4 minute read 22 Jul 2021
Optimizing charging infrastructure for Electric Vehicles

How can upfront location planning for charging infrastructure fuel up electric vehicles

Authors
Somesh Kumar

EY India Power & Utilities Leader

Experienced energy leader with deep regulatory knowledge.

Ashish Kulkarni

EY India Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainability, Consulting Associate Partner

With over 20 years of experience in the climate change and clean energy sector, Ashish plays an instrumental role in enabling governments and businesses to implement climate change-related projects.

4 minute read 22 Jul 2021

A data-driven, comprehensive and multi-parameter assessment of locations for establishment of electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations can positively affect their capacity utilization.

Electric vehicle (EV) adoption is inextricably linked to development of EV charging infrastructure, akin to a chicken-and-egg problem. Both phenomena are directly proportional to each other – more the number of EV charging stations, higher will be the number of on-road EVs. The same is highlighted by Elsevier’s Journal of Cleaner Production, which establishes that availability of EV charging infrastructure is the most important catalyst for accelerating EV adoption (Kumar & Kumar, 2020). This proportionality is a widely acknowledged fact, along with the idea that EV charging infrastructure must appear first, in order for EV adoption to pick up, and not the other way around.

Automakers, power distribution companies, urban local bodies, state administrations and national governments have embarked upon a journey to set up an adequate number of EV charging stations, in a far-sighted bid to accelerate EV adoption. Given the costs associated with setting up EV charging stations (land, supply equipment, manpower and electricity connection), this journey is evidently capital intensive. Our calculations show that the payback period for an EV charging station extends beyond five years, as is evident in Figure 1.

Yearly cash flow for a charging station

As the capital invested in the creation of vast EV charging networks is not expected to yield returns quickly, it is imperative for the established charging stations to have as high capacity utilization as possible – to better the (currently) weak business case. The margin on revenue from an EV charging station increases in a $70:1% ratio with the percentage increase in the station’s capacity utilization (ISGF, 2018). The idea that public funds might be invested by governments towards such ends – heightens the need for achieving the best possible capacity utilization for each charging station.

Pre-empting charging station utilization through spatial data

For establishing EV charging stations, it is important to understand which locations are best fit for maximizing capacity utilization of the charging assets. Therefore, a location assessment of all possible charging sites (in an area) is required. Inherently, locational assessment is a data-driven practice, and spatially referenced geodata is key for its purposes.

Some spatially referenced datasets can be highly accurate proxy indicators of envisaged charging station utilization and existing infrastructural capacity to support charging station establishment. This is true from both a supply as well as a demand perspective. From a supply perspective, parameters such as land availability, power infrastructure saturation, cost of power procurement, and others, are important. Datasets pertaining to the same will be required for performing a supply-side driven location assessment. On the other hand, demand-related parameters such as vehicular traffic at different locations, footfall densities and point-of-interest intensity, are crucial for estimating the charging demand potential (or charging capacity utilization) of any proposed charging station.

Planning EV charging stations

In order to plan for EV charging stations using the datasets mentioned above, it is worthwhile to employ tools and techniques that can seamlessly merge the different datasets together and draw actionable insights for the stakeholders in the EV charging ecosystem. Geographical information systems (GIS) offer a unique and easy-to-use package of all such tools and techniques which can help stakeholders to identify the best possible locations for siting EV charging infrastructure in an area. GIS platforms are capable of using spatially referenced data, and co-analyzing them, in a bid to deliver spatial insights based on which sound infrastructure-related decisions can be made. GIS platforms find their usage in a wide variety of applications, which encompass infrastructure development and management as well. As per our analysis, data-driven, comprehensive and multi-parameter assessment of locations for establishment of EV charging stations can positively impact their capacity utilization. A few benefits are documented in the figure below.2.

EY Analysis, Industry Data; The benefits have been assessed over a three-month period for e-4W deployed in commercial fleet operations

GIS can be utilized for planning EV charging stations using various filtering, clustering, geostatistical and network-based approaches, which they are capable of executing. This data centric approach to charging station establishment can help in: enhancing the capacity utilization of charging stations; developing phasing/staging strategies for the charging station network; understanding the capacity (s) of baseline infrastructure; creating geospatial databases for future integration with cloud-hosted services; managing charging infrastructure in real-time and near real-time contexts; and others.

Summary

Public EV Charging infrastructure (EVCI), just by itself, has questionable economics. This is further exacerbated with initial low footfall due to a nascent market. In such a scenario, mobility players, CPOs, DISCOMs, urban local bodies, and state administrations should carefully undertake location and spatial planning for setting-up EVCI. Apart from availability of real estate and its cost, consideration of several other factors can ensure better financial viability and usage for the EVCI. This is particularly important when public funds are involved and the rate of EV market uptake depends on consumer perceptions around initial charging infrastructure deployment. A more collaborative and non-siloed approach is needed for deployment of public EVCI at the city-level.

About this article

Authors
Somesh Kumar

EY India Power & Utilities Leader

Experienced energy leader with deep regulatory knowledge.

Ashish Kulkarni

EY India Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainability, Consulting Associate Partner

With over 20 years of experience in the climate change and clean energy sector, Ashish plays an instrumental role in enabling governments and businesses to implement climate change-related projects.