Yes, e-mobility is undergoing a massive boom and we already know it’s going to be the future of our transport. However, some shortcomings remain to be figured out, and in Slovakia, the primary one lies in the insufficient charging infrastructure. What can we do?
The fact that our charging infrastructure is insufficient is supported by data. According to ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association), there’s still a shortage of charging stations in Europe — 10 EU member states don’t even have an average of one charging stationper 100 km. Which countries come out on top, and which ones, on the other hand, are struggling? The Netherlands tops the ranking (47.5 charging stations per 100 km), followed by Luxembourg (34.5), Germany (19.4), Portugal (14.9), and Austria (6.1). The fewest stations are available in Lithuania, Poland, Cyprus, Latvia and Romania. And what about Slovakia? In our country, there’s an average of 2 charging stations per 100km. How can we improve this?
Every problem has a solution and it’s always possible to work on developing our infrastructure. For example, by utilising innovations from new market players. One of the exemplary cases is AgeVolt, with their green, effective, and practical solutions. How best to save on charging? Where, when and what charging station to choose? And, most crucially, what stations are available on our market? We’ve discussed this topic in an episode of the BATTERYacademy project (you can listen to the PODCAST or watch the VIDEO). I’d like to sum up our points in this blogpost, too.
DO YOU THINK THAT CHARGING A CAR TAKES LONGER THAN FILLING UP THE TANK? LET’S HAVE A CLOSER LOOK
Many people have doubts about the time efficiency of EV charging, in comparison to filling up a petrol tank. Let’s have a closer look. I’d argue that the reality is different. Suppose that an electric vehicle is being charged while it’s parked or in the garage. Maybe we’re charging it while doing shopping — in practice, that means we are charging the EV while also running errands. On the other hand, when it comes to refuelling, we have to drive to the gas station, fill up the tank, pay for it, and so on. The whole thing takes us roughly 10-15 minutes. When charging an EV, in the case of normal urban use, it’s enough to have the car connected to the charging station, whether we’re at work, home, or shopping for groceries. We don’t even have to know how much time the actual charging takes, because by the time we come back, the car is sufficiently charged to take us to our next destination.
AC/DC IN THE E-MOBILITY WORLD: WHAT DOES IT MEAN AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
We often encounter people who think that charging an EV takes a long time. Yes, we’ve already talked about how, from a practical standpoint, it’s possible to charge an electric car while it’s on standby and we’re not using it. However, how long does the charging take? And what does the AC/DC of electromobility even mean? In layman’s terms, there are two types of charging stations: alternating current stations (AC), which are slower, and direct current stations (DC), which are faster. AC stations charge at a standard rate of 70-100km per hour. That’s what an average driver needs for their daily commute. People living in cities and villages need roughly half an hour of charging to recharge their daily energy consumption. DC stations are commonly set up around highways and help us travel longer routes. It’s important to note that with DC stations, the charging times are much shorter, and, on the whole, charging won’t take any longer than refueling a diesel or petrol car. Are you asking why DC stations can’t be placed in cities, too, so we can all charge faster? The answer is very simple: it’s unnecessary to use such large energy currents.
POWER CUTS CAUSED BY CHARGING? WE DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THOSE
Of course, everything has its flaws, and in our case, the whole infrastructure is dependent on what type of charging infrastructure gets built in cities. For example, if the infrastructure within a street isn’t built sensibly, recharging a car here could lead to a street-wide power cut. But the likelihood of that happening is very small, and with a good energy management and performance system, the probability is almost zero. Even if we built a parking lot with 100-200 charging stations, and there’d be 200 cars charging at the same time, nothing would happen, because the system knows how to divide the energy up between the cars in a way that won’t cause problems for the building, the distribution system, or the country at large.
WHAT DOES THE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE CHARGING STATION AND THE CAR LOOK LIKE?
