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How important is it for your carpark to be EV ready?



In the latest insight article from FlexiSolar and as part of its Driving Solar Evolution campaign, Sales Director Guy Morrison highlights the importance of ensuring carparks are EV ready – something that FlexiSolar believe solar carports can certainly help with…..



Low emission zones – where are we at?
Many UK cities are set to follow London’s lead and introduce extensive congestion charge and low-emission zones, and substantial costs will be imposed on drivers of the more polluting petrol and diesel engine vehicles. These measures will further encourage the car buying public and commercial fleet managers to make the transition to electric vehicles at the next opportunity. This is of course unfortunate for drivers that were encouraged by government to purchase diesel engine cars in recent years however anyone living or working in busy towns and cities with unhealthy or illegal levels of air quality will ultimately accept and approve of the transition to electric vehicles.


Scotland has more ambitious timescales for the phase out of internal combustion engine vehicles and intend to bring in low emission zones by 2020, with strictly enforced standards encompassing most vehicle types and penalties issued for vehicles entering Scotland’s four largest cities, that do not conform to the scheme’s minimum emission standards.     


Electric Vehicles and EV Charge-Points – what are the options?
With a rising demand for EVs, we need to ensure that all aspects of the necessary infrastructure are planned for now.  Falling prices and a growing selection of EVs to choose from means that this transition is all but inevitable and may happen faster than many predict.


One of the most often quoted deterrents to EV ownership remains the lack of charging infrastructure and although a large proportion of public carparks now boast a small number of EV charge-points, further and continued deployment is essential to keep pace with demand and to help remove the phrase ‘range anxiety’ from the lexicon.


Early EV charge-points may have delivered free electricity to attract early adopting consumers, but it is difficult to see how this model is sustainable after the tipping point of mass EV adoption and many alternative models now exist to allow payment via network or contactless payment cards with charge-point providers offering free equipment and profit share arrangements.


Surface carparks have had little choice but to use free-standing charge-points which can be expensive to install with trenching, cabling, foundations and protective barriers making up most of the cost. Wall mounted units can be more easily deployed in multi-storey carparks however both options will often be limited by the available electricity supply and upgrades to this can also be costly.


Load management is an important stop-gap and can allow extra charge-point deployment where power is reduced as more vehicles are plugged in, but a longer-term solution may come in the form of battery storage, ideally charged from a renewable energy source, and able to deliver power to a greater number of charge-points of all power ratings. Without going into too much detail, not all battery chemistries are appropriate for this application but after much research and development viable solutions are beginning to emerge.


So how can solar carports help businesses to be EV Ready?
There is a clear synergy between EV infrastructure and solar:

- There’s a growing awareness of the intrinsic need for both - low carbon energy to power emission free vehicles.

- The integration of these technologies provides a clear solution for a growing demand.

- The further integration of battery storage helps solar self-consumption and provides other revenue opportunities.


However, what’s not yet in synergy is a coordinated rollout. We need to make sure that we are ready for a whole new source of power demand – further investment, strong planning and fast action are needed – so that solar EV solutions are ready before EV demand overtakes availability.

Carparks are an important part of many organisations and the service they offer, for example shopping centres and leisure facilities rely on their carparks and as well as providing charge-point infrastructure, carpark owners now have an opportunity to improve that experience with covered parking. The heatwave this summer saw many searching out what meagre shaded spaces they could to avoid returning to oven-baked vehicles. Carport canopies would be welcome too in more traditional British summers, with customers sheltered from showers and heavier downpours while they plug in or load up their cars.


Carports have long been a feature in warmer parts of the world and the addition of solar panels to these structures has the added benefit of generating renewable energy to feed into buildings and to meet the increased demand for electricity through the charge-points that can be easily and cheaply fitted to them. Until now this idea has not been fully embraced in Britain but the recent construction of the UK’s first large-scale solar carport project, covering over 1,300 parking spaces and delivering 2.7MWp of solar capacity, has proven the concept.


Although installed on the staff carpark of Bentley Motors manufacturing facility in Crewe, the solution is applicable across much of the UK’s carpark estate especially where there is a desire to offer premium parking facilities. A further carport project has been completed on the top deck of a multi-storey carpark in Sutton, Surrey, and neither of these projects resulted in the loss of parking bays.


While it is true that carports are a little more expensive than rooftop and ground-mounted solar, they offer multiple benefits, are a very visible carbon reduction initiative and, at the right scale, can often be funded by a third party under a power purchase agreement (PPA) making them cost positive from day one with large potential savings over their lifetime. There is much to consider when preparing for the EV transition and a fully integrated solar storage and EV charging solution may be the best way to make your business EV ready.


Will being EV Ready create a revenue?
The answer is yes! As part of our ‘Driving Solar Evolution’ campaign, we have already highlighted the value of energy efficient solutions, rather than simply looking at the cost alone.  Ensuring your carpark is EV ready, could also mean a cost-free revenue stream is created.


Emerging business models and tariffs vary greatly and will depend on the type of site and the power rating of charge-points. Tariffs for high footfall, public access rapid charging, ranges from a monthly subscription + 10p per KWh to pay as you go apps or contactless payment at 30p to 50p per KWh and some network operators will pay a yearly lease or profit share to site owners. Charging as a service models are also being developed for private carparks where equipment is installed and maintained for a daily or monthly service charge and billing data is collected so businesses can recoup the cost of the energy and infrastructure from users.


FlexiSolar are also at the forefront of emerging vehicle to grid (V2G) developments and business models, and early assessments suggest substantial revenues and/or savings can be generated in all sorts of applications of this technology.


Our expert team here at FlexiSolar can help to evaluate and fulfil businesses current requirements while future proofing for further deployment as demand grows.  We believe integrated solar carports are an effective solution to a rapidly developing need, that’s why we are on a mission to start new solar conversations: FlexiSolar – Driving Solar Evolution. 


Has this think piece caught your interest?

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Take a look at the datasheets for our large-scale solar carport solutions

Read more about our Driving Solar Evolution campaign

Previous blog in the series focusing on the value of solar carports

Connect with Guy Morrison on LinkedIn


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