SUSTAINABLE ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE

by Matthew Lumsden (Future Transport Systems Ltd.)

Background
Charging infrastructure for e-mobility is regarded as one of the great challenges that needs to be dealt with.  Given the low level of knowledge that exists in relation to the driving and charging behaviours of electric vehicle drivers, the current evolutionary state of charging infrastructure and the fundamental requirement to provide joined up infrastructure, the development process is ongoing.  However this development is to some extent being hindered by the lack of knowledge being shared between the large number of e-mobility projects that span the world.

With this in mind the objective of Workpackage 2 (WP2) is to share the learnings of electric vehicle infrastructure projects within North West Europe with the view to accelerating ongoing development.

The approach taken has been to research numerous projects; collect information; review project delivery approaches and useful documentation, create a Project Management Tool Kit and subsequently trial it on the development of several EV infrastructure projects.

Scope
The research which began in 2010, has focussed on developing charging infrastructure rather than broader e-mobility, although it is recognised that the two must go hand in hand.  In fact the most successful initiatives aiming to stimulate the use of EVs have been those that have linked infrastructure to EV use right from the beginning.

The scope does include the assessment of where electric vehicles are likely to operate as a base reference to the development of infrastructure.

The scope of activity has focussed on developing a document to help people make informed choices when developing EV infrastructure.  The aim is not to be prescriptive but to remove some of the risks, including the “unknown unknowns”.

The tool kit covers project Strategy & Design, Planning, Implementation and Operation taking a staged approach so that project managers who are new to the subject avoid unwanted surprises.

The tool kit takes the form of a guidance document split into sections and includes plenty of detail, project examples and key points to consider.  Examples come from various parts of North West Europe.

Work done
The development of the Tool Kit involved many one to one discussions with people working on a range of infrastructure projects.  Critical to the success of EV infrastructure projects is the involvement of the right stakeholders at the right times, and the range of stakeholders is likely to be wide.  As a consequence of this, many individuals ranging from car park operators to electricity distribution network operators to planners, electrical engineers and fleet operators were consulted in developing the document.

The research uncovered some clear trends and common comments that were used to shape the structure of the document.

The two most common comments were that people wished they had known all the key project components from the beginning and second that they wished they had considered future operation from the beginning.  Consequently a great emphasis has been placed on the Strategy & Design section that guides users through the process of planning for interoperability, future expansion, longer term operating costs, service and maintenance, and system upgrades.

Other key elements of the document include process maps for infrastructure planning and installation, stakeholder consultation maps, technology overviews and system operating models.  Most of these insights have been drawn from the experience of people who have already developed EV infrastructure projects.

Following the development phase the Tool Kit has now been trialled on several projects, primarily in the UK.  The approach has been used to develop 3 regional EV infrastructure/e-mobility strategies for projects that are now moving though to the funding, planning and implementation stages.  Feedback from these initial trials will then be used to influence the finals scope of the tool kit.

Findings
Since beginning work on the Tool it in 2010 and trialing it in 2012/13 much has changed in the sector:

More commercial parties are now moving into the market and offering a range of infrastructure solutions, some including co-funding from a range of public and private sources.  These parties are offering enhanced functionality ranging from pay as you go to more sophisticated offerings such as demand side management and various cost and billing structures.  Some are also offering more integrated e-mobility solutions, Paris Auto-lib being a good example.

Some of these parties have grown out of the public funded EV infrastructure programmes e.g. Charge Your Car in the UK whilst others such as The New Motion in the Netherlands have established themselves as commercial entities from the outset.  Many of these are however beginning to supplement and take over the earlier public funded infrastructure projects.

One outcome of this activity is the development of competition which is in turn resulting in charging infrastructure becoming more competitively priced.  This combined with the increasing popularity of Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP, which enables charge points to be operated by back offices other than those of the manufacturer) means that choices are increasing for anyone developing EV infrastructure.

A major shift in opinion has been in relation to the role of rapid charging.  Earlier views that visible public streetside infrastructure would be key to minimising range anxiety are changing to an emphasis being placed on rapid chargers not only facilitating longer journeys but also providing drivers with the reassurance that they can quickly top up if required.

In parallel with the evolution of business models, technology is also developing, both on and off board.

Nissan has now developed a range of versions of the Leaf which include lower cost options and increased ranges, also alternative financing options.  Manufacturers including GM and BMW are championing the combi plug as an alternative to the Chadamo plug adopted by Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Off-board, more charge point manufacturers are moving into the market and are offering a wider range of charging systems in turn providing a wider range of charging capacities, levels of convenience and costs.

Finally, there has been some ‘shaking out’ within the industry, most notably BetterPlace the pioneer of battery swap systems has ceased to trade but also some suppliers of charge points have chosen to outsource instead of developing their own systems and there has been a change in emphasis across international markets with some failing to meet expectations whilst others have moved ahead.

 

However, whilst the e-mobility landscape continues to change the value of the Tool Kit has been proven to stand its ground.  The reason for this is that the approach does not provide definitive technology solutions or commercial models, it simply suggest a structure of key factors that parties need to consider, a generic approach.  So this works irrespective of how vehicles, charging technologies or business models develop.

The trails of the Tool Kit have served to demonstrate some specific benefits:

  • First, the section that has been most well received is the one that focuses on Strategy and Design.  Facilitated workshops have been used to flush out the key requirements, concerns and constraints of broad groups of stakeholders and from these high level strategise have been developed.  In particular participants have valued the opportunity and knowledge base to give appropriate consideration to future operation right at the start and have some confidence that in a rapidly changing market their approach is, as much as possible future proofing the system.
    This process has resulted in the production of strategy briefing documents which again have proved useful in communicating agreed objectives and strategies to a wide range of stakeholders who will be involved as the project is developed.
  • Second, it provides an end-to-end process and source of reference material that has been welcomed by many beginning the process of planning projects.  Not only has it provided some of the answers required but it has also suggested specific areas where additional research or consultation will be required.   As a free downloadable resource it has the benefit of being available to anyone on a project team so that they can refer to sections that are relevant to their specific interests.
  • Third, the Tool Kit engenders a common language amongst those using it.  Within project teams this means that all involved use and understand a common terminology from the outset.  But this has also yielded demonstrable benefits where adjoining project have been developed using the Tool Kit.  When projects have needed to talk to each other about interoperability or providing appropriate distribution a common development approach has facilitated more straight forward dialogue.

Conclusion
To date the development and trialing of the tool kit has proved that despite the progress that is being made in the EV infrastructure sector, the generic approach taken by the tool kit has value.  If anything the emergence of new technologies and the private sector infrastructure developers alongside the public sector projects has made the landscape even more complex to negotiate so a structured informed approach with a longer term horizon is essential.