The UK government has recently come under scrutiny for its electric vehicle charging infrastructure, following reports from the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) that it will not achieve roll-out targets for EV charger deployment.
Why ultra-rapid EV charging requires a steady rollout
While many Northern European countries race ahead with the rollout of ultra-rapid charging points, the charging sweet spot -- 150 kW -- is at risk of being neglected.
There is another issue receiving surprisingly little attention, perhaps because it doesn't align with this narrative -- in some parts of Europe, ultra-rapid EV charging infrastructure is at risk of being too high powered.
Surely this is a good thing for a fledgling industry, right? Well, yes and no. The industry must maximize effectiveness and avoid setbacks today.
Meeting today's demand
In the countries leading Europe's transition to EVs, installation of ultra-rapid 400-kW chargers is being prioritized to futureproof the market. On paper this is an excellent idea, but only a few companies can currently manufacture these products.
The demand for higher voltages is driven by automaker increasing power uptake on their latest EVs that offer higher battery capabilities and charging speeds. As such, they are driving charge point operators to install for future capacity. However, the majority of EVs on the road today cannot utilize these voltages.
So, while many Northern European countries race ahead with the rollout of ultra-rapid charging points, the charging sweet spot -- 150 kW -- is at risk of being neglected.
Quashing range anxiety
Today's EV drivers tend to face range anxiety when their battery charge falls to about 30 percent. It is human instinct to want substantial battery power and while car batteries are far more advanced and rugged, recent experiences of depleting mobile phone batteries loom large for many.
People do not like going below 30 percent, and certainly not below 10 percent.
Additionally, drivers expect hassle-free visits to charging sites and instant charging without queuing. Increasing the availability of chargers at lower power means greater access for the current market, rather than having unused capacity, which is not an efficient use of available site power.
The optimum ultra-rapid charging at 150 kW serves the majority of EVs on the market and takes less than 30 minutes to charge between 30 to 80 percent.
Lessons in compliance
Charging manufacturers must adapt products for each market to meet compliance as most countries have their own specification requirements. In many cases these adaptions are negligible but occasionally, progress can be affected.
Meeting compliance as new legislation is established can often mean retrofitting products that diverts manufacturing capacity and impacts rollouts. Authorities must collaborate and set achievable and consistent requirements on a wider scale, to minimize variations with different legislations for different markets.
Stringency on compliance is of course a good thing -- it deters rogue traders and makes sure that customer's energy consumption is measured accurately. But when legislation comes into effect after manufacturing has already begun, it can set back progress.
The sector can learn from recent experiences, to better leverage its foresight and avoid such potential bottlenecks in the future.
Charge point operators are doing a fantastic job of building a reliable infrastructure network across Europe. The risk, however, is rushing to satisfy a future market that is not yet required.
In some cases, the infrastructure is almost too good; with many EV charging points ready for vehicles drawing down 400 kW, but currently underutilized by most EVs on the road today.
Organizations responsible for delivering EV charging infrastructure -- especially those operating in markets that are behind on their targets -- would do well to ensure their provisions can meet the demand of today, as well as for tomorrow.