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Bleak Future For Mobility: Flawed EV Charging Infrastructure, What Now?


Bleak Future For Mobility: Flawed EV Charging Infrastructure, What Now?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are no longer just something out of a sci-fi utopia. Its adoption is now a necessity in our global efforts to reduce ever-increasing carbon emissions and combat climate change.


The plan to decarbonize transport has already been put into action. As part of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the EU aims to bring down CO2 emissions from cars by 37.5% by 2030. All the while the UK has made great strides in achieving net zero by banning sales of new fossil fuel vehicles by the end of this decade.


Efforts to overturn global temperature rise have kick-started the rise of electric vehicles. However, two out of three cars on the road will need to be electric to stay on track for achieving net zero emissions by 2050. And, while they offer us a chance at reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and securing cleaner emissions, the success of EVs is heavily reliant on the charging infrastructure that supports them.


Similar to how your traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles rely on a network of gas stations and their associated infrastructure to keep them running throughout each country, EVs require a solid and functional charging station infrastructure to enable seamless cross-city or cross-country travel.


Unfortunately, the current state of EV charging infrastructure reveals several critical flaws that hinder its progress.


The Lack of Charging Stations


For the widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) to pick up pace, EV owners must have convenient and quick access to charging infrastructure. However, one significant challenge hindering the growth of EVs is the global shortage of charging stations for intercity drives.


It is not, by any means, the absence of demand that is contributing to the underdevelopment of charging infrastructure. In fact, the opposite can be said. The relatively new nature of the EV market means that the infrastructure still has a long way to go, whether it be on the regulation or investment aspects. Not to mention the upfront costs associated with establishing charging stations can be prohibitive for some entities, leading to slower infrastructure development.


To better understand the challenge, let's consider the process of refueling internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, traditionally powered by gasoline or diesel.


When fuel is running low, drivers can feel at ease—locating a nearby gas station and refueling can be easily done within a matter of minutes, depending on the tank capacity. On the other hand, EV owners are bound to face range anxiety in the current climate as there simply aren't enough charging stations available. On top of that, charging EVs can be time-consuming without proper charging infrastructure.


This lack of charging stations becomes a significant challenge when EV drivers wish to embark on long-distance journeys, such as traveling from the East to the West Coast of the United States or going on a multi-city drive throughout Europe.


The EU, for instance, has set an ambitious goal of reaching climate neutrality with a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. To achieve this, the installation of charging infrastructure that aligns with the increasing use of EVs is crucial for transitioning to alternative fuels and establishing a predominantly zero-emission vehicle fleet.


Even though the ultimate aim is to make charging EVs as convenient as refueling conventional vehicles, enabling seamless travel throughout the region, the EU faces a classic chicken and egg dilemma: limited vehicle adoption until there is sufficient charging infrastructure, while investments in infrastructure require assurance of vehicle uptake levels.


EV Charging Infrastructure Solution: Gas Stations


To address this challenge, one potential solution is for EV companies to partner with existing networks of gas stations as they are already conveniently situated to cater to the needs of travelers and commuters. These gas stations often have additional amenities, including restaurants and shops, making them ideal locations for charging stations.


Repurposing these existing establishments is highly practical, especially along major routes where people embarking on longer trips are more likely to need fast chargers. By leveraging the infrastructure and services of established gas stations, companies can significantly expedite the deployment of charging stations and alleviate EV drivers’ fear of being left stranded without fuel.


To illustrate how leading industry players are adapting to the changing landscape of transportation, we can have a look at Shell, as an example.


Shell has taken steps to integrate EV charging points into its existing network of stations, recognizing the need to support the adoption of electric vehicles. Under its Shell Recharge initiative, the company has achieved a remarkable milestone with the completion of the high-performance charging (HPC) network spanning from Singapore to Thailand. This collaboration between Shell Malaysia and Porsche Asia Pacific has created the longest cross-country EV charging network in the region.


The Shell Recharge HPC stations are equipped with 180kW DC fast chargers, ensuring 80% charging capacity in only half an hour. To enhance convenience, drivers can reserve charging slots in advance using Shell's ParkEasy app. Navigation services and other amenities have also been integrated to elevate the overall stopover experience.


This exemplifies how major energy and mobility companies are embracing the transition to sustainable mobility and actively participating in the development of EV charging infrastructure. By utilizing its existing network of stations, Shell is addressing the lack of charging stations and facilitating more pleasant journeys for EV owners across the region, including travel to neighboring countries like Singapore and Thailand.


Shell's strategic efforts demonstrate its commitment to supporting the expansion of charging infrastructure and the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. With more similar collaborations, we can eventually overcome the challenges posed by the lack of charging stations.


