I find it strange talking about ‘conventional’ charging stations, due to the infancy of charging infrastructure. However, just like any technology, it is developing at an alarming rate.
We are starting to see a lot more charging stations scattered around London and beyond but, let’s be honest, they are still too slow and ugly. In fact, in our last interview with Connected Kerb’s other founder Peter Howe, he described them as “hideous”.
Talking to Stephen Richardson, another of the ‘Fantastic Four’ founders, Auto Futures looks at how a dense urban ecosystem like London can make the most use out of its limited space.
Charging for Dummies
Connected Kerb has only been going since the end of 2017, but it has already developed a relatively ‘dumb’ charging point behind the kerb into an intelligent system that drives more efficient EV charging, provides customers and businesses with information and, soon, will support autonomous technology.
As the name suggests, Connected Kerb is about bringing connectivity to London’s streets, providing customers with power and data.
“We want to create a system where customers can plug in and charge, but also provide a data port,” says Richardson. “Ultimately, we put a plug in and enable a bay with power and data. Then we plate over it and walk away until someone needs it, building the system as part of the footpath.”
This process allows local councils in London to take, as Richardson says, a “carrot and stick approach,” in which the government can decide when the take-up of EVs is sufficient enough for more charging points to appear on the street. This is an innovative approach, as governments around the world are struggling to improve EV take up, despite new incentives.
“EV Access for all”
Connected Kerb follows the ideology of “EV access for all,” giving anyone the ability to plug in roadside. The company has multiple products that can be implemented, from the armadillo, which is made out of recycled tyres, to the gecko, which can plug into existing street furniture.
We have seen innovative street charging that integrates into the infrastructure such as lampposts. However, these don’t provide much energy due to their original uses, like powering a single bulb. Connected Kerb has the advantage of having the same accessibility along with the power behind it.
This also expands beyond the power, as the energy units are universal, enabling a number of different charging processes.
“We have built something that’s relevant now and will still be in 5-10 years’ time through a very low-risk solution. Other charging stations will be skip-ware in 2 years’ time because they are using a dumb plug that will not provide enough functionality once cars become more connected.
The New Fast-Charge
Although there is still value in fast chargers, you don’t need many of them. You never really need rapid-charging, apart from emergency situations where you need to travel somewhere quickly and unexpected or on the motorway when you need to recharge halfway.
For this reason, slow-charging is the answer – just in rhythm. In fact, slow-charging is the new fast-charging, as vehicles will be charged in the same place, for the same time each day. Vehicles will be parked outside the office, house or shopping centre, which means they can be charged slower but more efficiently than expensive and inefficient rapid chargers.
“We have what’s called a trickle or slow charge, which is very much focused on residential charging,” says Richardson. “It’s the same rhythm as your phone – you go to bed each night and plug-in to a charger, whether you’re on 5% or 90%. This means that you’re only taking on small loads.”
On average, Londoners drive 3 miles a day, so they never really need a rapid charger. But, unsurprisingly, public perception means that rapid-chargers are the only solution in the eyes of society. This is a toxic environment that is already causing problems within the e-mobility sector, so it is vital that people are educated about direct solutions from companies like Connected Kerb.