Electric Vehicle Charging – What’s New?
In the burgeoning world of electric vehicles nothing stands still for very long and charging is no exception. As perhaps the most important factors in encouraging electric vehicle take-up, the ability to travel further and recharge more rapidly are getting a lot of attention from vehicle manufacturers and infrastructure providers. Here we look at some of the latest EV charging developments.
Huge growth in public EV charging infrastructure
The last decade has seen massive growth in the availability of public electric vehicle charging points in the UK. The latest stats from Zap-map show over 30,000 individual connectors housed in 17,000 charge points (devices), at over 11,000 locations across the country. That’s more than five times the number that existed in 2011 and, with around 1,000 new EV charge points being added every month, it continues to expand rapidly.
Of this total, 2981 electric vehicle charging points and a total of 7336 connectors are Rapid, or Ultra-Rapid.
Charging point roaming deals in place
One of the key criticisms raised at the existing public charging infrastructure is, that to gain access to a good selection of electric car charging points, multiple memberships or subscriptions are required because of the different payment structures operated by the providers. This means carrying multiple RFID cards, or using one of a selection of apps, depending on the location you happen to stop at. While all public charging facilities are required to offer ad-hoc access to drivers without a membership, this often comes at a premium to the normal rates.
However, a group of major European charge networks now have a roaming deal in place, meaning that just one subscription opens up the infrastructure of all signatories to the agreement. The networks involved are Allego, EVBox, NewMotion, Chargemap, ChargePoint, Charge4Europe, Engenie, Franklin Energy, and Travelcard.
Extra government funds for home charging points
In late January, the government announced that it would double the funds available for the installation of electric car charge points in residential areas to £10m. The key aim of this extra funding is to increase access to charging for residents that do not have access to off-street parking at home.
The funds are also expected to assist in the development of open source data on the location of on-street chargers, their usage status and whether they are in working order. This data could then be used by software developers to incorporate the information in satnav and route planning apps. It is hoped that these developments will help to overcome the key barrier to electric car ownership in urban residential areas where, ironically, they provide the greatest advantages over petrol or diesel vehicles.
2020 Budget update
In the March 2020 budget, the Chancellor announced the provision of a £500 million fund to support a five-year plan for the rollout of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles. The vision is that drivers will never be further than 30 miles from a rapid charging station.
The investment includes a Rapid Charging Fund to help businesses with the cost of connecting fast charge points to the electricity grid.
The Office for Low Emission Vehicles will complete a comprehensive electric vehicle charging infrastructure review so as to ensure that spending from this fund will be managed effectively.
Rapid charging become even more rapid
Just to recap, charging points come in one of three (or more recently four) speed categories; Slow, Fast, Rapid and Ultra-Rapid. Slow chargers (3-6 kW) tend to be found in workplace, some older public, and home charging point installations. They’re most useful for overnight or full working-day charges as they take around 6-12 hours for a full charge. Fast chargers (7-22 kW) are often found in car parks, supermarkets and shopping centres and take between one and six hours for a full charge. Rapid chargers (normally 50 kW) tend to be found at petrol stations, motorway services and, increasingly, at specially built electric charging hubs near to main routes. They can charge an electric vehicle to 80% of its capacity in around half an hour.
The new chargers on the block, Ultra-Rapids, can deliver charge even faster.
There are various iterations currently available, including BP Chargemaster’s Ultracharge 150 kW points and Tesla’s latest generation of Superchargers, that can deliver up to 250 kW. These chargers can add up to 75 miles of charge in just five minutes, which equates to a charge rate approaching 1000 miles an hour.
Workplace and home charging grants continue
The government continues to offer individuals and businesses support to install electric charge points at homes and in the workplace.
The Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) provides a grant of 75 percent of the cost of buying and installing a charge point up to a maximum of £500, providing you have suitable off-street parking and an eligible vehicle.
The Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) also provides financial support towards the cost of buying and installing electric car chargers but for businesses, charities and public sector organisations. Again, this can cover up to 75% of the costs, to a maximum of £500 for each of up to 20 charge points.
Approved installers must be used and other eligibility criteria apply, for more information visit the Office for Low Emission Vehicles grants page.
Battery capacities get bigger
To illustrate this point, the original Nissan Leaf had a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery and was good for a range of around 100 miles; the 2020 version packs up to 62 kWh into a similar footprint, delivering a range of nearly 240 miles. This is mainly due to advances in battery energy density, where a greater amount of energy can be extracted for the same battery mass.
Unsurprisingly, Tesla still leads the way with electric car battery capacities and range, the Model S P100D has a 100 kWh battery that can power the car for up to 379 miles. The company’s most advanced batteries currently have an energy density of around 250 Watt-hours per kilogram, with plans in place to increase this to 330 Wh/kg. Other advances, such as so-called solid-state batteries, which replace liquid electrolyte with a solid polymer-metal, promise even bigger steps forward in energy density, as well as quicker and more reliable recharging.
Electric vehicles get smarter
As you might expect, many of the key advances in on-board electric vehicle technology are also designed to increase journey range and make recharging as painless as possible.
The most advanced electric car systems can now take into account driving style and road conditions to determine when the next charge stop will be required and adapt navigation routes to take in charge points accordingly. If the system deems that you’re being too heavy footed, or that traffic conditions will make it difficult to make it to the charge point without being dangerously low on capacity, it might suggest, or even dictate, a more considered driving approach and reduce access to peak performance.
You’ll probably also have the option of adjusting the level of regenerative braking to optimise the amount of kinetic energy being captured by the batteries when you’re slowing down. The most energy efficient setting on many electric car models now allows them to be driven with just one pedal the majority of the time; press down for acceleration and lift off to reduce speed and recharge the batteries. Regular friction brakes are reserved for unplanned heavy braking and emergencies.
On approach to a charging station, some electric vehicles will automatically adjust the temperature of the battery pack to ensure that it’s in optimum condition to accept kilowatts as rapidly as possible. And, even before you begin the journey the electric car may prompt you, via a phone app, to select your required interior temperature so that it can heat or cool the cabin while still plugged into the mains, preserving battery charge for the journey.
Ready to take the electric plunge for your fleet?
All of these advances make pure electric car ownership, and usership, even more compelling for both private individuals and fleets. If you’d like to know more about how alternative fuel vehicles of all types could work for your organisation visit our information hub.