How to select and install EV charging systems quickly, safely and reliably

Increasingly, employees and visitors are arriving at workplaces driving electric vehicles (EVs). They want to know reliable re-charging facilities are available so wherever they go next, the battery gauge shows green. Shane Thomas of installation specialists ICEE Managed Services explains how to plan and implement reliable assets rapidly and at least risk

 If your organisation has not yet installed EV charging facilities, there may be pressure to do so sooner than later. The rate of EV adoption shows no signs of slowing. A minority interest some years back, it is now a mainstream industry. Another sign is yet more fleet vehicle managers adding EVs to their portfolio.

The government is also backing EV uptake, as a way to cut vehicle exhaust pollution and improve air quality, and support steps to reduce global warming. By the year 2040 official legislation will end sales of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans in the UK. Moreover, the government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) offers grants to buy and install charging equipment, a significant initiative that includes the business workplace.

Where do you start?

 At first sight, the EV charging market may seem confusing – the technology itself, products and suppliers, functions and capabilities. Unless you have the expertise, it may be more cost-effective to get advice from an experienced and independent source.

Whatever you do, the first and obvious step is map out a requirements specification, a) based on what is known and b) predictable. For a start, what type of vehicles and how many – cars and vans, makes and models – are there now and forecasted? What type of re-charging will be required? There are three levels of re-charging equipment, with the highest number referring to the fastest charge rate. For example, eighty per cent of capacity may be charged in less than thirty minutes.

How will re-charging be paid for? Free as an incentive to adopt EV? Paid out of employees’ or visitors’ pockets? What method or combination of payment collection is to be used? Keypad, contactless smartphone, credit or debit card, or a radio frequency identification (RFID) keyfob? Are priorities or privileges required?

How will one or many chargers be managed? Units may operate either standalone or in networked clusters, with high quality products able to exchange data with a back office, or a centralised computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) system. The network may be hardwired or wireless and run on an organisation’s own IT system, or on a web-based, ‘cloud’ application. Specialised software providers offer packages and suites to cover everything from billing and payment to condition monitoring and reporting.

Where will charging facilities be located? In an existing vehicle park, or will new spaces be required? How much additional power will be necessary? Will your existing network supply be adequate?

The investment has to be right for now, but also future-proof. While it might not be a major item of works, you won’t want to repeat the job again soon, especially if planning consent and groundwork is required each time.

Prudent forecasting is key – skimping may prove a risky gamble. If demand exceeds supply it could cause big trouble. The requirements specification has to cover all these aspects and others, including issues and trends, or regulations in the pipeline.

A careful site survey pays dividends

An essential contribution to the specification is a thorough, ‘top-down’ site survey. It will help answer many of the questions above, covering everything from planning considerations, to the existing power supply and what may have to be added.

An example of a site survey for an EV charging installation

  • Has planning permission been granted for the charging equipment installation?
  • What are the requirements for civil engineering and groundworks, including a check on the entire cable route and cabling required?
  • Any hazardous zones where flammable or combustible gases may be present near the installation? Identify the boundaries of any hazardous zones.
  • Is the existing supply adequate for the additional demand? Get a report on the rating and condition of existing equipment.
  • Has the earthing arrangement of the incoming power supply been established, and are the existing earthing and bonding arrangements compliant with BS 7671?
  • Is the supply a Protective Multiple Earthing (PME) or a direct earthing (TT) system? (TT is generally associated with older properties.)
  • If PME, have precautions necessary to prevent danger in the event of an open circuit neutral been identified and addressed?
  • If a TT earthing system is the only option, has a simultaneous contact assessment been carried out?
  • Check space in the relevant distribution board for what may have to be fitted in, or whether an additional board is required?
  • Check the number and type of EV units being installed including mounting requirements, cord management, total power demand, and peak loadings. Do peak loadings all add up to within capacity, including spare for contingencies and the future? Check manufacturers’ warranties and related terms and conditions.

Supplied courtesy of ICEE Managed Services

As installers and maintenance engineers we see the downsides of questionable choices or poor surveys. To avoid costly issues, one principle we always recommend is invest in high quality, from the equipment to services, including installation and essential maintenance. For example, a high standard of equipment means less risk of breakdowns and outages.

Another key point. Lower quality products tend to lack broader functionality – you only get basic functions and that can mean inflexibility. Higher quality chargers have built-in options so the equipment may be programmed to your exact, or bespoke requirements.

Again on quality, ensure installation and maintenance is done by NICEIC certified engineers, trained for EV charging equipment installation, who also work to the Constructors Health and Safety Scheme (CHAS), plus other relevant standards.

In the long run investing in higher quality adds up to more efficient, streamlined and smoother operations, the least wasteful downtime, no damaged reputations, no disgruntled end-users and little or no costly repairs.

Finally, investing in EV charging sends a good message to an organisation’s employees and visitors – it clearly demonstrates commitment to protecting the environment and supporting ‘green’ policies. It fits in with corporate social responsibility (CSR).


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