Proper planning and oversight are needed for electric vehicle charging networks

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The good news for EV drivers is that the public network of DC fast chargers will continue to expand. Global sales are expected to grow from $17.6 billion in 2021 to $111.9 billion by 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 30.26%. That’s according to the “Electric Vehicle Charging Station Market, 2021-2028” report, by Fortune Business Insights.

The manufacturer of charging stations for electric vehicles predicts that the number of charging stations worldwide will increase from 6 million in 2020 to 66 million in 2030.

But to meet the needs of the also-growing electric vehicle fleet, these chargers need to perform more reliably than drivers experience with currently installed charging stations. A survey of San Francisco Bay Area charging stations by David Ramel, a retired University of California, Berkely professor, found that only 72.5% of stations were in working order.

Indeed, 22.7 of the stations had issues such as network connectivity issues, broken outlets, unresponsive computer screens and broken credit card readers. Another 5% had cables so short they rendered chargers unusable.

The solution to these issues that will maintain the reliability of the future network of charging stations is good planning for the installation of chargers and responsible maintenance practices for the chargers once they are installed. It depends Mark Hawkinson, president of technical solutions at ABM. ABM is a $7.5 billion company that manages electric vehicle charging station infrastructure for clients including airports, commercial buildings, higher education, automakers and their dealerships.

“It’s not as simple as getting two or three mags and sticking them in the ground,” he said. It’s a recipe for exactly the kinds of problems faced by users today. “It’s about being able to analyze the infrastructure,” he said. “You have to understand how much utility flow is coming to a place. Will they have enough reliability in their electrical distribution to have constant energy? »

The same is true for the network connection of the station. “It’s important to be on a good solid network to provide insight into how your units are operating,” Hawkinson noted. This is crucial for a company that manages chargers like ABM as they are contractually bound to provide service if there is a problem within a certain time frame. Without a reliable Internet connection, managers do not know the status of the charger.

Veteran lifeguards have observed that good lifeguards never get wet. Indeed, with proper supervision, swimmers should never get to the point of needing to be rescued. The same is true with chargers, according to Hawkinson. “The right way is to have a predictive maintenance model,” he explained.

The majority of problems with chargers that have both reliable power and a reliable internet connection are software issues that can be detected before taking the charger offline, and can be corrected remotely even if the charger stops working .

Image courtesy of ABMABM_AVI_EV_Parking_LAX_052.jpeg

ABM’s smart charging stations at Los Angeles International Airport.

“If it’s a software issue, everything is done remotely,” Hawkinson said. “There are ways to do this through software and data analysis and they can detect if there will be other failures in the system.” Even common credit card reader problems are usually software issues and can therefore be prevented with proper supervision or fixed remotely when they occur.

As for physical issues with the chargers, they tend to be minimal, reports Hawkinson. “There aren’t a lot of moving parts in charging stations,” he said. “They are quite simple.” So what causes hardware failures? “Excessive temperature ranges in the unit,” he said. “If it overheats, it will shut down.”

ABM has a new opportunity to showcase the potential for careful management of EV chargers with its smart parking infrastructure in the central terminal area of ​​Los Angeles International Airport. This includes online reservations, automated portals, contactless payment, automated guiding of drivers to their space and then a connection to one of its 1,250 charging stations. JD Power’s customer satisfaction scores for this system were high, at 4.75 out of 5.0, indicating that LAX charging stations have been available and reliable to drivers.

On the other hand, customers seem quite frustrated with most public charging networks. “On a lot of the units you see, the screens are cracked,” indicating indifferent maintenance, Hawkinson said. “That tells me it’s from a lack of understanding of why you want to put a charger in your parking lot.”

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