Combating charger anxiety through the continued monitoring and standardization of uptime is integral to improved user satisfaction among electric vehicle (EV) drivers, and in turn is key to the continued acceleration of electrification in North America. However, it is important to remember that drivers are only one part of the charging infrastructure equation, and that generating appropriate value for site hosts who deploy charging infrastructure is also necessary to further EV adoption. According to industry experts, this is best done through a process known as “right-sizing,” which keeps the total cost of ownership low over the duration of a station’s life cycle and ensures that individuals who invest in charging infrastructure can provide exceptional service to the EV drivers of today and tomorrow.
But what is right-sizing, really?
Right-sizing is an overarching term often applied to a series of principles used by EV charging experts to identify the breadth, scope and nature of a charging solution. While it may seem simple at first, there are many layers to examine in order to ensure that the charging infrastructure delivers a proper return on investment (ROI) for the site host.
“It may help to think of right-sizing as a guiding set of strategic imperatives rather than a binding set of technical mandates,” says Geneviève Grenier, VP of Strategy and Business Performance at FLO | AddÉnergie. “And there is much more to it than simply choosing the size and number of stations that a site may require. The most important question we ask when deploying is, what is the objective of the deployment, and who is it meant to serve? What is the charging behaviour of this intended user base? Are they planning to charge onsite for thirty minutes, or for four hours? How fast is local EV penetration growing, and what do we need to do to future-proof the site for an eventual expansion? These are the kinds of questions we try and ask beyond the very basic ones, as these are the questions that let us develop the most user-centric and cost-effective charging solution for our site hosts.”
Right-sizing as a vehicle for value creation.
Right-sizing an EV charging infrastructure deployment ensures that the site host is rewarded for their forward-thinking decision to install electric vehicle infrastructure.
Through right-sizing, a site host can work with a charging solutions provider to ensure that they receive a return on their investment through proper site analysis, quality hardware/software and network management services (including energy management capabilities). Similarly, right-sizing can ensure that a site host does not overextend from a financial or an electrical infrastructure standpoint (an issue which could disrupt the ability to provide adequate service or allow for future expansion as the demand for charging services grow).
“Right-sizing is an often-underemphasized element of developing an effective public charging solution,” says Grenier, “and in our experience at FLO, it is of particular importance for site hosts, as right-sizing is one of the best methods for keeping the total cost of ownership low for EV charging deployments. By planning appropriately and getting things right the first time, you can avoid costly demand charges and future expenses that come with tasks such as re-trenching a site, upgrading or expanding electrical infrastructure, or replacing stations that don’t perform to your expectations.”
Right-sizing is the “measure twice, cut once” principle as applied to electric vehicle charging deployments, and it is one of the keys to a cost-efficient charging deployment. By working to mitigate the capital expenditure required to get charging stations in the ground, a site host can deploy efficiently and ensure that the purchase and installation costs do not overwhelm and interfere with the ability to operate and maintain the station (s) as they begin to generate both direct (monies) and indirect (sustainability goals, positive public relations) value.
Right-size, don’t upsize.
EV charging infrastructure is scaling quickly, with many providers designing charging solutions capable of providing increasingly large amounts of power in a short period of time; however, many in the EV charging industry have cautioned against emulating the internal combustion refuelling process, which has long heralded the idea that refuelling must be near-immediate and present on most every corner. Given that most EV charging occurs at home and that many EVs currently on the road are unable to accept the full charge offered by these mammoth charging stations, they may ultimately prove to be a poorer value proposition for site hosts than their smaller (but still plenty fast) DC counterparts.
“More charging power brings with it significantly increased early capital expenditures for purchase and installation, and can make operating and maintaining the charging station much more expensive for the site host, the utility and ultimately the consumer,” says Jean-François Dion, Product Line Director at FLO | AddÉnergie. “Not only does this ‘bigger is better’ mentality fail to deliver on the idea that site hosts should be rewarded with appropriate value for their investment in charging infrastructure, but one can also point to the fact that this technology is meant to push forward a more sustainable method of transportation, and there is nothing sustainable about trafficking in excess power simply for the sake of it. It is much more prudent to look at the current needs of both EV drivers and site hosts and develop products suited to fit those needs than it is to simply pack as much power as possible into a single charger.”
An overarching right-sizing strategy becomes an exercise in both fiscal and mechanical value creation and helps accelerate EV adoption in North America by ensuring that individuals are rewarded for investing in this technology.