car purchase. At the moment, other car brands can’t use Tesla’s Supercharger network (for now.....), but other suppliers of rapid chargers, like Instavolt, make charging at their points just as easy, making them very popular. Rock up, tap the contactless payment card and connect.

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Rapid chargers tend to be found where ‘dwell time’ is much shorter, thus a greater surge of power into the battery is needed in a shorter amount of time. Ranging from 43kW-50kW to 150kW, charge time can be as little as ten minutes to 80%.  

Providers such as FastNed and Gridserve are working on creating service-station-style hubs where a complete range of charging options is available, alongside amenities such as dog-walking areas, gyms and cafes for a purpose-built meeting point and charging facility. 

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The Challenges

There are variety of issues with the current charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in the UK. Though improving, the lack of standardisation for accessibility is a great source of contention. Every provider requires an individual sign-up. Though legislation introduced in Spring 2020 requires all charge points to accept contactless payment, the way in which some points have been retrofitted means this option is not always reliable.

Non-electric cars parked in the electric-only bays, high demand in areas of low supply and frequent disrepair are other obstacles creating friction in the electric vehicle experience. Electric vehicle owners have become heavily reliant on independent services such as Zap-Map, an app which enables users to see the precise location of charge points—no matter the provider—, the types of ports supported at that specific location, the cost, the network provider and the status of the charger (e.g. available, in use, out of service). Avid users often report the condition of charging points and take photos to help other users, while waiting for their car to charge.

The Future?

Bi-directional charging

Bi-directional charging is the latest innovation in home charging. The vehicle draws down on the energy from the grid and stores it to be driven. In bi-directional charging, energy is drawn from the vehicle back to the grid, or to the home in an emergency. This is helpful as the grid and increasingly more homes are turning to renewable energy generation, such as solar, which is notoriously difficult to store. 

Not only could having solar panels reduce your energy bills, but coupled with your EV and a bi-directional charger, you may put yourself in a position to start selling your energy back to the grid.

Other forms of income generation include services like ‘Bookmycharge’, a platform that—in a similar style to AirBnB—helps electric vehicle drivers monetise their home charging point, while simultaneously increasing the network of charging points available to drivers nationally. 

Wireless charging

The inauguration of the Formula E electric car racing championship six years ago has seen a greater spotlight being shone on the innovations around electric vehicle development, battery technology and charging opportunities. Alejandro Agag, founder of the all-electric racing series, said in the beginning he hoped the racing series, which brings motorsport to city streets, would leave a legacy—a wirelessly charging racing track, which buses and taxis could use to recharge on the days throughout the year the racing wasn’t taking place. 

It may sound a little pie in the sky, but BMW, which provides the safety cars for the championship, already uses wireless charging pads. And it’s no coincidence that the 2019 7-Series introduced Remote Park Assist, a precursor technology to ensure a vehicle would line up over a wireless charging pad perfectly, to ensure maximum charging capacity. 

Electric vehicle ownership is indeed a break away from the norm. An emerging technology is never going to be without its niggles, but there’s no better way to assess the electric vehicle experience than through an EVHire rental, which provides a genuine stepping stone to ownership.

For more information on our EV rental fleet click HERE

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