Smart Energy International

Why buildings and charging infrastructure go hand-in-hand

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There is a lot of discussion about the charging of electric cars, but have you ever heard about options like charging your car at your company’s site, scheduled automatically with your work schedules, or booking a charging slot together with your movie ticket? These and many other scenarios could become reality in the future…based on the interaction of charging infrastructure with buildings, writes Jean-Christoph Heyne, Global Head of Future Grids at Siemens Smart Infrastructure.

But let’s take a step back for a moment: When it comes to the acceptance of eMobility, comfort and charging point accessibility are the decisive factors for electric vehicle (EV) drivers. Thus, wherever electric cars are parked for a longer period of time, charging options must become available and EVs must always be charged on time. This suggestion will send many communities, building operators, and companies on their very own eMobility journey.

Merge the existing with the new to leverage untapped opportunities

While the requirements for the adoption of eMobility may differ, all actors in the building sector face the same major challenge: Existing infrastructure, with one or several buildings, maybe even on-site energy production, will need to welcome and integrate new charging technology. At the same time, building operators share the overall objective of keeping energy consumption (and thus operational costs) down. Escalating costs can be avoided by using renewable energy generated on-site combined with smart charging – and by choosing easily to manage charging infrastructure with familiar tools that follow an established workflow.

Here’s a closer look at four different use cases and their varying, often challenging requirements:

1. Company premises

Call the typical company site to mind, and it will include a couple of office buildings, quite often also energy-intensive production facilities, maybe on-site energy production, e.g. with rooftop photovoltaics. Then there will be a lot of parking that now needs fitting with charging infrastructure: on the one hand, for the vehicles of employees, typically parked for around eight hours, that will start charging more or less simultaneously upon arrival in the morning; and on the other hand, for the increasing number of companies that are choosing to electrify their company fleets, which will also need to be charged on the premises – but in some cases quicker, e.g., for sales representatives that need to go on work trips. And customers might also park and charge their EVs for varying amounts of time spread through the day.

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2. Multitenant buildings

Next, let us consider a typical residential complex or multitenant building, for instance with about ten flats and underground parking. The challenge lies in integrating multiple charging points that add to the load and are often connected at the same time – such as after work, when electricity usage is up anyway with dinner sizzling on electric cookers and multimedia gadgets providing evening entertainment. The EV may be needed again to go out in the evening, or it may remain idle for a couple of days – private car usage is highly unpredictable. In addition, the typical residential underground parking is not fitted with a power connection that can adequately manage the additional load created by the charging points.

3. Destination charging

Idle time is also spent at shopping malls, at sports centers, or at multiplex cinemas, which feature large parking lots that will need several hundred charging points. During business hours, people will come and go at their leisure, and the duration for which individual vehicles are parked and charging will be entirely random. Once a sports game or a movie is over, however, everyone will want to leave at the same time to drive home.

4. Complex infrastructures

Finally, imagine highly complex infrastructures, such as an airport. These often have huge parking lots for short-term parking where vehicles might spend just a couple of minutes or a maximum of eight hours. Then there is long-term parking where cars are parked for the entire duration of their owners’ journeys. Fast charging points are also required for taxis that need to be operational again as soon as possible. And speaking of public transport: There are also airport buses that will charge in the depot according to their schedule. Finally, don’t forget the shuttle buses on the runway that need to be charged on the go… All these vastly different charging infrastructures come with their very unique set of requirements.

Where energy infrastructure meets user applications

The good news is that there is one shared approach that meets all these complex requirements: This is the user-friendly integration of eMobility solutions with existing building management solutions at the grid edge – where energy infrastructure meets user applications.

Technically, it’s no problem to merge the controls of charging infrastructure with existing building management solutions. And the scenarios in which users profit from seamless integration are endless: Imagine how easily employee badges could be used to access charging; how charging could be scheduled flexibly and aligned with employees’ work schedules, ensuring their vehicle is adequately charged by the time they need to leave for an appointment; or how a charging point could be booked at the same time, and in the same app, as a movie ticket…

This type of smart communication between eMobility and building management system not only enhances usability, it is also crucial when it comes to energy management. It allows the increased load to be managed efficiently and aligned with the needs of the commercial or residential building and its occupants. Take, for example, long-term parking at the airport: If the date when the electric vehicle is needed again is registered upon parking, the charging process can be managed flexibly within that time span and can be synchronized, e.g., with fluctuating renewable energy generation. So, besides providing the infrastructure, enabling smart charging is key – leading to convenience for the EV driver and economic and worry-free operation for the building owner.

“A successful eMobility journey starts with an understanding of the existing infrastructure, the general requirements, and the needs of the building users.”

A successful eMobility journey starts with an understanding of the existing infrastructure, the general requirements, and the needs of the building users. Intelligent integration into existing (or new) building management solutions and tools enables the kind of flexibility that makes eMobility a success. This makes an integrated, holistic approach leveraging existing buildings and infrastructures a key element to speed up decarbonisation.

Global Head of Future Grid at Siemens Smart Infrastructure

About the author

Jean-Christoph Heyne, Global Head of Future Grids at Siemens Smart Infrastructure, Erlangen