Preparing electric vehicle charging for the mass market

Ian Johnston, CEO of Osprey Charging, shares his views on the evolution of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

An electric boom

It wasn’t so long ago that there were some genuine hurdles preventing people from making the switch to driving an electric vehicle (EV). Today, we see the majority of car manufacturers releasing swathes of new models each month, and most new EVs now boast a range of over 250 miles, which seemed to be the psychological requirement for many people. And in the space of a few years we have progressed from a smattering of unreliable and inaccessible chargers to there being several nationwide, reputable, reliable and easy-to-access networks collectively deploying thousands of public rapid chargers each year.

As a result of this reassurance, demand for EVs is rocketing. EV registrations increased by 186% in 2020 and there are now more than 300,000 EVs are currently on Britain’s roads. And this is only the beginning. With the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles less than a decade away, EVs are hitting the mass market and drivers of all vehicles are seeking to learn more to help them make the first step towards clean transport. This transition couldn’t have come soon enough with the recent COP26 summit highlighting how crucial it is to switch away from polluting vehicles to combat the climate crisis.

EV infrastructure – staying ahead of the curve

In turn, demand for convenient and reliable public charging has skyrocketed. Customers have made clear their priorities for a high-quality EV charging experience: speed and availability of chargers. As an industry, we must stay ahead of the curve to ensure that infrastructure evolves at the rapid pace of the changing market.

Speed

For many drivers, speed is the number one priority for EV charging. Drivers want to be able to top up quickly and seamlessly, so they can continue on their journey. However, choosing the right charging speed is dependent on the location and site characteristics. For example, for en-route sites with a short dwell time, units of 150kW that can add up to 100 miles of charge in as little as 10 minutes, are the perfect solution. At destination locations with dwell time of closer to an hour, such as retail parks or restaurants, 75kW units are most suitable.

As charge point operators, it’s our job to ensure that the appropriate charging infrastructure is installed in the right places. A key consideration is grid connection. High-powered sites require a powerful grid connection, which can be costly to upgrade so it’s important that we get the most out of it.

Availability of chargers

Availability of chargers is predicated on two key factors: number of locations and number of chargers per location. At Osprey we currently have more than 250 chargepoints across the country.

What is becoming more apparent is the need for more chargers at each location. In early EV infrastructure, it was rare to have more than a couple chargers at a single location.

However, now it’s a very different story. As more people switch to electric and start to rely on the public charging network, we must ensure that there are enough chargers at each location, so consumers don’t have to queue up for a charger. Drivers need to have the confidence that when they show up to a site to charge, there will be chargers available so they can plug in without having to wait. The mass market will need multiple charger sites that cater to the growing number of EVs on the roads.

Finding the right balance

Unfortunately, adding more chargers to a site and keeping high charging speeds isn’t as simple as it seems. Securing a powerful enough grid connection to host multiple rapid chargers is very expensive and comes with a host of logistical challenges. That is why it is crucial to make the most of each grid connection.

Enter Kempower – a revolutionary dynamic charging technology that is enabling multiple charger sites whilst maintaining high power charging speeds.

A Kempower hub optimises charging across multiple vehicles when more than one EV is plugged in at the same time. This allows power to be distributed based on demand, which varies significantly between individual vehicles due to the maximum charging rate of each model and its battery percentage at the point of charge. For example, a Nissan Leaf at 75% will only accept a fraction of its maximum charge rate to protect the long-term health of its battery. In this scenario, the spare unused charger capacity can be re-deployed to a neighbouring vehicle which can accept much more power at that point in time. This allows every vehicle at the hub to charge at its optimal rate throughout its entire charging cycle without impacting other vehicles.

This power management can reduce waiting times for charging significantly whilst maintaining the maximum speed a vehicle can receive. This will revolutionise the charging experience for the consumer.

The load-balancing technology also means grid connections can be optimised, allowing multiple high-power chargers to be installed per site and offering higher charging speeds without the need for more grid power. This allows more locations than ever before to host multiple high-powered chargers on a single site, ready for the mass market adoption of EVs.

A step-change in EV infrastructure

As one of the UK’s largest public rapid charging networks we’ve had to adapt quickly to a changing market. We’ve seen demand for multiple charger sites grow and the developments in battery technology mean that more and more vehicles can charge at high power. Through utilising the latest dynamic charging technology, we’re installing sites with as many units as the grid allows, but at the right charge rate. Earlier this year, we announced our plans for 150 high-powered charging hubs each with up to 12 150-175kW chargers. This will be a major boost to the UK’s public charging network and ensure drivers are supported with the best possible EV charging experience. In November, we launched the UK’s very first Kempower charging hub in Wolverhampton.

As we see more EVs hitting our roads in the coming months and years, Osprey and the other charging networks have the responsibility to ensure we configure sites correctly to enable as many vehicles to charge as possible, so we can truly achieve the transition to net-zero.

Listen to Ian Johnston on the Everything EV Podcast. Available on all streaming platforms.