Charging forward in the EV market

In July, ESB officially opened its new eight-bay charging hub at Junction 14 Mayfield on the M7, marking the latest development in its €20m infrastructural programme to enhance the country’s electric vehicle charging network.

This decade will, in time, prove to be the most significant in the electrification of transport as car manufacturers and consumers continue to make the necessary transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

Reflecting this movement, the start of the decade has already seen considerable change in Ireland’s public charging network, following ESB’s €20m investment supported by the Government’s Climate Action Fund (CAF).
More than 200 22kW standard chargers had been upgraded across Ireland by May of this year, with 21 standard chargers upgraded to 50kW fast chargers at key locations nationwide.

These fast chargers allow users to get an 80% charge in less than 30 minutes.
A number of high-power 150kW charging hubs have also been deployed at Kilcullen (M9, Co Kildare), Galway Plaza (Junction 6, M4), Portlaoise Plaza (M7/8, Junction 17), Kells (N3, Co Meath), Ballinalack (N4, Co Westmeath), Kilmartin Service Station (N6, Athlone), Lunney’s Service Station (N4, Carrick-on-Shannon) and Monasterevin (M7 Junction 14, Co Kildare).

John Byrne, Head of ESB ecars, explains how consumers are benefitting from the technological advancements in EV charging: “As with all technologies, there have been significant improvements and upgrades in the EV market, such as the increase in battery size. As such, the infrastructure is completely different to when ESB started to roll out charge points more than 10 years ago. This €20m investment is not only completely overhauling our public charging network, but also our customers’ experience.”

The next stage of the investment programme will be ‘Superhubs’ – the first of which is located at Junction 14 Mayfield on the M7. These strategically located, high-powered charging sites feature eight bays of charging stations with further sites set to be announced later this year.

UPTIME AND RELIABILITY

Reliability and convenience are critical factors for EV drivers, and especially for those considering the move to electric driving. Before ESB commenced its upgrade work in October 2019, its standard network ‘uptime’ was 85% – representing the percentage of the network that is available to customers at any given time. As of May 2021, that figure stood at 98% – demonstrating the positive impact that the upgrade work is having on the network.

“We are seeing the real benefits of our investment in the network with consistently higher uptimes. When issues are found on the network, our teams work hard to resolve these within the tightest possible timeframe. All of this work, in turn, leads to greater user confidence and helps to reassure current and future EV drivers,” notes Byrne.
He also points to its Customer Charter programme where ESB outlines its commitment to providing a quality service. “Indeed, 86% of our customers surveyed said they have experienced and noticed an improvement in the network since the upgrade work commenced.”

INVESTMENT AND PRICING

While Covid-19 has impacted driving patterns, most EV drivers continue to primarily use their home charger and use the public network to ‘top up’ on longer journeys. In 2019, ESB outlined the necessity of implementing a payfor- use structure to ensure investment in and maintenance of the network. According to ESB’s own customer research, more than 50% of survey participants said the introduction of pricing has not changed their usage habits with those remaining saying the move influenced their decision to charge at home or to purchase a home charger.
Interestingly, more than 80% of customers agree with the implementation of an overstay fee as it “reduces charger hopping and encourages good charging etiquette”.

“The introduction of pricing was essential to support ongoing upgrades and ensure that the network continues to operate at a high standard for an ever-increasing number of EV owners,” says Byrne, highlighting how ESB’s research showed high levels of satisfaction with its 24/7 customer care service. More than 90% of network users have downloaded the ecars connect app, further demonstrating the benefits of increased investment in associated customer support systems.

DRIVING FORWARD

The Government's 2030 ambition to have more than one million EVs on Irish roads is still in sight. Range anxiety is no longer an obstacle thanks to technological advancements, with car manufacturers offering a range of vehicles to suit increasing market needs and budgets. The availability of public charge points is also increasing with local authorities, retail and the hospitality sector all recognising the importance of providing this essential offering.

This greater visibility will further add to user confidence and uptake.
This will also be enhanced by ESB’s continued roll-out of high-powered charging hubs on motorways and national road sites. Assessment for these new sites is based on current charge-point usage, traffic volume, accessibility, amenities and grid capacity.

“For ESB, it is important for us to invest in and maintain infrastructure where it is needed most around the country. We continue to actively engage with all stakeholders, including the Irish EV Owners Association and local authorities, on our activities and plans,” says Byrne.

“As with all aspects of the energy transition, including the electrification of transport, ESB recognises the importance of bringing the customer on this journey and making it work for them. This decade will be a defining one for the EV industry, and ESB is once again proud to lead that charge to a brighter future.”

For more information on ESB ecars visit esb.ie/ecars.