Driving electric mobility forward: how a German start-up is transforming EV charging infrastructure

Sep 13, 2017 | Press Releases

The future of public transport as well as individual mobility will be electric. Several surveys have shown that customers around the globe are growing more and more conscious of the need to make mobility, especially cars, more sustainable, and calling for affordable and attractive solutions to this challenge.

This trend, apart from setting standards for the future, confronts us with various challenges. More and more different EV models are already being introduced to the market – several large automotive trade fairs in 2016 have presented us with big players‘ plans to kick off new electric car models or, in some cases, set in motion a whole set of new products and services for electric mobility.

In this area, much progress has been made and customers’ growing interest as well as the political situation will only intensify the need for better and, more importantly, affordable electric cars on the global market.

The development and marketing of electric cars and hardware, however, is only one small aspect of a much bigger challenge. In order to bring electric mobility to the streets in rural as well as urban areas, its logic must be adjusted to the daily routines of the respective users – drivers, who have to rely on their cars every day in order to go to work, pick up their kids from school or go on vacation.

If we look at the daily routines of an average car in Western industrialised societies, the overwhelming majority of the day (approximately 22 hours) is spent parked: parked at home, parked at work, or parked in front of the supermarket. So, the actual challenge is not to further and further enhance the battery capacities of EV models in order to maximise the reach of the cars, but rather to create charging spots everywhere EVs might park – mostly at work places and at home.

This is where ubitricity and its MobileCharging system step in. The Berlin-based company has developed a mobile electricity meter, so small that it can be integrated into the charging cable or the car. The electricity meter and respective communication technology are integrated into the charging cable, comprising the core of the ubitricity system: the SmartCable.

This technology, which is normally the part of the charging spot that makes it expensive and complicated to install, is thus completely shifted from the charging spot to the cable – reducing the charging spot to a technologically lean and easy-to-install SimpleSocket.

The SimpleSockets can be installed almost anywhere users park on their daily routines – wall-mounted, on a pole, or even integrated into lamp posts. But not only do the charging spots become smaller and easier to install: shifting the complex technology from the charging spot to the cable also makes the charge point much cheaper, making it possible to roll out large-scale charging infrastructure without the obstacle of high investment costs.

The concept

Initially, the charging spots become so cheap and easy to install that a ubiquitous roll-out of charging infrastructure is made possible – but that’s only one side of the equation. As the electricity meter becomes part of the cable, electricity is no longer provided to the charging stations as such, but to the mobile electricity meter whenever it connects to the power grid – making it necessary to create contracts and tariffs for every cable that regulates this process.

Users agree a mobile electricity contract for their SmartCable with the provider of their choice – and charge to the conditions of their contract at every ubitricity charging spot, wherever they might go. At the end of the month, users receive only one bill containing all of their charging transactions, instead of having to pay directly for the electricity every time they charge.

This, in turn, is the foundation for several new possibilities. Apart from enabling users to choose their own mobile electricity provider and actually make sure that they are buying green electricity wherever they go, ubitricity also makes it possible to put up charging infrastructure at office or apartment buildings without charge point providers having to give electricity away for free.

As electricity is metered and billed directly to the respective owner of the SmartCable, it becomes easy for companies to integrate EVs into their corporate fleets – the contract is agreed on behalf of the company and employees charge everywhere without having to advance the costs for the electricity.

EV drivers living in apartment buildings can ask their landlords to roll out charging infrastructure in their own parking lots or garages. As charging infrastructure comes at a fair price and costs can be allocated directly to the user, there’s no risk of the electricity being given away for free.

Users having to park in the streets, for example in large cities such as London or Berlin, also profit from the solution. As charging spots are easy to install and can be integrated into existing urban furniture, full use is made of the limited space of the city streets. The SmartCable is compatible with standard charging infrastructure, making the ubitricity system the perfect complementary solution for EV charging infrastructure in cities.

The implementation

The ubitricity system is already being used in several European cities. The most recent example of a substantial roll-out of MobileCharging is the City of London in the United Kingdom, where several boroughs have started to integrate SimpleSockets into street lights in residential areas. Residents are equipped with SmartCables and charge at the street light outside their front door or in central city boroughs such as Westminster.

In the London case, the public sector (the borough council) is in charge of the large-scale roll-out of charging infrastructure. For the boroughs, the ubitricity solution saves time, money, and space, as no additional street furniture is necessary for charging.

Especially interesting is the case of Westminster, the historic city centre of London. The SimpleSockets can be retrofitted even into the historic lamp posts (as the above photo shows), meaning the overall city image is not affected by the roll-out of charging infrastructure.

The perspective

Few doubt that the world’s future depends on renewable energies and on saving CO2 emissions in industrial as well as everyday processes. Electric mobility is part of that process as it provides a promising alternative to combustion engines depending on fossil fuels.

The global interest in electric mobility is growing at a clearly perceptible pace. Ubitricty has responded to interest from companies and journalists in China, India, Mexico and the United States over the last few months alone. In China, several ubitricity components have been installed and received with great enthusiasm.

However, in order to truly become the new motor for public and private transport in industrialised as well as developing countries, electric mobility has to become truly usable. What’s more, it has to be powered exclusively by green electricity in order to really become a clean alternative to combustion engines.

The ubitricity solution covers future developments and changes for electric mobility. Due to its novel contract logic, the mobile metering technology employed in the MobileCharging system offers the foundation for efficient EV smart grid integration. The meters integrate the EVs seamlessly into the electricity grid, transforming them into potential distributed storage entities for electricity.

This is a crucial prerequisite for a complete and thorough energy transition as electricity production from renewables is fluctuating, not stable – namely, more electricity is produced when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

This fluctuating production calls for re-structuring the electricity grids, making them more flexible and adaptable to the new production modes. Electric mobility can play a crucial part in that if combined with the right technologies for charging infrastructure.

As we have seen, the potentials of electric mobility and thus for charging infrastructure are plenty and manifold. They can be discovered by employing innovative approaches to technology and combining different aspects of the system, such as the contract logic of the energy industry and the new EV models developed by the automotive sector (such as bidirectional charging).

It will be exciting to see how these developments play out in the future – we at ubitricity are glad to be shaping them day by day.

Source: Australian Energy Journal