Image courtesy of Juice Technology AG.

Electric vehicle public charging Networks are more than just charging stations set randomly in an area. The prime objective is to support EV drivers with reliable, available and fast charging. In my last February blog post, I was referring to the concept of a public charging network, here we are talking about general characteristics. This post is based on my experience working for a public charging Network and frequent exchanges with market players. From technical aspects to the business model, the idea is to give an overview of what a public network shall be composed of.

1. Charging Efficiency: Time to get you going

The speed of charging is important but not always essential, it has to be adapted to the situation. For example, charging a car overnight would be acceptable if the charging point is in a hotel. On the other hand, if you are stopping at a highway service area, you would expect to get a fast-charging station able to get you going in 10 to 15 minutes. That’s why the industry has come up with the following segmentation:

  1. Coffee and Charge: 15 to 20 minutes for a full charging process / Power around 50 to 150 kW
  2. Shop and Charge: 1 to 2 hours for a full charging process / Power around 22 kW
  3. Sleep and Charge: 6 to 8 hours for a full charging process / Power around 3.6 kW

It has to be noticed that the time of charging is indicative and depends on car type and battery size.

2. Charging Cable Plug compatibility

There are currently different charging standards which are being used in the EV market. DC (Direct current) charging for fast charging and AC (Alternative Current) with lower capabilities. These are the different available systems:

  • CHAdeMO: DC
  • CCS (Combined Charging System): DC
  • Type 2: AC

European and North American car maker are investing more in type 2 and CCS cables rather than CHAdeMo which is currently used by the Asian competitors. We could expect an uniformisation but this is unlikely to happen in the next 5 years. That’s why charging stations shall be compatible with multiple socket formats.

3. Diverse Access solution

E-mobility Providers offering public charging Station access to Drivers, generally propose 2 types of identification systems for subscribers; RFID cards and/or QR code that can be used with a Smartphone Applications. Mobile SMS or NFC (Near Field Communication) are used by “pay as you go” consumers. As the market is not yet set, the idea is to be compatible with a broad type of access technologies.

4. Location, location, location

A great location is a key element of a public EV charging network. It is even more significant than with traditional Gaz stations because a fast charging process can take 15 to 120 minutes. It is, therefore, essential that these charging Points are based in areas with activities such as coffee shops, Restaurants, businesses or leisure facilities.

5. Network Interoperability: Open to access and be accessed

EV public charging networks shall be open for a maximum of drivers. The interconnection via Roaming Platforms such as Saascharge eRoaming or/and directly via a peer to peer roaming protocol with the Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI) are crucial for the comfort of drivers. This will increase the amount of charging possibilities and improve the adoption of EVs. Profitability of charging stations will also benefit from this additional frequentation.

6. Charging Points numbers

Taking into account that a car could occupy a charging spot for a while and that this technology is still fragile, a multiplicity of charging points matters! This could, however, be improved with a booking of charging location but this is not a practical concept (not ideal when a driver is late due to traffic jam). it is, therefore, important to follow the utilisations of charging stations and plan the construction of additional points accordingly.

7. Smart pricing model

Affordable and smart pricing model could encourage drivers to use more often public charging facilities. Some E-mobility Providers (EMP) set prices per charging Stations while other define prices per networks.  A smart pricing has to be uncomplicated, attractive and transparent. That’s why I do prefer a network pricing approach rather than a “gaz station” type of model.

Examples of pricing:

  • Flexible kWh or minute transaction billing with subscriptions or “pay as you go” type of pricing.
  • Differentiated prices for local or national usage which is ideal for urban drivers using exclusively public EV charging infrastructure.

8. Customer Service

Customer service for drivers is essential considering that EVs and public charging Stations are still new technologies with high complexities. Cases such as blocked cable or system breakdown have to be solved as soon as possible. We are not in the Apple world where Software and Hardware are manufactured by the same company and work perfectly together. Cars, charging stations and system backends are all from different vendors. Even with the best market standards for charging plugs or communication protocols, this is still not stable yet and requires a competitive customer service.

9. Charging Station Design: It must be adapted to the landscape

The design of a charging station is especially important when it is located in an urban area. It has to be discreet and visually integrated into the landscape. Ultra-fast charging stations have generally the look of a giant box mixed with a bunch of cables which makes them look like a Christmas tree. These kinds of charging Stations are appropriate on a Motorway but definitely not at the Champs-Élysées in Paris! As you can see in the illustration picture, the Swiss charging station manufacturer, Juice Technology has understood that design is a major argument when it is located in a nice area.

10. Solid Business Model

Last but not least, a business model involving every market players from the drivers, network, and investors (charging station owner) is essential. This would ensure sustainability and growth. This does include partnerships with communities for support and access to prime locations. Commercial partnership with the automotive industry and fleet management companies are prime to grow a customer base (drivers).

In summary, as the market is not defined yet, it is important that public charging station networks are available, open and compatible with multiple standards, infrastructures, and network.