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Are 7 & 23kW chargers a white elephant?

Councils up and down the country are ordering 1000's of these allegedly 'fast' chargers in the charge (excuse the pun) to provide EV charging infrastructure to the masses driving their shiny new EV's. Before we go on, let's look at the market for EV's and some human behaviour, that may render these devices redundant before most of them are even installed.

Let's start with the EV market; January 2022 EV sales eclipsed Hybrid sales to the point of pushing them down, leaving the choices people are making as Diesel/Petrol (ICE) or EV. If you look at EV sales, and MG is a case in point, 2022 will likely see MG's sales split 75% EV and 25% ICE. It would seem that where a manufacture has a more EV models, these outsell the ICE vehicles. There is no reason to believe that as other established manufacturers EV developments catch up, EV sales will encroach into the ICE sales well before the UK Government's 2030 deadline to end sales of ICE vehicles.

Human behaviour - this is a more complex matter, most people will agree humans are bone idle not necessarily like Onslow from Keeping up Appearances, more that we are experts in inventing stuff to make our lives easier such as; microwaves, washing machines, blenders even cars as they don't need mucking out or arguing with, this brings us to the point of why would anyone want to spend 24 hours charging their car when it currently takes 2-3 mins to refuel an ICE vehicle? This gets worse when you then consider range, the averge EV can only do 50% of the range per fill up of an ICE vehicle. That means possibly 48 hours charging on a 7kW charger for the same distance as an ICE vehicle. There are some use cases where this sort of works - let's say Royal Mail. All of their vans are back in the depot by mid-afternoon, theoretically they would end up with 80% charges on most vans by the am, the question again becomes range urban maybe, but rural probably doesn't work. Let's not forget that as the vans age, the batteries hold less charge and therefore provide less range. For normal humans buying an EV for home/work the same applies, lots of short urban runs is all good - assuming you remember to plug in every time(ish) you are home (bit of a faff). If you live rurally or do a commute, you then need to have a way of "topping up" at your destination. Chances are you will go looking for a 'Rapid' Charger at least, or better - to save standing around. However, this just creates a different problem.

Where 7 and 22kW charging becomes especially problematic, is the business model of the charging networks bidding for contracts for streetbased charging: this comes down to money and margins.

Let's do some simple maths:

There are 8,760 hours in a year, assuming you plug in to a 7kW charger (ave charge rate 5kW) the maximum the network can earn, assuming a £0.20 margin on the electricity supplied, is £8,760 per year at 100% usage. Most figures in the industry expect utilisation (the percentage of time the charger is used) to be under 25% therefore the expected max revenue per charger is £2,190. However this could be much worse, depending on the location. From this income you have to deduct card processing costs, VAT, ammortisation of the installation costs of groundworks (est £9K per charger), planning and Road Traffic Act applications for every site or parking bay, the charger itself - £400, Electricity Board supply upgrades (which we have see quotes between £2000 and £840,000 - for one site!!) and then the 24/7 support that the infrastructure requires. This maths doesn't get much better with 22KW chargers and in some respects it just makes it much worse, mainly due to the installation costs and potentially more patchy use case.

So what is the solution? We as a company made the decision not to sell 7 and 22kW chargers for a few reasons, firstly: the maths makes no sense, and secondly: the rush to install them means they will likely become obsolete faster than any return can be made. Why is that? Fundamentally, the current range of 'fast' and 'smart' chargers are neither Fast or Smart by any measure - they do not support OCCP 1.6 let alone 2.0 (the communication protocol adopted by the car manufacturers) meaning their 'smarts' are limited to on or off and some metering and minor communications. As for fast, when an ICE vehicle refuels in 5 mins how can 48 hours ever be defined as FAST? We only make 'Rapid' Chargers i.e. above 50kW. We dont like the definition of 'Rapid' in the same way we think 7kW isn't fast - neither is 50kW particularly rapid either. We are where we are with the naming of these chargers. However, what that means is our chargers not only charge 10x faster than a 7kw, but over two times faster than a 22kW! This actually means we can put 50kW of charge into most EV's in under and hour. That means a Nissan leaf is charged in 45 mins or so from empty. Which also means people will constantly search out faster charging to avoid 7's and 22's.

The next problem with the 7's and 22's is how many you need in a car park, by the mid 2020's we reckon a charger per space will be needed. That means huge groundworks, and massive electrical connections. For example, a 150 space carpark will need a huge connection to ensure everyone can charge on demand. In a public car park, say in a shopping centre, this exacerbates the ultilisation problem - and how to allocate chargers to the people who use them.

We therefore think there is a real risk that in a couple of years, the streets and car parks will be peppered with any number of dead charging network infrastructure companies kit that no one wants. Currently there is a lot of money funding these rollouts - there is a serious risk following a high profile scheme failure that this money could evaporate pretty quickly, leaving the market to consolidate - or worse. This failure to understand human behaviour and how to make money, beyond the obvious land grab that is currently occurring.

ZPN Energy has the solution, we offer micro grids with battery storage, so we can do what no one else can. We are installing these systems on streets in the South West of England. These grids deliver rapid 50kW plus charging on demand, having harvested the energy from the cheapest source; including possibly free energy from onsite renewables. We load balance the demand so your car gets the charge it needs and peaks are flattened. Additionally, we have the same solutions which involve zero or minimal groundworks making thhem ideal for carparks. Even for home charging we are launching a 50kW DC home charger which requires no electricity supply upgrade.

EV's ultimately are about sustainability - and we believe this should include the infrastructure.



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