While there is huge uptake in electric vehicles and interest in newer technologies, such as contactless charging, the reality is electric vehicle (EV) charging points are facing high demand and increasingly need to be connected in order to ensure maximised uptime, enable bookings and to bill users accurately for their consumption. You might think this is a wired world because of chargers’ connections to the power grid but this isn’t the case and charge point operators value the speed, cost efficiency and universal standards of mobile connectivity, writes Richard Hart, the global connectivity director at Quectel Wireless Solutions
Electric vehicle projections in the 2020s
EVs are here to stay and we are seeing enormous projected growth in their uptake. BloombergNEF estimates that 2021 was another record year for EV sales with more than 5.6 million sold worldwide, in spite of pandemic-related supply chain constraints. This is 83% higher than sales in 2020 and an increase of 168% over 2019 sales, the firm has reported. Yet this only scratches the surface, and the firm predicts there will be 60 million Electric Vehicles adopted per year in 2040.
With ultra-low emissions zones and countries banning sale of fossil-fuel powered vehicles, EVs will be everywhere but where will they charge their batteries?
A large proportion will manage the vast majority of their EV charging on domestic driveways and in private garages. The convenience cost and limited battery degradation due to slower charging at home makes this the most attractive option but, for those that need to take longer journeys than their vehicle’s range, public charging is the only option. In addition, those that park on-street will have to use public charging.
Demand for EV charging points is growing
There’s therefore growing demand for EV charging points to meet future demand. IHS Markit’s EV charging infrastructure forecast predicts that the global deployment of EV charging stations will increase at a 31% CAGR to more than 66 million units by 2030. The preferences for the type and location of the EV charging infrastructure are remarkably different across the major regions, the firm says, with the Greater China region expected to account for more than 60% of the global public and semi-public charging stations deployed by 2030.
In Europe, the focus is more on domestic charging with consequent lower need for connected public EV charging stations, although some domestic chargers will contain cellular connectivity as a back-up or because it is simpler to connect to this rather than home networks. IHS Markit forecasts that the cumulative deployment of EV charging stations will increase at 24% CAGR during the 2020-30 period. By 2030, circa 20 million houses within Europe are expected to be equipped with domestic charging stations, while public or semi-public charging stations will increase eight-fold on the 2020 deployment level.
Why wireless EV charging is cheaper, faster and cleaner
You would think that charging points which are typically located in easily accessible public places that are well served by infrastructure would find it straightforward to access communications capabilities from the fixed network alongside electricity connections to the power grid but this does not take into account the deployment complexities. Large car parks at highway service areas are seldom networked by cables and those that would need substantial work to connect to an area that contains 50 charging points, for example.
Wireless is simpler, faster and cleaner to deploy and more robust in deployment because it has no cables that can be damaged or cut. In addition, charging points typically have no need for the bandwidth of fixed line fibre networks. Connectivity is needed so the charge point can meter usage, identify users and bill accordingly. It is also essential so charge point operators (CPOs) can monitor site status in real-time in order to book maintenance, understand demand and ensure payment.
Even in cases where fixed line connections are available, a wireless back up makes sense because, it can help ensure a charge point remains operational. In this competitive market in which customers rely intensively on access to charging downtime is unacceptable and CPOs can’t afford reputational damage nor lost revenue from non-operational sites. EV chargers need to collect information including the vehicle ID, service type, charging volume and state of charge (SOC), capacity of charging and recharging current and the vehicle departure time. All these inputs and data need to be passed together with the charging point or pile’s ID and location information to the CPO and then from the pile to the EV itself.
From a communications perspective, none of this is complex and relatively small amounts of data are involved with limited requirements for low latency. Services can readily be supported by highly available 3G and 4G cellular connections, with higher speeds and lower latency enabling improved performance for new versions of charging piles which could be updated over-the- air, for example.
The race for EV charging space drives a need for deployment speed
With a race for charging spaces underway alongside major roads and in cities, there is a need for deployment speed but also to keep the cost of every charging point to a minimum. In addition to this, there is a perception that cable connections offer better reliability of data transfer than cellular options and, when usage of charging points becomes higher, the speed of data transfer could suffer. At the moment, wireless connections represent a small additional cost in terms of construction and maintenance of charging points and come with cellular data usage fees. The versatility and ease of deployment across the globe makes wireless connectivity attractive to enable rapid deployments, usage of global products, and to support interaction between EVs, users and charging points.
Already working with leading EV CPOs across the globe, Quectel’s extensive module portfolio and its comprehensive range of antennas can offer CPOs the capabilities they need to facilitate connectivity for their charging points. Our LTE Cat M1, Cat NB1 and soon to be added Cat NB2 modules have significant attractions for EV charging and, alongside our comprehensive portfolio of antennas form part of a complete package which is brought to life with global connectivity provided by Quectel’s Connectivity-as-a-Service offering.
Future revenue streams for Electric Vehicle CPOs
For CPOs offering access to public charging, the functionality of wireless connectivity adds further dimensions to their offerings. They can use it to enable immediate site roll-outs thanks to equipment that can automatically connect wirelessly anywhere in the world. In addition, this connectivity foundation sets them up for future additional, connectivity-enabled revenue streams that EV charging sites, with their captive audiences, are preparing to offer.
This article first appeared inside IoT Now magazine. Subscribe now to access free, expert content.