Rapid charging is the answer to UK fleets’ growing EV demands

Joe Ellwood, EV charger product specialist at ABB, explains how the proliferation of electric vehicles (EVs) on our country’s roads has compounded the need for charging in the UK. This applies equally to van fleets and higher-mileage drivers as to privately-owned vehicles.

Yet one-third of homes don’t have a private driveway or garage for charging EVs at home, so more drivers will rely on public charging stations. Since these chargers will serve a multitude of drivers each day, the logical next step is to introduce a rapid charging solution to speed up the service and accommodate more drivers.

BMW Soper of Lincoln

Ramping up charging infrastructure

High-mileage EV drivers don’t have much time to waste at charge points. To help them get to their destinations quicker, fleet managers can install rapid or ultra-rapid chargers at their sites. With power ratings of 50 kW to 350 kW, these chargers provide a range of between 50 and 370 miles with a 20-minute charge.

While charging still takes longer than fuelling up the traditional way, fleet drivers usually take breaks after refuelling anyway, so it should have little impact on their journeys. An EV vehicle also doesn’t require the driver to be present while charging, so they can maximise their break. An increasing number of 350+ kW chargers, capable of adding 60 miles of range in only a few minutes, are already visible across the UK’s motorway network.

Given the clear financial and environmental benefits of transitioning to an electric fleet and a larger number of commercial EVs on the market, high-mileage delivery and logistics fleets are adopting the technology. In keeping with our own social responsibility commitments, ABB UK have made great progress in switching its 500-plus company car fleet to all-electric, which will be completed by 2025.

However, to slash recharging times and get vans and drivers back on the road faster, we need more publicly accessible ultra-rapid charging stations. Fortunately, the Government has rolled out several initiatives and grant schemes to support businesses and local authorities in installing new EV chargers on streets and car parks.

The charge rates of high-power chargers are significantly faster than domestic chargers, but they use a lot of power from the grid. Therefore, they often require an upgraded grid connection – a challenge fleet operators and managers should consider for future site developments.

UK’s fastest EV chargers now live  

One of the first sites in the UK to benefit from an ultra-rapid charging solution is BMW’s dealership in Lincoln. Soper of Lincoln recently installed two Terra 360 units, currently the UK’s fastest EV charger. The chargers can fully charge an EV in less than 15 minutes. The two new units can add 62 miles of range in under three minutes to get customers back on the road as quickly as possible.

One of the Terra 360 units is on the dealership forecourt, while the other is reserved for the 15-bay service workshop. The dealership upgraded its grid connection to support the 560 amps needed for each charger to operate at full power.

Ultra-rapid EV chargers are increasingly producing higher power at lower noise levels while becoming more user-friendly. Some units have dual-outlets, meaning two vehicles can charge at the same time.

For example, one unit at the BMW dealership can charge a single vehicle at 360 kW or two at up to 180 kW. Serving multiple customers simultaneously helps maximise the return on investment for the dealership. Future versions of the Terra 360 will be able to supply 90 kW of power to four drivers at the same time.

Another innovative aspect of modern EV chargers is their smart software that enables remote monitoring. Charging station operators can minimise the cost of maintenance by monitoring, diagnosing, and resolving most problems via the control centre.

For BMW Soper of Lincoln, the two ultra-rapid EV chargers are suited for today’s and tomorrow’s electric BMWs. Therefore, the future-proof charging system will help build loyalty with existing customers and upcoming generations. The Soper project also acts as a pilot for other installations of the Terra 360 ultra-rapid charger in the UK.

Soper’s approach will serve them well, given that a recent survey by ABB for World EV Day 2022 found that younger people in the UK are more likely than the global average to want to own an electric vehicle when they’re old enough.

Other sites across the UK are also benefitting from ultra-rapid charging. The Terra 360 has also been installed at a Gridserve’s Braintree Electric Forecourt, making it the most powerful public charger in the UK.

Charging the future

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) states that the UK needs ten times as many EV charge points by 2030. But it’s more than just numbers. The power and speed of charge will largely determine chargers’ ability to serve future driver demands.

The number of EVs that accept higher power charging will increase in the coming years, making rapid, high-power chargers a critical requirement. Therefore, fleets and other high-mileage drivers all stand to gain from these chargers’ long-term benefits.

Author: Joe Ellwood, EV charger product specialist at ABB

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