Faster and smarter EV charging

 

Whether your organisation already embraces the electric vehicle (EV) or is planning to invest in EVs and related infrastructure, ICEE Managed Services explains why fast charging of batteries is becoming increasingly important to the facilities manager

How do you regard EV parking and charging at your facility – well in hand or a headache? How many employees are driving EVs to work and how many visitors? Are there enough charge-points to meet demand? Is senior management ticking boxes on EV and corporate social responsibility, or compliance on the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS)? Or electrifying more fleet vehicle assets? Are you looking at grants from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV),to install workplace charge-points at less cost?

Whatever the case, EV looks like becoming an increasingly significant issue on the facilities management agenda. There are already big issues. First, the UK-wide re-charging infrastructure lags way behind EV uptake. In some cases, workplace car parks may be part of that issue.

Mileage is another constraint. Today’s mid-market EVs travel around one hundred miles before running out of energy. Expensive, top-of-the-range models may go three times that distance.In practical terms, a business driver might rack up a hundred miles in a morning and do the same after lunch, or want to take a long motorway trip. Having to stop for several hours on the way to top up or completely re-charge a low battery may not be possible.

  

 

 Fast charging offers a practical solution

Rather than wait hours to re-charge and be forced to plan EV use around that, fast charging – also known as Level 3 charging (Levels 1 and 2 are slower) – is more flexible and immediate. Eighty per cent of battery strength may be re-stored in twenty to thirty minutes (less than ten minutes for top-range vehicles). Today, not every EV will accept fast charging, but as technology progresses charge times will drop and mileage ranges will increase. Soon, EV charging may become as quick as visiting a petrol filling station.

There is another, equally important EV point impacting facilities management. Fast chargers operate on direct current (DC) and draw a lot of power. When planning installation of these devices, especially several, check the additional power required against existing energy consumption and the allowance supplied to site from the national grid. Will the change risk overloading the system? If total consumption is near the limit a good case may be made for installing an energy management system. Potentially, it will benefit the whole site’s electrical usage and cost efficiencies, not just the EV investment.

The system is designed to monitor highs and lows of demand across an entire facility, performing dynamic load management. In real-time, to ensure sufficient supply, it adjusts and distributes appropriate energy to all electrical assets, including normal and fast EV chargers. In short, it balances peaks and troughs of power usage and warns against costly overload.

For organisations where supply is constrained (for example, a local sub-station is too small), at a stroke, this technology may solve what might otherwise be a major problem. What’s more, it is capable of delivering big cost savings.

‘Smart’ automation adds value

Normal (AC) and fast (DC) chargers from advanced manufacturers incorporate a number of comprehensive monitoring, control and reporting functions, including options on how users pay. Each device will operate in either standalone or clustered networks and offer many ‘smart’ functions. These include management of loads, charge detail records, circuit breaker status, postponed charge, user privilege configuration and payment methods, diagnosis and reporting.

All these charger functions may beseamlessly linked to the energy management system and in turn, a computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) system. This will streamline strategic and operational monitoring, control and reporting across the whole site. The highly integrated technology also assists with utility cost management by balancing or optimising energy supply and demand in relation to tariffs set by the external energy provider.

In reality, fast charging may only be required for those business users constantly using their EV during the day. Before writing a specification, carefully study and analyse what users actually need now and what may be required in the future. For example, someone who starts work at eight ‘o clock in the morning and leaves at five may be content with slow or normal EV charging. A mix of normal and fast charging is likely.

 

Whether starting out or expanding an existing installation, here are some guidelines:

1. Bear in mind an EV charger is the tip of the iceberg in an electrical infrastructure. Connecting it entails a review of everything from how much it draws from your site’s electrical supply to whether internal distribution system upgrades will be required

2. Select an EV charge-point maker with a product range to cover all your requirements, not only now but in the future, preferably one that also offers infrastructure solutions such as energy management systems. This means you will have one supplier, guaranteed compatibility and a fully integrated network

3. Remember top quality installation is as important as top quality equipment. DC fast chargers are more complicated to install and safety is paramount

4. Use an installer certified by the charge-point maker – the former will have all the qualifications, not only from the manufacturer, but will also possess essential accreditation from key institutions including NICEIC and BS EN ISO 9001:2000

5. Investing first in a thorough site survey from a qualified installer will identify and enable issues to be addressed now rather than (expensively) later

6. Check the installer will also provide reliable on-demand and preventative maintenance – if issues occur, it avoids the installer blaming the maintenance company, and vice versa

Summing up, EV charging – and fast charging in particular – adds another level of demand on energy allowances and electrical distribution within your domain. As such, it may trigger investment in an energy management system. When installing or adding EV charging facilities, the system will not only counter the risk of overload, but also cost-effectively optimise supply and demand across the estate you are responsible for, and bring beneficial cost-savings.