The widespread adoption of electric vehicles relies on the presence of a robust charging infrastructure that can keep up with the growing demand.
Building more of these facilities is essential to meet the growing demand and encourage people to use them in exchange for the traditional internal combustion engine. Without sufficient charging ports, electric vehicle (EV) owners are at risk of feeling ‘range anxiety,’ the fear of running out of battery in the midst of a trip.
To ensure the transition to EVs is both sustainable and inclusive, it is crucial to design charging facilities that are efficient, accessible, and environmentally friendly. Notably, in 2022, The British Standards Institution (BSI) established accessible standards for chargepoints, emphasising the importance of inclusivity in EV infrastructure.
The UK automotive industry published a seven-point plan to boost Britain’s EV charging infrastructure:
- Put the consumer at the centre of infrastructure policy and planning to ensure their needs are met at every stage.
- Deliver a national plan to provide consumers with the right number of the right chargers in the right places.
- Invest to establish a ‘right to charge’ for drivers of all electric vehicles, in all regions and from all backgrounds.
- Mandate legally binding targets to ensure an abundance of chargepoints in every part of the UK.
- Establish a new regulator ‘Ofcharge’ to ensure charging is affordable, accessible and as easy as – if not easier than – refuelling.
- Boost chargepoint rollout with enhanced and ringfenced funding for local authorities and innovative public-private partnerships that de-risk investment.
- Ensure the electricity system decarbonises at pace so that all ‘green’ cars are chargeable with ‘green’ energy.
In this article, we will explore why designing sustainable and inclusive EV charging facilities is essential and the positive impact it can have on the environment and society.
Inclusivity in EV charging facilities
Electric vehicles and their charging pit stops must be inclusive and accommodating to diverse needs, including mechanical ones as well as humanistic ones.
Many aspects go into inclusive EV charging facilities, such as language accessibility, charging options, and user experience. Not only does meeting these needs make the charging process much safer and enjoyable, but it also encourages the use of electric vehicles overall.
This article proves a very interesting point when it comes to inclusivity. Essentially, those in rural communities also face an inclusivity problem when it comes to how far they can travel with an EV.
Therefore, charging facilities must be able to deliver sufficient energy, have compatible connectors, and be in close proximity to smaller communities. As important as this is, it’s only one of the many areas that desire attention when creating the ultimate EV pit stop.
Accessible charging features
It is said that by 2035 there will be 2.7 million disabled drivers in the UK. Furthermore, 50% of them will be reliant on charging their EVs away from home. With this in mind, it is worrying to realise that most EV charging facilities are not designed to cater to special needs.
Sadly there are many aspects to an eclectic vehicle charging port that prove challenging for someone with a disability to use. The equipment tends to be heavy and hard to operate if you have minimal strength or are in a wheelchair.
This not only takes more time to hook up the vehicle but can also lead to injury. Therefore, designing and building inclusive EV charging facilities is a must. Here are some of the requirements for accessible charging locations:
Research first: There‘s no use making changes to EV charging facilities if they make little to no impact. Take time to deeply research disabled drivers and talk to them about what they struggle with when they visit charging ports.
Disability access: Not all wheelchair users are paralysed from the waist down. Even though the options are limited, wheelchair users are not restricted from driving electric vehicles. Disabled users also must have level surfaces to allow them to navigate the space safely. Crutches, wheelchairs, or unsteady footing can all limit the ability to use steps or walk on an angle. Making the ground flat and smooth removes the risk of serious injury.
Affordability: Everyone should be able to afford to charge their electric vehicle. They are doing the environment a huge favour, so making the price accessible to them will encourage them to use such vehicles. To cater to this, EV charging facilities must be transparent with their costs and offer cheaper off-peak or even free options for those who need them.
Safe charging locations and environments
Whether you are disabled or not, people deserve to feel safe and comfortable in their environment. At night, it is reported that 80.3% of women feel vulnerable when charging their electric vehicles.
If you want drivers to feel safe and inclined to use your facilities, you must provide a safe environment to do so. Ensuring the area is safe also protects the vehicles and charging stations from vandalism or other anti-social activities. CCTV cameras, bright lights, and other security measures are great steps in crime prevention.
