"Be prepared to take a long term view."
Automotive IQ recently spoke with Senan McGrath, Chief Technology Officer at ESB eCars in Ireland, about the business model for large scale charging infrastructure and promising incentives for potential EV customers. Mr. McGrath is a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers of Ireland and holds degrees in both electrical engineering and business. He is on the Executive Board of major European projects such as Green eMotion, Mobi.Europe and PlanGridEV and also chairs the Eurelectric EV Task Force.
Mr. McGrath, where do you see the main challenges in your area regarding the EV charging infrastructure in Europe?
The main issue with infrastructure is not technical it is business model. There are just not enough cars around to support a public infrastructure on a commercial basis. When the number of cars reaches perhaps 10% of the population there will be enough customers to sustain a business and as the number grows competition may intensify. Somewhere between 5% and 10% the business begins to look promising. Below 5% it is non-existent and anyone investing money must be prepared to take a long term view and hope things will work out.
Where do you see the need for standardization and harmonization?
The standard for AV charging is TYPE 2 and France will now start to move towards to it. The European standard for DC charging is officially Combo but the existing market is for Chademo. In practice multi-standard is being erected (Combo plus Chademo) and this is probably the best. IT standardisation, particularly on back office interfaces is probably the key area for attention to ensure interoperability across operators (not just national boundaries).
If you could decide on a strategy for consumer-incentives to foster eMobility, what would be important to you? (taxation, reduced annual fees, inner city traffic privileges etc.)
Financial subsidies are needed at the moment but can’t be a long term feature. Lowering price increases the potential market but it doesn’t itself create a "reason to buy". Non financial incentives (again time limited) such as access to restricted areas (low emission zones, congestion zones, bus lanes), reduced fee or free parking ,free tolls etc. all have positive impact on prospective customers.
Do you expect any breaking developments in charging technology over the next years?
I think that the current "fast charge" rate of 80% charge in 20 minutes, while not as good as refilling conventional cars is good enough. It’s not perfect but improving that to 10 minutes or less is probably useful but not critical. However increasing battery capacity and hence range is still important.
We expect that the range will have doubled within 5 years and in this scenario the current "Fast Chargers" will not be good enough. They will take twice the time to fill a battery that is twice as big. Therefore higher capacity chargers will be needed. How local electricity systems will cope with this is an issue. Will they, for instance need local storage rather than having to draw all the power instantaneously from the grid?
Thank you for your time.