Standardization of Charging Infrastructure


The lack of standardization in charging infrastructure poses a significant challenge to the widespread adoption and convenience of electric vehicles. Incompatible charging point designs and the absence of a universal charging standard create confusion in the market and hinder the seamless charging experience for EV owners.


A parallel can be drawn with Apple's recent move, where they were compelled to transition from their proprietary Lightning ports to USB-C connectors for all iPhones in the European Union. This transition aimed to reduce e-waste generated by separate chargers and establish a universal charging standard.


Similarly, the implementation of a standard charging point for EVs would streamline the charging experience and ensure compatibility across different EV models and brands.


There are currently three levels of charging available for EVs. While Level 1 and Level 2 chargers are generally universal, limitations arise when it comes to Level 3 charging.


Level 1 charging, with its slow charging speed, is not a realistic option for meeting the daily needs of EV drivers. Although Level 2 charging is the most popular method and offers shorter charging sessions, it still takes several hours to fully charge a battery.


While Level 2 charging is suitable for residential and commercial charging settings, relying on chargers that take more than four hours can act as a barrier to widespread EV adoption.


The most effective and fastest way to charge an electric vehicle is through Level 3 charging, also known as direct current (DC) fast charging. On average, Level 3 charging enables longer journeys and reduces range anxiety by allowing drivers to charge their battery to 80% in just 30 minutes on average. However, unlike Level 2 charging, most EVs are not compatible with Level 3 charging points, and the use of Level 3 charging on a daily basis can lead to higher battery degradation over time.


While public fast chargers provide charging solutions for those without reliable access to private charging, Level 3 charging can be cost-prohibitive for commercial projects, and there is still a shortage of Level 3 chargers in public spaces.


Efforts are underway to develop public charging infrastructure in the European Union, with the overall number of fast chargers surpassing 70,000 by the end of 2022, marking a 55% increase compared to 2021.


Similarly, in the United States, there has been significant progress in installing fast chargers, with 6,300 installed in 2022, of which three-quarters were Tesla Superchargers. And, as a result of new standards for federally funded EV chargers in the US, Tesla has announced its plan to also open a portion of its charging network to non-Tesla EVs.


To decarbonize road travel globally, one of the major challenges will be ensuring continuous growth and development of the charging infrastructure. It requires collaboration between governments, regulatory bodies, and industry stakeholders to establish common standards and expand the charging network in order to support the increasing number of EVs on the roads.


Energy Capacity


With the increasing number of electric vehicles on the roads, the demand for electricity to charge them also surges. While this transition towards electric mobility aligns with sustainability goals, the simultaneous charging of multiple EVs can strain the local power grid, leading to blackouts and disruptions.


Consider an office car park scenario where everyone arrives at work with electric cars and connects them to the charging station simultaneously in the morning. Without proper infrastructure, the facility may not be equipped to handle such peak loads, resulting in inefficient use of electricity from renewable sources, leading to increased electricity expenses and grid instability.


To address this challenge, the implementation of smart charging infrastructure is crucial.


Smart Charging Infrastructure for EVs is The Way Forward


Smart EV charging, also known as intelligent charging, involves establishing a data connection between electric vehicles, charging devices, and charging operators.


Unlike traditional charging devices that are not connected to the cloud, smart charging enables charging station owners to remotely monitor, manage, and control the use of their devices, optimizing energy consumption. This helps to ensure a balanced energy load and prevent grid overloads.


Powered by intelligent back-end solutions, smart EV charging systems gather real-time data from connected charging devices and charging events, providing station owners with valuable insights and control over the charging process.


The benefits of smart EV charging are significant for various stakeholders:


For EV drivers:

  • Cost savings: Smart charging allows EV drivers to charge their vehicles at the most cost-effective periods, taking advantage of lower electricity rates during off-peak hours.

  • Environmental benefits: By automatically adjusting the charging schedule to low-energy consumption periods, smart charging contributes to the overall balance of the grid and reduces environmental impact.

For businesses:

  • Remote monitoring and control: Businesses with charging points can monitor and control charging events remotely and in real-time, optimizing pricing, availability, and charging power.

  • Energy management: Smart charging enables businesses to set limits on energy consumption, ensuring they don't exceed their building's energy capacity and avoiding costly demand charges.

For grid and network operators:

  • Optimized energy flow: Smart charging allows operators to regulate energy intake according to peaks and lows in energy demand, providing more reliable services to customers.

For the environment:

  • Secure and stable net-zero energy system: Smart charging plays a crucial role in achieving a secure and stable net-zero energy system as the demand for EVs grows.

  • Integration of renewables: Smart EV charging maximizes the environmental benefits and enables the integration of higher shares of renewable energy sources into the power generation mix.

In the rapidly evolving smart mobility landscape, startups are emerging as key players in revolutionizing the smart charging infrastructure to tackle inefficient charging networks.


