EV charging hubs are the petrol forecourts of the future, but poor grid infrastructure in rural areas means the build-out is slow and non-existent in some areas.
In some rural areas, there isn’t sufficient grid infrastructure for a series of 50kW fast chargers, let alone 150kW ultra-rapid chargers. Ultimately, this means there is a chasm between county areas and England’s biggest cities.
In fact, London has more public chargers than 36 counties combined!
This chasm will only grow because investment in grid infrastructure in rural areas is low, and in some areas, it is non-existent. Meanwhile, cities are enjoying the lion’s share of public charger investment and motorways are getting plenty of hubs.
Off-grid solar for rural charging hubs
One solution to this problem is off-grid solar, which can generate electricity during the day and store it in an energy storage system for use at peak times.
As we discussed in our solar charging article, a solar system can generate and store enough electricity to supplement grid demand.
Last year, renewables engineering company Artelia built Shell’s first solar canopy for its Derby fuel station (with charging stations), with an estimated annual yield of 1,000kWh. However, that site was limited to the space available on the canopy.
For a rural EV charging hub that needs to deliver fast charging, all you need is a solar system that generates 30% of the estimated demand at the charging location, and an energy storage system to capture the energy for distribution.
By supplementing 30% of grid energy, most rural charging hubs will be able to accommodate a series of ultra-rapid chargers with no problem.
For instance, a 7kW solar system will produce around 8,500kWh of energy per year in the UK, which equates to 29,500 clean, green miles at 3.5 miles per kWh.
That is nowhere near enough to meet total demand at rural charging hubs, but it is enough to meet 30% of the daily demand in villages, towns and smaller areas, and this is all that is needed to roll out rapid chargers in most rural areas.
We also need to consider that the solar system will help power on-site facilities, further reducing demand on the grid.
However, there are a few challenges to off-grid solar for EV charging.
The first is cost. Solar systems are relatively expensive, with a 15kW solar system with battery storage priced anywhere from £15,000 to £20,000.
The second is space. Solar systems take up a lot of space, and if you don’t have a suitable roof, you will need a field for the panels.
Despite these challenges, off-grid solar is the most promising way to overcome a lack of grid infrastructure in rural areas.
Image credit: Artelia.