Unquestionably, the electric vehicle (EV) revolution is placing new and substantial demands on the facilities manager, all combining to create a challenging mountain to climb. Fortunately, there is help out there. Shane Thomas of specialist installers ICEE Managed Services takes a far-sighted view, but also recommends a safe route to reach the summit
To the facilities manager new to the subject of EV, the whole business may seem overwhelming, but despite that some priorities may require immediate action. As more employees driving to work switch to EVs, they expect on-site charge-points, or more of them. Fleet managers, converting from petrol and diesel to electrically-powered cars and vans, add pressure for additional charging capacity. Strategically, across an organisation, senior management may want to comply with energy efficiency audits, such as the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS). EV plans will impact on all those topics.
Part of something much bigger, namely ‘greener’ forms of transport and international policies aimed at reducing or reversing global warming, EV looks set to be around a long time. Transportation is a major target for future energy savings. Last year, the UK government launched its Road to Zero Strategy, aimed at ‘placing the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles and for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040’. After that date, no new vehicles may be sold with petrol or diesel engines.
Be informed, don’t guess or gamble
Whether short or long term, one vital aspect that must be considered is what impact EV charging will have on electrical energy supplied to your site. If you don’t know and go ahead with investing and installing, you will be guessing or gambling. In the worst case, the risk may be crippling ‘brown-outs’. Before purchasing any EV charging equipment, the safe way forward is first carry out a comprehensive site survey. This has more benefits than simply checking energy supply limits, it can highlight weak points in distribution systems allocated to feed EV charge-points. For example, out-moded or unsafe kit and cabling.
Investment in such a survey provides a realistic opportunity to strategically review and mitigate risk to energy supply and demand, not just related to EV interests. At ICEE, we have developed a methodology and best practice that looks at every aspect of the question. What we offer is high quality planning, installation and ongoing maintenance, but we also work with top manufacturers in the EV charge-point business. Why? Because those manufacturers are at the forefront of research and development. They are in the best position to see significant trends and what issues lie ahead. Often, they are involved in not just EV technology, but also many other aspects of electrical equipment and energy systems development, manufacture and application. As a result, they can plan, make and advise accordingly. We rely on this high level of resource to ensure customers’ investments are as future-proof as possible.
We find that in doing a survey or audit and closely examining a network, we can reveal a number of supply risks. Suppose you are connecting-in several items of fast-charging EV equipment. That can place major demand spikes on a site’s electrical system. Fast-charging takes a lot of AC power (feel the connecting plug when you disconnect after thirty minutes of charging – it will be hot). The combined power demand when a cluster of fast-chargers are used simultaneously is important. If other demand spikes happen at the same time elsewhere on your site – kitchen equipment producing hot meals at lunchtime, or full lighting coming on early morning or late afternoon internally and externally throughout your site in winter – limits may be badly compromised.
Energy Management Systems mitigate risk
Suppose you are planning new or additional EV charge-points. After first surveying what exists and considering near and long-term requirements, you find incoming supply is near or on the limit to serve both the new investment and the whole site’s electrical needs. Fortunately, there are affordable ways to optimise distribution and consumption. An important solution here is an energy management system (EMS).
An EMS monitors highs and lows of demand across an entire facility, performing dynamic load management. In real-time, to ensure sufficient supply, it adjusts and distributes appropriate energy to all electrical equipment and systems, including normal-and fast-rate EV charge-points. In short, it automatically balances peaks and troughs of power use.
For organisations where supply is constrained (for example, a local sub-station is too small), at a stroke, EMS technology may solve what might otherwise be a major problem. Potentially – and possibly with EV charge-points as the catalyst – investing in this strategic resource will benefit the whole site’s electrical usage. It will bring overall cost efficiencies, not just to cover EV charge-point additions.
For ICEE, working with a leading manufacturer of EMS and EV support systems has other advantages. For example, at a high level, we get to know more about so-called ‘smart grid’ developments (an intelligent energy distribution system that exploits information technology to optimise demand with energy production and cost). Another ‘smart’ development is vehicle-to-grid (V2G) power exchange. The important point is an EV infrastructure must be designed to be adaptable to all these developments and changes.
Reliable, right-first-time installation
Another cost saving approach – or means to minimise costs now and prevent expensive issues later – is right-first-time installation and regular maintenance. These steps may be seen as last in the process and not as important, but cutting corners on installing and commissioning invites problems later. Having made the investment the last thing you want is a key service that fails to deliver reliably 24/7, or becomes unsafe. When installed correctly by an appropriately qualified and experienced contractor, high quality equipment returns value-for-money by being robust and dependable.
Lastly, keep it simple. A charge-point is the visible top of the EV infrastructure mountain. As the EV industry rapidly evolves, working with a specialist installer like ICEE, who understands all the technology issues and options, means you have a higher vantage point from which to see what’s coming and profitably manage change.