Yes, the way the electric vehicle communicates with the charging station is very important. Because there are two types of charging stations (AC/DC), it’s necessary to differentiate between them. Basically, there is nothing to dwell on in the case of AC stations. Here, the risk of a car getting damaged is very small, because the real charger is placed in the car itself. This charger powers the car with a normal AC current, one that we usually use in our home sockets. The internal charger is in the car, placed there by the manufacturer. Therefore, the EV owner doesn’t have to worry about overheating or other problems. DC stations can be a little more tricky. Don’t panic! Damage only happens if the DC stations come from uncertified manufacturers. Problems can be caused by poor construction or charging errors. As the saying goes, hard work reaps rewards. We follow this motto in AgeVolt, in our innovative charging infrastructure solutions.
THE EVOLUTION OF CHARGING STATIONS: THIS IS HOW THEY’VE CHANGED
How did charging stations evolve in the last 5-6 years? AC stations haven’t changed much. Simply put, there’s very little space for improvements. Minor upgrades could be made to minimise space, or to work with other forms of protection. In the case of DC stations, there’s been a huge improvement in terms of speed. The first DC stations started at 50 kW, whereas today, 350 kW are available. Their defectiveness rate has also been reduced. Many manufacturers offer 10-year warranties. The most significant improvement, however, lies in the form of charging — the software and the logic behind it. When we started, we used classical coin-operated charging stations. As users, we couldn’t be sure if the stations were turned on, or how much they’d cost us. To charge our EVs, we had to come check whether a station was occupied or not. Today, we’ve taken massive steps forward, towards the so-called “charge point operators”. What does the term mean, and why are we shifting our focus to this alternative? It’s simple! The goal is for everyone who owns a parking spot to become a small operator — someone who’ll have the chance to offer their parking space as a charging spot, too. It shouldn’t be viewed as an opportunity for further earnings, but to offer another type of service to one’s customers. As a result, the customers would visit the parking spot more frequently and stay in the vicinity while the car got charged. This would also cover the cost of the charging station.
ONE IMPORTANT QUESTION: HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
Currently, the price depends on many factors. For many standard operators, the price is highly subsidised, which is not sustainable. It’s understandable, of course, that they need to set their price so that it’s profitable. But let’s look at it from a different perspective. Given the small number of charging stations and the low rate of their use, if you’d like to split the load over the next 10 years, a car cannot be charged there for an hour a day. This would cost 1 EUR per kW. What causes this and why?
It’s logical. The cost of a charging station is around 1000 EUR for an AC type, and over 20 000 EUR for a DC type. For the DC stations placed at highways, the cost is often over 100 000 EUR. The price is really monumental and companies need to make it back on charging. Another factor is that, in Slovakia and many other EU countries, the price of reserved capacity is quite high. This is the capacity that’s paid for by the owner of the electrical connection and its value depends on the size of the connection. I’d like to mention the AgeVolt system. Because we’re aware of these issues, our system controls the charging power and uses only the existing capacity of a building. At the end of the day, it means that you won’t pay anything extra for charging. When you have a charging station that requires its own reserved capacity, the price is very high. Let’s look at an example from practice. In the case of AgeVolt DC stations (50 kW) and AC stations (22 kW), we don’t pay for reserved capacity, because we have our own connection. If we want to earn back the cost of the charging station in 3 years, then, with ACstations, we only need people to pay 1 extra cent for 1 kWh, and 30 cents with DC stations. Here, one has to think about what’s personally more advantageous and effective. Whether it’s better to build more DC stations outside of cities, where people will charge their cars for 15 minutes, or to scatter AC stations all around and pay less for charging.
What would I like to say in conclusion? We shouldn’t forget that the automotive industry is undergoing its biggest changes since the time we swapped horses for cars. And if we want to make the switch to e-mobility and more eco-friendly transport options, we can’t afford to slack off. The opposite is true! Let’s innovate, create more solutions, and, what’s also necessary, talk about them and introduce the market’s innovations to as many people as possible.
zakladateľ spoločnosti AgeVolt