With poor design and operation, EV charging facilities can be very dangerous. Electrical faults, network outages, and overcharging can all lead to fires and electrical shocks. To combat this, highly skilled engineers must install the equipment whilst pertaining to established safety regulations.
Here are some other ways to ensure your EV chagrin facility has safe charging locations and environments:
Adequate spacing: Charging stations should be spaced far enough apart to prevent collisions and allow for safe manoeuvring of vehicles and wheelchairs. Enough space between ports makes it much easier for drivers of all experience levels to navigate the area safely, preventing damage to vehicles, charging facilities, and other people.
Proper signage: To ensure the equipment is used properly, there must be suitable signage throughout the charging facility with clear instructions. It must be easy to read and in plain view. If you fail to provide this, you are liable for human injury and damage to property.
Weather protection: The weather is known to be unpredictable in the UK. Building EV charging facilities that are equipped to deal with heat waves as well as torrential rain will protect drivers while they wait for their vehicles to charge. This can be done with enclosures, weather-resistant building materials, and drainage.
EV charging compatibility
When designing EV charging infrastructure, the requirements that different types of electric vehicles have must be taken into consideration to ensure the utmost inclusivity. Depending on the engine type, the corresponding connectors must be available to support charging needs.
The lack of appropriate charging facilities can make it very challenging for EV owners to find ports that are compatible with their vehicles, especially when travelling through different countries. This is why universal charging standards are being adopted all over the world.
There are two ways in which an electric vehicle can be charged, alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). The power received from the grid is always in AC form, but this type of electrical energy is not compatible with EV batteries which only store it in DC form. Therefore, it must be converted with a charger.
There are a variety of connectors that are used, with the most common ones being:
Type 1: Mostly used in North America and Japan, the Type 1 connector carries 240 volts along its 5 pins and is designed to be used alongside Level 2 AC charging points.
Type 2: Used in Europe and some parts of Asia, this connector has 7 pins and is capable of up to 400 volts. It is compatible with AC charging and DC fast charging.
CHAdeMO: Primarily used in Japan but is gradually becoming more utilised across the world, this DC fast connector has 9 pins and can transfer as much as 500 volts. Even though it is powerful, it cannot be used with Level 2 AC charging.
The two primary EVs on the market, Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs), have slightly different charging needs.
BEVs: These EVs are powered completely by electricity. A high-voltage DC charging point is required to quickly fill the large battery packs at about 400 volts. They cannot be charged with a standard AC, as they provide half the voltage power and thus charge much slower. To bypass this, an onboard conversion is required. BEVs also require charging facilities to be close together to accommodate their limited range.
- PHEVs: These vehicles use both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. Commonly referred to as hybrids, these vehicles are popular with those who want reassurance that they won’t run out of battery mid-trip. If this were the case, the vehicle would switch to its petrol or diesel-powered engine once the battery is drained. Due to them relying less on electricity, they have a much smaller battery capacity, so they can be sufficiently charged with either an AC or DC charger.
Sustainability in EV charging facilities
Building EV charging facilities with sustainability in mind is paramount to working towards a greener future. Using sustainable materials, reducing energy consumption, and integrating renewable resources warrant a smaller carbon footprint and negative environmental impact.
As an attempt to squash range anxiety, manufacturers have created extremely fast charging ports that can fill an EVs battery up in minutes. Sure, this is reassuring for those who don’t want to be caught out by a flat battery in the middle of nowhere, but it begs the question, is it sustainable?
Put simply, rapid charging calls for more energy, so finding the most renewable, environmentally friendly way to acquire these resources is the key to making them sustainable.
Sustainable energy sources for EV charging facilities
EVs are much better for the environment compared to standard vehicles, and the growing demand for them is a very positive thing. Aside from the fact that manufacturing EV batteries is at the forefront of lithium over-mining with negative ethical and environmental complications, sustainability is another concern when it comes to charging.
Not all EV charging stops use clean, renewable energy to power their services. Some use fossil fuels, and in order to keep on top of demand, this has a very real risk of becoming more common. Unfortunately, this could render electric vehicles not as beneficial for the environment long term.
