The UK needs five times as many electric vehicle charging (EVC) points as it currently has in order to meet government bans on petrol and diesel vehicles, according to the Policy Exchange think tank.
Car manufacturers from Bentley to Volvo are electrifying their product ranges, and we need the infrastructure to serve them.
Commercial building owners and occupiers see the answer: providing EVC facilities on their property, boosting traffic to commercial destinations and serving their fleet vehicles too. However, while the strategy is clear, the technical reality of installing a capable charging network is often more complex.
At TFT, we help building owners and occupiers from major retail and logistics companies, shopping malls and residential communities embrace EV charging infrastructure in the right way. The challenges for each project run the gamut of building types, neighbouring environment and the reach of the national grid. In each case, the emphasis must be on customer experience, to meet the need for EVC points reliably and sustainably. That means beginning with a realistic feasibility assessment.
Location and power availability play a huge factor in how many EVC points you can install. The national infrastructure is already under strain and the increase in demand along with short-term planning may negatively affect the user’s experience due to lack of availability or slow charging rates. This is less of a problem for fleet charging, where good planning can keep vehicles charged over a rolling schedule with less disruption. But even in these environments, electrical demand is generally higher for longer periods, putting a direct strain on the national grid.
Getting connected to the grid may require some special routing through neighbouring properties, across uneven terrain – with costs increasing in line with the challenges faced to do so. Installation is otherwise relatively simple, but it brings us to our next most important consideration: maintaining up-time to deliver the best user experience.
Once you have invested in and promised visitors the use of charging facilities, a complete maintenance plan is essential to see return traffic from users and ultimately future-proof your investment. Routine inspections and timely interventions will make for a more sustainable system and a more attractive destination for today’s EV drivers and all those still to come.
EVC has huge potential for commercial property owners, but delivering that opportunity means fulfilling your commitment to users.
Chris Dark is associate, mechanical and electrical engineering at TFT