Sustainable design solutions will power EV charging stations

By Jasmine Saad 

There was a time, not long ago, when new car releases sparked conversations of muscle. As pop-culture interest changed, we started to use the buzzwords related to the efficiency of our vehicles. Today, we speak of range, all thanks to the new dawn of electric vehicles (EVs). The data speaks: EVs have not only become more accessible, but they have earned consumer trust. Sales are already projected to increase around 70 percent in 2021 alone and have pushed into almost every car body style. As the EV market share has been recognized, MEP firms have been tasked with the responsibility of an entirely new design: charging stations.  

The implementation of any new technology requires intentional design, and best practice is to design with flexibility for continued innovation. Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) is no exception, and IMEG’s approach to designing facilities is one that considers current use, future expansion, and sustainable operation. We have already seen a diverse approach to facilitating EVSE, and one of the most promising characteristics is the ability to employ sustainable design. While many businesses, homes, and facilities have already opted for tying directly into the grid, this solution will have to be adapted as the volume of EVs expands. Renewable energy is a viable option to relieve the grid and earth, and solar energy (photovoltaic, or PV) sourcing has already proved to be an attractive solution for many clients. PV installation, maintenance, price, and performance are all attractive selling points for the technology, and surplus energy can be allocated to any load from the facility with proper planning. With PV and sufficient energy storage for overcast periods, the future of vehicles could quite literally be fueled by the sun. 

Early adopters of public EVSE posed the issue of continued cost; their utility bills would not separate the building load vs. the charging load. This issue was amplified when utility companies claimed that the resale of their electricity was not permitted. With this in mind, even the most forward-thinking facility managers were hesitant to adopt any more than a couple charging stations. But we’re seeing solutions that are far beyond the beta phase. Providing EVSE is a service that can be charged by kilowatt-hour (kWh) via smart meters – now a common integration into EVSE. This rate can be dialed up and down by the owner to meet the supply and demand of their charging spots, which can help discourage people from squatting at a station for the duration of hours that it may take to fully charge their vehicle at peak time.  

Another creative solution to providing more charging spots with less electrical draw is capping the rate of charge. Let’s say one charging “pump” can charge a vehicle in three hours and has two connection ports. But there are four EVs in the company and they operate on an eight-hour workday. Personnel would have to coordinate charging spot use and move cars throughout the day to charge all vehicles. The solution? Half the power output rate and double the connection points. This way, all four vehicles can be fully charged in a six-hour window.  

As the technology advances, charging times will lessen and ranges will increase. This parallel in technology expansion will keep charging station congestion at bay as consumers are able to wait until they are home to fully charge their car overnight. In addition, bi-directional charging will soon allow a fully charged EV that is plugged in to discharge energy and act as a stand-in emergency generator and energy source for homes and the grid. 

Solutions keep emerging, and they build on the previous technology so that a complete reinstall is rarely ever required. EVSEs are not petrol-gas station equivalents, they are network-run power reservoirs that can adapt to the users’ needs with simple software upgrades and creative configurations. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and our engineers love to find them.