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Electric vehicles2012THE OF THE ELECTRIC VEHICLEA FleetNews In association 10 Month here 2011 Month here 2011 11Estimates suggest there could be up to 1,600 publicly available charging points in the UKThe availability of public charging provision for electric vehicles (EVs) will be one of the crucial factors in encouraging uptake among motorists. There are several private companies offering commercial and residential charging posts, and working within the Government's Plugged-in Places scheme to provide such an infrastructure. Estimates of how many publicly-available charging posts are currently in the UK vary. Simon Daukes, CEO of Chargemaster, says there are possibly 1,000 posts out there from all suppliers. Other commentators suggest 1,600.Justin Meyer, business development manager at APT Technologies is less optimistic. "We think there is a lot of exaggeration in the market. I would estimate between 600 and 800 charging posts are currently available." To offer comparison, there are perhaps 2,000 vehicles - a mix of private cars and perhaps 700 commercial vehicles - which would use such facilities.However, all these companies are planning substantial numbers of installations in the next 18 months. Meyer is aiming for 1,500 to 2,000; Chargemaster is rolling out 4,000; Siemens is targeting the fleet sector as the emerging EV adopters.The first generation posts were built to correspond with standard 13 amp domestic wiring, but the most recent industry standard is Mode 3, type 2 posts which can provide either 16 or 32 amps. Depots too can expect to pay between £500 and £1,000, particularly if committed by policy to using specific contractors. A DC charging post - which can recharge a vehicle from 0% to 100% in around 30 minutes - costs between £20,000 and £30,000. Some DC charging posts are appearing around the country and, although there is a debate as to whether such rapid charging will degrade batteries in the long term, most commentators think that the facility and flexibility it will provide motorists and fleets with will nonetheless make it an essential part of the purchaser's wish-list.BillingThe big unknown with EV charging is actually how users will choose to pay. The market has been distorted somewhat by the Government's fund-matching scheme behind Plugged-in Places, which posited that public funds would be available but the energy for charging then had to be given freely to motorists for a specific period of time. Clearly free charging cannot last. However, a fragmented picture is emerging of how companies intend to track and bill motorists.On one hand there is the subscription model. Chargemaster is developing its Polar scheme which will see home charging facilities alongside 4,000 posts in public places. It will install a home charge point, and give the user access to its public sites Public charging points will be key to EV uptake. Louise Cole reportsCHARGING AHEADThe big unknown with EV charging is how users will choose to payMode 3 offers a greater ability to transmit current, giving faster charging; it runs a brief diagnostic on the car wiring for safety; and it can match the supply of electricity to what the vehicle wants to pull down. Over time all of the original 13 amp posts will need to be upgraded, although most suppliers say this is not a problem. The market is moving toward faster charging - hence the upgrade to 16 or 32 amps. These are all AC facilities and Mode 3 seeks to find the sweet spot between what the installation can offer and what the car requires, thereby accommodating legacy vehicles.The plugs for EVs have found a de facto standard in the German-devised 612196-2 'Mennekes' plug. Only France and Spain have devised their own plug standards. Although not an enshrined standard, plugs are unlikely to cause compatibility issues for motorists.Plugged-in PlacesThe Government's Plugged-in Places scheme initially envisioned a network of charging places on streets as well as public centres, such as shopping malls and public car parks. The scheme is gathering pace, although the goals have been revised with the realisation that most people will charge at home, off-road, or at work.On-street parking is scarce in urban areas - two-thirds of Londoners do not have off-street parking - posts and cables could cause potential health and safety risks, and installation in the public space is prohibitively expensive. Calvey Taylor-Haw, MD of Elektromotive, which claims 800 charging points already in the public arena, says: "It's very expensive to dig a hole in the street. It would cost us about £5,000 to complete an on-street installation." The major costs are planning permissions and establishing a connection from the grid to the roadside.Home and work installationsThese costs are, of course, mitigated on private land. Charging points, either post or wall-mounted, can be installed outside the home for anything between £500 and £1,000, although Siemens director of electromobility Philip Skipper says this is "surprisingly expensive" and predicts that the market rate must drop substantially.where their RFID-enabled account can be charged 95p each time they charge; the subscription fee is £24.50 a month. Other suppliers are less enamoured of the subscription approach, arguing that users will want EV charging to be like petrol stations: pull into any forecourt you like and pay as you go. "We think it has to be an open source system," says Taylor Haw at Elektromotive, who predicts the company will go to an easy pay-to-use scheme. He points out that the subject is complicated by the rules governing the sale of electricity, which requires licences to resell energy at a profit. Hence a car park could currently charge for the parking space but not for the electricity drawn down while parked.APT Technologies will be offering parking in conjunction with charging through sister company APT Skidata. Skidata manages numerous public car parks such as at Heathrow. The plan is that motorists would get a barcoded ticket on entry and can use that barcode to both activate the EV charger and pay for their stay and their electricity at the end. Home or work?The dynamics of home charging for business users - and where in fact people will choose to charge - is still largely unexplored territory. The industry has come to agreement on the fact that most charging will take place either on a private driveway or garage, or at work. Only opportunistic charging will occur while out and about. An employee reclaiming the expense of charging is not currently seen as claiming a benefit in kind. However, collecting the data necessary to reimburse employees could be complex as their home tariffs will differ, as will their places for charging. Philip Skipper, director of electromobility at Siemens, says the solution is a dedicated meter which will collect charging data for the employer. There are many alternatives to the traditional combustion engine, including petrol hybrids like the Toyota Prius; pure EVs like the Mitsubishi I-Miev; those trying to make a comeback, such as LPG; the relatively untested (biofuels); and other variants on familiar themes, such as Peugeot and Citroën's diesel hybrids.Combined, they offer fleets many options when considering less environmentally damaging vehicles for their fleets. Yet they are all competing against ever-more efficient diesel engines. The Fleet News EV Supplement, sponsored by Energy Saving Trust and distributed with the December 8 issue of Fleet News, takes a look at what's available on the current market, how the technology works and the cost comparisons for fleets to consider.