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Electric dreams

The uptake of electric vehicles will be limited until a proper charging infrastructure is in place. Sara Bean talks to Giles Benbow of Actemium and Phil Russell of VINCI Facilities, who are working together to offer FMs practical, cost-effective solutions

So far the electric vehicle (EV) has been largely seen as a niche product, but it looks as if 2020 could be the year it goes mainstream. Most of the major automotive manufacturers are joining the likes of Tesla to produce fully (not hybrid) electric cars.

The costs are still higher than regular petrol and diesel fuelled cars, but this is changing. Registrations of battery electric cars have been increasing (see References, note 1), with year-on-year growth of 2,720 units. This is set to accelerate following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement (2) that the government plans to bring forward an end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2050 to 2035 (or earlier if a faster transition is feasible) – and for the first time this policy is to include hybrids.

With the government promising to continue to work with all sectors of industry to accelerate the rollout of zero emission vehicles, and all major automotive manufacturers now working on electrifying their ranges, the next big step forward will be ensuring that there is an infrastructure in place to enable EV drivers to conveniently recharge their vehicles.

According to the latest statistics (3), the total number of UK locations with a public charging point is 10,815. However, a report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) (4) argues that this is likely to rise to 27,000 by 2030. Now, with the government going all out to ban even hybrid cars, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (5) has argued that “to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, consumers must find charging as easy as, if not easier than, refuelling.”

This is where the facilities management sector can help. VINCI Facilities and Powertest are working in partnership with Actemium EV (a VINCI Energies company) to provide complete EV solutions across the UK. A recent high-profile project was a landside fast charging system and rapid charging at Birmingham airport to fuel a new fleet of all-electric Volvo buses – one of the first schemes of its kind in the UK.

Actemium has been working in EV charging infrastructure since 2011. During this time it has delivered the largest 450kW DC dealership charging network in the UK, 34 140kW high-performance charging sites for a major EV manufacturer, plus the largest single UK workplace charging site and an equivalent UK residential charging site.

Giles Benbow, e-mobility consultant for Actemium, has been involved in the installation of electric car charging points since 2012. He moved to Actemium in 2017, where his enthusiasm for EV is the motivation to ensure the installation of as many charging points as possible to facilitate the uptake of electric vehicles. “Electric vehicles offer significantly lower operational costs,” he says, “and can make a serious impact on the cost of running a fleet.

“We have been involved within the e-mobility sector for many years, which has allowed us to refine and focus on what we do best. This includes high-performance charging, fleet and infrastructure planning, power readiness checks and the deployment of AC EV charging infrastructure in commercial and workplace environments.”

For the uninitiated, the idea of EV charging is daunting. Where is it best to recharge a vehicle – home, work, a car park or commercial charging station? And is the CCC right to suggest that 85 per cent of charging points will need to be fast or rapid chargers within the next 10 years? (6)

Rapid charging is talked about a lot, but it’s worth noting that it’s only feasible in non-residential locations. The size of the electrical infrastructure required to supply such a device means that rapid charging is not always achievable.

Says Benbow: “AC charging is a relatively simple device, which results in a comparatively low cost [to install]. A DC rapid charger is much more complicated as it handles the power conversion, and as it charges the vehicle quicker, requires a lot more power from the grid. This means that for home and workplaces, we tend to focus on AC charging. At home, usually, we only have access to 7kW. I also consider 7kW as a base level in any workplace environment, which offers around 100 miles of range on four hours of charge.”

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