Companies such as Charge+ and Magenta Mobility have been leveraging advanced technologies and creative solutions to optimize energy management and ensure a balanced load on the power grid under Plug and Play’s umbrella.


Charge+

Charge+ EV charging station in parking lot

Charge+ is a prominent EV charging solution provider in Singapore and Southeast Asia, dedicated to driving the widespread adoption of electric mobility in the region. Their comprehensive range of integrated solutions consists of an exclusive ultra-slim charger, advanced smart charging software, and innovative business models.


With a vision for the future, Charge+ aims to establish 10,000 charging points across Singapore by 2030 while also leading the EV revolution with clean, renewable energy in key market segments such as residential areas, commercial and industrial sectors, and fleet operators.


Magenta Mobility

Fleet of smart electric delivery vehicles by Magenta Mobility

Magenta, India's prominent electric mobility provider, introduces a groundbreaking EV charging solution that sets it apart in the country. Focusing on electrifying urban freight and transportation for last-mile deliveries nationwide, this startup has developed an exceptionally effective ecosystem.


At the core of their success is ChargeGrid, a network of strategically located charging hubs near vendor warehouses, hubs, and distribution centers. These hubs offer comprehensive and intelligent charging solutions, featuring standardized EV chargers and a reliable charging management system.


As electric vehicle adoption soars, investing in smart charging infrastructure becomes imperative to ensure the efficient utilization of available energy resources, minimize the strain on the power grid, and maximize the environmental benefits of electric mobility.


Government Support for Establishing EV Charging Infrastructure


The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) as the future of sustainable mobility is undeniably hindered by the limited availability of charging stations.


One of the primary concerns for potential EV buyers is range anxiety. A survey from Volvo shows that 58% of drivers listed range anxiety as a barrier to purchasing an electric car. Similarly, Nissan’s survey conducted in June 2021 says 56% of ICE vehicle owners in the EU who have no intention of buying EVs express concerns about the insufficiency of charging points.


While public sentiments reinforce the need for an extensive and accessible charging infrastructure, it also presents a challenge for potential investors in EV charging stations and other infrastructure as the lack of EV sales creates a financing gap and hampers their willingness to invest further.


Recognizing this, many governments have taken steps to address the issue. However, these efforts often lack a well-defined plan or objectives, leading to initial stages of disarray in the open market.


In Australia, for example, EV owners still lack confidence in traveling longer distances with no more than two charging outlets available at each location. Worse, the network has yet to be converted to fast charging, leaving drivers waiting in queues dissatisfied. And while there is an urgent need to upgrade the country’s EV charging infrastructure to match the rising demand, the investments needed from the government have yet to come at the same pace.


Governments have a vital role to play in facilitating the successful implementation of EV infrastructure. They need to establish a solid foundation for a functional charging network by collaborating with key players in the EV ecosystem and attracting more investments to overcome the bottleneck in EV growth.

Current government initiatives primarily focus on implementing CO2-related regulations and providing incentives to boost EV demand while reducing sales of traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. In fact, many countries and the European Union have already set electrification targets or announced net-zero pledges.


To expedite progress, governments must roll out plans to boost charging infrastructure networks through policies, grants, and subsidies to incentivize development, while also collaborating with think tanks and industry experts to bring ideas to life.


This includes direct investments in publicly accessible chargers and incentives for EV owners to install charging points at home. Strategic placement of charging infrastructure is crucial, such as opening up low- and zero-emission zones to encourage EV usage.


By fostering an environment that encourages investment in charging infrastructure, governments can attract private sector involvement and ensure the sustainable expansion of EV charging networks.


Through these concerted efforts, governments can play a pivotal role in establishing a robust and widespread EV charging infrastructure, addressing range anxiety, and accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles.


Conclusion


While the future of smart mobility heavily relies on the adoption of EVs, the flawed charging infrastructure poses significant challenges. Addressing the lack of charging stations, standardization of fast chargers, managing energy capacity, and increasing government involvement are crucial steps toward overcoming these hurdles.


By proactively tackling these issues, we can pave the way for a sustainable and efficient future of mobility, driving us closer to a cleaner, greener world.


And, by recognizing the importance of a well-designed EV charging infrastructure and implementing the necessary measures, we can ensure that the promise of electric mobility becomes a reality, empowering individuals and communities to embrace sustainable transportation options.


Together, we can create a brighter future for mobility, leaving behind the current limitations and ushering in a new era of smart and sustainable mobility networks.


 

ARTICLE WRITTEN AND COMPILED BY: PLUG AND PLAY APAC

As an in-house venture capital, our goal is to fund the teams that are building the defensible businesses of the future. By leveraging our capital, our network of VCs, and our corporate partners, we give our portfolio companies an added advantage. Join our platform today!

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