Widespread infrastructure demands standardisation!
“City buys pedelec fleet”, “Tourism Authority wants to extend electric bike offering”, “New e-mobility pilot project” – we read such headlines almost daily. Yet all of those who need or want a good user environment for vehicles partly or completely propelled by electric power come up against the same problem: there is no standard connector which would make a widespread charging infrastructure possible.
Electricity suppliers, transport companies and tourism organisations all want to be ‘green’, to save money or to retain customers, and ever more frequently pedelecs are used for hiring, leasing or just for trying. But public authorities in particular, and companies in receipt of government funds, must behave in a vendor-neutral fashion, so they cannot decide on a charger and charger cable from company XY without angering that company’s competitors.
Also, public charging infrastructure is an investment which in the end should be of benefit to all citizens. To expect such a system to be tied to a single vehicle or supplier contradicts both social and liberal political ideals. The European Union has forbidden the financing with public money of systems which favour or advantage particular companies.
A plethora of plugs and a tangle of cables
On cost grounds alone it is unthinkable to create a charging infrastructure which is compatible with all of the various charger cables for every company’s vehicles. One count in 2011 gave 73 different charger plugs from 99 brands. A wall covered in connectors would not in any case be aesthetically acceptable everywhere, leaving aside the matter of cable tangle and the difficulty of protecting such an array of cables from the weather.
So without a standardised connector, cities, institutions and com- panies seem to have only one option: the 230 V Schuko mains plug or the CEE industrial mains plug. Not a bad choice for an electric car: it can easily carry along its own charger, protected from the weather in some corner of the bodywork.
For two-wheelers such as pedelecs, e-bikes or e-scooters taking along the charger isn’t quite so simple. Firstly, by doing so a significant portion of the available carrying capacity is ‘thrown away’. Also, if the battery cannot be removed from the vehicle, as on some e-scooters and even some pedelecs, the charger might end up out in the rain. Given that most chargers are not designed or approved for use outdoors, this would result in non-standards compliant operation. If material or personal damage occurred, there would be no insurance cover.
As a partial solution to the problem of weather protection of chargers, lockers with 230V mains sockets inside them could be provided. These lockers would have to be heated in winter, because most lithium batteries cannot be charged below 8°C without being damaged. The disadvantage that the charger must be carried around with the vehicle remains unaddressed. So what is really missing for charging infrastructure is the implementation of a standard connector.
A standardised connector does what a USB plug does for computers and connected equipment, or the standardised fuel tank openings for cars. It opens up the possibility of offering a public charging infrastructure which fits every vehicle. These connectors will need to be weather shielded, and protected against overcharging or incorrect insertion via electronic handshaking and standardised plug appearance.
Details of the standard charging connector are at:
Translation: Peter Eland, prepared within the EU GoPedelec! project: GoPedelec! Handbook (German version), Go Pedelec! Handbook in Czech, Dutch, English, Hungarian, and Italian
Picture and online release: Angela Budde
19 September 2012
Updated: 5 November 2012