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Large-scale infrastructure might be required in order to keep EVs moving around the country, but there are other alternatives. John Challen looks at one (relatively) mobile proposition

Up and down the country, there are more and more charging points popping up. Whether it is home chargers, roadside stations, or expansive mega-hubs that can fast charge a fleet of 30/40 cars in one go, the network is definitely growing.

What that indicates is that there will be not be one single solution to the charging conundrum for EVs, nor will all of the solutions be conventional, fixed charging stations. With that in mind, one company has come up with a proposal that could revolutionise workplace charging, helping to get around the issue of drivers not having home charging facilities at the same time.

The company is 3ti, a designer, installer, funder and operator of Solar Car Parks (SCPs). It recently presented Papilio3, which claims to be the world’s first pop-up mini solar car park and electric vehicle charging hub. Deployable in as little as nine hours, the units are built from recycled shipping container and can support up to 12 charge points. Featuring a solar and battery-boosted charging system, Papilio3 optimises the speed of charge and reduces the carbon intensity of electricity used. What’s more, 3ti has set Papilio3 up as a rental agreement, which means no capital investment by customers and less risk and hassle in establishing a charging solution.

“Overnight charging at home generally provides the most cost effective, carbon efficient, sustainable form of EV charging,” says explains Tim Evans, 3ti’s founder and CEO. “But, in the UK, around 50% of households will not be able to do this.

“We believe that solar and battery boosted destination and workplace charging will become the best EV charging solution for drivers, irrespective of the type of home they live in,” he continues. “By utilising dwell times of several hours, when cars are parked at work or when the driver is visiting a shopping or leisure venue, for example, 3ti’s system ensures that EVs can achieve a level of charge that covers day to day driving needs and does it in the most low carbon way.”

Tim Evans, 3ti founder and CEO

Papilio3 is fitted with three modular canopies that support 36 solar panels and has battery storage capacity of up to 250kWh. It has been developed by 3ti with Cambridge Design Partners – and has been designed for roll-out at workplaces and public destinations such as hospitals, hotels, meeting venues, sports or shopping centres, tourist attractions and town centres. Each unit offers sheltered, illuminated and secure parking, plus a convenient, available and reliable EV charging experience that supports a mixture of 7, 11 and 22 kilowatts.

The Papilio3 unit has been demonstrated at the Surrey Research Park in Guilford, which is home to more than 200 businesses with 4,500 staff.

Therefore, EV drivers have had the opportunity to find out more about it and use it for their own vehicles, to see how it could work for them.

“We are delighted to be able to accommodate the operations of 3ti’s test bed,” adds Nick Beesly, chief operating officer at Surrey Research Park. “It not only fits with our ethos of helping facilitate innovation, but its product aligns to the crucially important sustainability agenda. This is of paramount importance to many of our tenants. Our sustainability cluster is expanding rapidly within the Park and we look forward to hearing the results of the trial with 3ti.”

Coping with increased energy demands

Whether it is switching to EV, or considering workplace charging solutions, EV infrastructure is becoming a pressing concern for many fleet operators. However, fleets might find their electrification plans are restricted by grid constraints, says Stevie Jones, national account manager at Mer. He believes that EV charging requires careful planning and a detailed understanding of each location’s power supply as well as the forecast demand.

“As you would expect, most commercial buildings were constructed with the power needs of their occupants in mind, so centred around lighting, heating, and running IT equipment,” says Jones. “As the use of electric vehicles grows, so does the expectation that these buildings will also provide EV charging, but that is not what they were designed to do.

“At Mer, when we are talking to a potential new customer, the first step is to establish what supply is available and therefore how many charging points it could support. We provide the client with clear analysis on what infrastructure they can install without jeopardising the integrity of the power supply to the building itself.”

Fleets should also look at investing in chargers with load balancing capabilities. This essentially means sharing out the available energy between all the EVs plugged in for a charge. And if vehicles are going to be plugged in overnight, smarter charging enables you to draw power from the grid during off-peak times.

Marvin Wright, associate consultant at Mer, says: “One of the biggest challenges that businesses face is getting the right power in the right place at the right time. EV chargers use a lot of power and that can be a big cost to a business. However, we can work around it with our active load balancing and smart charging technology, making the most effective use of whatever available power there is at a site. This helps delay further investment until a business gets to phase two or three of their electrification journey, when they will need to bring in more power with a new DNO connection.”

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