The Benefits Of Building Solar Charging Stations For Electric Vehicles

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Although electric vehicles (EVs) are considered an eco-friendly option, global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions will remain an issue if conventional sources of energy are used to generate the electricity to power EVs. Several companies like ABB, Magenta Power, ChargePoint, Leviton Manufacturing, Schneider Electric, Siemens AG and Tesla are operating in the global EV charging station market. Generating power from renewable energy sources like solar addresses this concern, maximising the green impact of EVs. It is true that the production of solar panels results in carbon emissions but they become carbon neutral in a few years and last for 15 to 20 years, on an average.

By Ayushee Sharma

The adoption of electric mobility, not only by customers but even the auto industry, depends a lot on the growth of the EV charging infrastructure. A solar charging station usually consists of EV supply equipment (EVSE), an array of solar panels, an inverter to convert solar power from DC to AC, an energy storage system (for off-grid charging), charge controllers and a secure network for the wireless transmission of data to help users make real-time decisions.

In the case of on-grid charging, solar power is fed into the grid regardless of the need for it, and electricity is drawn from the grid, which guarantees charging and the optimum use of solar power. This is a cheaper option compared to charging off-grid. In the case of off-grid charging, a solar panel connects to the energy storage system from which the power is drawn. Such chargers can be placed anywhere since they do not have to connectto the grid. A heavy steel base plate usually acts as a solid foundation, making it easy to install the system.

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A Level 1 or Level 2 EV charging station is typically located below the photovoltaic array, protecting the vehicles from sun damage. Level 1 charge stations are the slowest but the least expensive of three charge levels and are suitable for areas where parking times are long, such as at offices. Level 2 charging stations are more suitable for areas where the parking time is shorter. Not all EVs can use a Level 3 charger, which is used for rapid charging (around an hour) especially for travelling long distances. The Tesla SuperCharger is an example of a Level 3 charger.

These charging stations can be installed in the parking lots of shopping centres, offices, restaurants, gyms, rest stops along highways, parks, among others, making it easy for the public to charge their vehicles and reduce range anxiety.

For home installations, if the amount of solar electricity generated does not suffice because of reasons like weather conditions (cloudy days), only then is grid electricity required. While going for this option, make sure that the number of solar panels installed can compensate for the charging losses. Also, three-phase power is capable of supporting a higher capacity array. The excess power generated can be sold to utility companies, which the owners get back in the form of credits whenever required. This is a cheaper option compared to a battery storage system which is generally used for charging overnight.

The opinion of an expert
For setting up EV charging infrastructure, one should have a minimum of ₹ 5 million to get onboard and stay invested as this industry progresses. But this is purely dependent on your vision and how you plan the size and scale of your project. The payback period is completely dependent on the size of the investment planned and the EV chargers deployed.There are two key challenges faced during the implementation of these systems – the upfront cost of installing solar based systems, and the availability of rooftop space for the solar panels. Addressing the key problems, we have developed a business proposition which makes the investments in solar energy systems redeemable in five years, depending on the number of vehicles serviced by the charging station. Another technical challenge we are trying to solve when going totally green for charging stations is the power backup. We are working on solutions using end of life batteries so that the net carbon impact is as low as possible.The government undoubtedly has been encouraging the infrastructure setup in India, to boost the adoption of EVs. The shift will be more evident by 2030. We are focusing on building a seamless network of EV charging stations, enabling easier adoption among the target audience, making them future-ready. As the nation moves towards clean and affordable power for all, it is our attempt to provide customers with the best solutions for a greener tomorrow.We have spearheaded several first-time technologies in the industry and solar charging stations have been one of them. These stations will play a key role in the energy systems of the next 25 years. As the nation moves towards clean and affordable power for all, this is one of the most eco-friendly options to look for.Currently, we are focused on setting up the EV charging ecosystem in India. Very recently, in association with HPCL, we introduced a streetlamp integrated EV charger. This has helped us address the key challenges, such as the lack of space and proximity to charging points. In parallel, we have also designed portable and compact chargers to boost the EV charging infrastructure in rural and remote areas.
Maxson Lewis,MD and co-founder, Magenta Power

 

The cost of setting up a solar powered charging station depends on factors like installation costs, hardware equipment, cost of electricity and maintenance in the long run. The cost of purchasing a solar array also varies based on the manufacturer and the solar panels selected. For those who already have a solar array installed at their homes, they just need to have an EV charging station.

The environmental benefits of charging stations that run on solar power are many. Besides better air quality and reduced dependence onfossil fuels, every day running costs are lower. The load on conventional grids also gets reduced. Apart from this, large scale implementation will increase employment opportunities owing to the need for trained people for installation, maintenance and operation of these stations.

Considering the benefits and the viability of such a system, many businesses are investing in this concept. According to a recent report from ReportLinker, the global EV charging station market is expected to increase at a CAGR of 34 per cent during 2020-2024. Tesla Motors, a subsidiary of Tesla, for instance, is constructing solar-powered charging stations in convenient locations for its EV customers.

Although the payback period is long, collaborations and government policies can decrease it and help in establishing a robust charging infrastructure. In India, the government has de- licensed the public charging stations business for EVs. In 2019, BHEL announced that it will be setting up five solar based EV charging stations at Haryana Tourism Corporation’s resorts on the Delhi-Chandigarh highway. The organisation has also developed a central monitoring system and a mobile app for EV charging. The Japanese electronics company Panasonic is also working to set up nearly 100,000 charging stations for EVs across India’s 25 largest cities.

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