Electric vehicles can greatly reduce the carbon emissions from the transportation sector, but this requires proper planning, designing and ample infrastructure. One limitation of most EV chargers as compared to the diesel and gasoline cars, is the time it takes to fully charge a car. This limitation can be mitigated by having fast DC chargers. This makes converting gas station to EV charging station even more interesting.
Not so long ago, Shell in Fulham, a London based company demonstrated the promising concept of converting gas stations into EV charging stations. They upgraded a gas station with nine EV chargers, each rated at 175 kW, which were capable of charging electric vehicles to 80% capacity within 10 minutes.
Finding EV chargers in commercial buildings like shopping malls and department stores, is gaining popularity. However, dedicated EV charging stations that are able to provide the speed and convenience of a gas station are still rare to find.
Designing an EV Charging Station
EV charging stations may look similar to conventional gas stations at the first glance, but each service stations requires proper designing and a different layout to operate effectively. Most fuel pumps require cars to be parked in parallel, EV charging stations can use the same layout as parking spots. For a given land area, more EV fast charger can be fitted in the area than the number of fuel pumps.
Similar to fuel pumps, EV charging stations can be combined with convenience stores, drugstores, coffee shops, etc. Also, as mentioned above, EV chargers are becoming coming in commercial buildings like shopping malls and department stores.
Installing canopies with solar panels in the EV charging station areas can make the available space even more productive. DC fast chargers typically have high power consumption, over 50 kW per unit. This means that you would need hundreds of solar panels for a small number of DC chargers. However, solar panels can help offset the consumption the smaller loads like light fixtures used around the DC chargers at the charging station.
How EV Charging Infrastructure Can Benefit Cities
The main benefit of widespread access to fast charging is being able to use more electric vehicles. This removes direct emissions from the road, which is an advantage even if the grid still depends on fossil fuels. Traditional cars release emissions right in the middle of cities, where the population is exposed to them. The US EPA has linked these emissions with many health issues, including heart and lung disease. An EV that gets charged with fossil fuel electricity still produces emissions indirectly. However, they are shifted to power plants and away from urban areas, mitigating their health impact.
Of course, the outlook is even better when EVs are charged with renewable sources like solar and wind power. In this case, both direct and indirect emissions are eliminated. EVs can also take advantage of distributed generation in homes and businesses, reducing their burden on transmission lines. Actually, EV chargers can achieve synergy with solar panels and wind turbines, which have a variable power output. When there is surplus production from renewable sources, it can be used to charge EVs at reduced cost.
Global EV sales grew by 80% in 2021, according to Utility Dive, and this is driving demand for lithium batteries and fast charging. As the number of EVs in circulation grows, the business case for converting more gas stations into fast charging areas will improve. Currently, most of the EV charging infrastructure in the US is concentrated in coastal cities and highways. DC fast chargers can already be found in several gas stations, but EV-only stations like the one recently opened by Shell in the UK are still rare.
Michael Tobias, PE, is the principal and founder of NY Engineers. He leads a team of over 50 MEP/FP engineers. Although New York Engineers main headquarters are in NYC and Chicago the business has led over 1,000 engineering projects in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, and California, as well as Malaysia and Singapore. Michael is an advocate for green technology and energy efficiency, and approaches engineering as a vehicle to raise the quality of life.