Using sustainable energy benefits economics just as it does the environment. This is because the prices of renewable energy are on a decline and tend to be cheaper than sourcing fossil fuels. Investing in sustainable energy for EV charging facilities also opens up the opportunity for many new jobs in the renewable energy sector, including engineering, installation, and maintenance.
Renewable energy sources for EV charging pit stops are as follows:
Solar: Using solar power is the most popular renewable energy source for EV charging facilities. Solar panels can be installed on building rooves, making them perfect additions for garages and weatherproof structures. Solar car ports offer both energy from the sun as well as protection from the elements. Even in the UK, where prolonged periods of direct sunlight are rare, solar panels can produce up to 20kWh daily.
Wind: Wind energy doesn’t produce fossil fuels or any other harmful emissions, which makes it a great option for clean power. It is produced by wind turbines that can either be built on-site s or sourced from a wind farm elsewhere which is more common. As well as being environmentally friendly, wind power tends to be cheaper in the long run compared to fossil fuel energy sources.
Hydrogen: Using hydrogen fuel cells to power EV charging facilities is a relatively new practice. It works by converting hydrogen into electrical energy, which then creates water and heat once engaging with oxygen. It is a sustainable energy source as no greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, and there is no shortage of hydrogen. There are some drawbacks to relying on this power source, however. It is more expensive than other renewable energies and is not as readily available.
Sustainable building materials and construction practices
When building EV charging pit stops, there are huge benefits to be made from using sustainable building materials. This also coincides with sustainable energy sources as the demand for more EV charging facilities grows.
Lots of careful consideration and planning are required for building EV charging facilities. It is also the perfect time to incorporate sustainability principles. Here are some of the main ways in which building materials and construction practices can be made sustainable:
Site selection: The environmentally friendly approach can start as early as site selection. Choosing a location with access to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power makes it much easier to reduce the overall carbon footprint. A site that is already developed prevents the destruction of established wildlife via tree falling and terrain flattening.
Recycled materials: Reclaimed wood, recycled metal, recycled concrete, and recycled plastic help reduce waste in construction. It removes the need for sourcing new material and thus depletes the world’s natural resources. Also, manufacturing these materials use a lot of emissions.
Daylighting: This refers to the use of natural light when constructing buildings. This is a sustainable application as it makes the interior space less reliant on artificial lighting and consequently saves up to 75% in energy costs. Daylighting should be considered when constructing a charging facility with indoor spaces. As well as geographical location, daylighting can be achieved with skylights, light shelves, and light tubes.
Energy-efficient EV charging facilities
Striking a balance between minimal energy consumption and reliable charging is a challenge any EV pit stop must do. But when done successfully, these spaces promote sustainability by reducing carbon footprint, decreasing energy costs, and promoting the use of electric vehicles.
Equipment: Circuit breakers, electrical panels, and transformers are all vital pieces of equipment used in EV charging pit stops. If they are not designed properly, they can fall culprit to wasting energy and making everything much less efficient. Advanced technology should be used as it is compatible with smart charging software and renewable energy.
Management systems: Performance, energy consumption, and charging times are all monitored through management systems. Managers of these charging sites can even analyse this data in real-time on their smartphones or other devices. Through management systems, charging periods can be scheduled to conserve energy during low demand. Implementing efficient, advanced management systems ensure that EV pit stops can be as efficient and sustainable as possible.
Energy storage: This encompasses the balance of energy supply and demand in order to be as sustainable as possible. Energy storage systems are used to store excess resources ready to be released during high demand. If there is a grid outage, implementing efficient energy storage ensures that charging facilities are never without power. This saves energy and employs it where it is needed most, therefore making the overall setup much more efficient and sustainable.
To recap, designing inclusive and sustainable EV charging facilities is the key to making them as accessible and environmentally friendly as possible. Implementing these practices also ensure that they are future-proof and adaptable to ever-emerging technologies and innovations within this industry.
New electrical models with bigger batteries must be able to quickly plug in and charge up like the rest of them without gorging on energy that should be otherwise saved. Those with disabilities or lower income need accessible options to allow them to use the facilities just as anyone else would. Overall, it is paramount that electric vehicles are made more convenient than vehicles powered by fossil fuels.
By carefully considering these points and applying them where possible, we can make the change that should have happened years ago.