Getting EV charging infrastructure right for a commercial building to meet end user’s needs; whilst balancing increased power demand from buildings and grid infrastructure, is not simple. Marc Gaunt, Segment Marketing Manager for Eaton Electric, explores how you can better ensure EV infrastructure projects are equipped to ensure the best possible technical and financial outcome.
If you are planning EV charging infrastructure for a commercial building, then you should consider thinking beyond just a couple of AC charging points to meet the immediate needs of users and instead think about needs for the medium-to-long term.
Sales of electric vehicles are growing rapidly. The RAC estimates that there are already 858,000 zero emission battery electric vehicles on UK roads and more than 500,000 plug-in hybrids. This number has more than doubled since 2021 and is likely to accelerate further despite the UK’s ban on petrol and diesel cars being delayed until 2035. A desire to reduce air pollution, corporate initiatives to reduce vehicle impact on the environment, and the potential for oil price volatility are likely to further stimulate demand; whilst increased competition in the sector will undoubtedly drive down EV costs further.
Workplace charging is rapidly becoming a must-have as companies look to make their fleets electric to meet their own carbon targets. Plus, an estimated 30% of homes do not have off-street parking, so many employees and visitors will have to charge their vehicles at work.
So, the first requirement to consider with EV charging at work is the needs of both present and future users of the building and remember the future, when almost all of us will be driving electric vehicles.
This means that you must plan for realistic charging scenarios and assess the likely demand, before moving onto how you provide sufficient electrical power to meet this demand – but more on that later.
EV charging demand
Take a typical office as an example. Many users will be at work for eight hours, meaning they have time to fully charge their car during that time. Some, however, may only be present for two hours or less if they have business elsewhere – and what about visitors who might only be present for an hour before they need to move on?
Different requirements mean that you will need different types of chargers ranging from 7.4 kW AC chargers that will deliver a full charge over an extended time period, to fast charging DC units which can provide capacity to charge in a matter of minutes.
For those on the go, or where there is the need to charge multiple vehicles during a typical working day, for a typical office block you are likely to need a mix of different charging units. The majority could be AC units but then with a smaller percentage of rapid charging DC units.
This balance is likely to vary for different types of buildings. If an end-user runs a fleet of delivery vehicles, for example, or has visitors or staff who attend site for shorter periods, then they are likely to need a higher proportion of faster DC charging units.
The key is to understand how occupiers will use the building and carefully choose the infrastructure to meet the demand.
When and how electric vehicles are charged will have a big impact on the existing UK grid. For new buildings, initially proposed grid connection sizes may not be enough to meet the power needs of EV charging and the potential for electric heating. For existing buildings, the challenges may be even greater when considering long standing grid connections, existing electrical infrastructure capacity and the power needs of adjacent businesses and buildings.
Careful planning and system design are essential to ensure that the right solutions are chosen to ensure an optimised technical and financial solution for business operators in the short and long term.
Fully utilising existing renewable energy generating systems, such as solar panels, and connecting to behind-the-meter battery energy storage can reduce the cost of powering a building’s charging infrastructure. These solutions can use the power as it is generated – after all most vehicles will be parked at work during the day, and the system will store any excess energy to use potentially when the cost of electricity from the grid is at its most expensive or to fill gaps in capacity available from a building’s grid connection.
For those buildings that already have solar panels this can be a far more cost-effective way of using their renewable power than selling it back to the grid. There is also a big reputational benefit for businesses of using green energy to charge electric vehicles to help to further reduce their carbon footprint.
Even for those buildings without their own source of renewable power it can still make sense to install energy storage as they can charge during low tariff periods to offer additional power when capacity is needed or costs are higher.
Energy storage has a further benefit in that if you don’t use all the stored energy, you can sell it back to the grid to enable grid operators to manage demand at peak times. It’s also increasingly likely in the future that electric vehicle batteries themselves will be used as energy storage systems in a bidirectional system that will see them charged at times of low demand and discharged back to the grid during peak times – but that is a separate topic for the future.
Putting EV charging, energy storage, renewable power and an effective energy management system together ensures that building operators have a system that can cope with the technical demands of today and the future with a compelling environmental and financial business case.
Running a simulation
Choosing the right electric vehicle charging infrastructure for a commercial building is not a simple task when balancing the needs of the user, building infrastructure and the grid. Getting it wrong could leave customers without sufficient capacity for their needs or damage their bottom line.
Fortunately, you don’t need to throw the dice and hope for the best, because Eaton Electric can offer detailed insight on your project. Eaton’s building as a grid simulator can provide deep insight into how EV charging, energy storage, onsite renewables and energy costs from the grid impact on one another. This analysis means that designers and building operators can consciously make the right decisions to ensure their infrastructure is technically optimised for the future with the best possible financial business case.
To find out more about electric vehicle charging infrastructure or to get in contact with Eaton visit https://www.eaton.com/explore-emea/l/uk-dc-chargers-specifier