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Some considerations for ensuring good infrastructure maintenance practices follow.

  • EVSE stations require both routine and reactive maintenance. A robust service and warranty package will cover routine maintenance and initial response to faults. You need to agree acceptable terms for servicing over this period and for managing the end-of-life of units that align with your hosting strategy. When setting up contracts, having a supplier who is able to use a local business or resource to provide the initial response is cost effective for both owner and contractor.  Faster response times ensure the unit provides maximum availability and revenue.  A strong service level agreement (SLA) is required to achieve best service. It may be achievable to establish joint contracts with other nearby owners to make the contract more attractive to providers.

  • Data from chargepoints can be used to trend reliability, performance and demand at each EVSE. Putting in place an uptime tracker can provide a data-led approach for evidencing chargepoint issues, which you can use to increase the accountability of equipment suppliers. Data that might be tracked could include specific hardware or software issues experienced and the length of time that chargers have been non-operational. Having this information collected together should make it easier for those managing the issues to design means to rectify them. This kind of data has been used by local authorities to report at a local level on the network efficiency.

    Wherever possible, technological solutions should be employed to automatically flag that a chargepoint may be out of use. With additional manual means in place for users to report inoperable chargers should there be a failure with the automatic reporting systems. This data should go to the chargepoint host and operator, along with the outfit responsible for the charger’s upkeep (where these are separate organisations). Utilisation data may also be key to directing early response to faults.

    There are various platforms and development ongoing to deliver data in an accessible form. Applications such as WattsUp, Zap-Map and Plugshare often show chargepoint status in real time to potential users. Such approaches can act as a preventative means to reduce the possibility of users travelling to a non-operational charger. Some of these third party applications have social commenting and scoring that can demonstrate user experience in a way that data cannot. Operators can subscribe to updates from their chargepoints on some applications. These forms of communication will improve confidence in the network and allow users to make better-informed choices on their charging requirements.

    The image below displays the ChargePlace Scotland live map of chargepoint availability. ChargePlace Scotland are currently developing new features to improve the information available to consumers on accessing chargepoints.

  • To manage and speed up their response to chargepoint issues, some local authorities (including those on islands) have explored upskilling locals. In Orkney’s case this has involved training traffic wardens on how to ‘make safe’ some charger issues by turning off any electrical supply so the chargepoint equipment doesn’t present any risk. It has also involved the management of fault reporting. Glasgow city council have incorporated plans for a similar traffic warden training programme as part of their switched-on towns and cities (SotC) project.

    Consulted stakeholders fed back that this could go further, with even greater emphasis on using the local skillset. One solution that many rural and island based local authorities would like to see implemented is to allow local qualified electricians to act as first responders to rectify at least some of the more common faults. There was a consensus that this could be an effective solution, as it could speed up repairs, while providing job opportunities for locals. It would likely also economically benefit the supplier, by reducing costs associated with staff travel.

    Further exploration on this would be dependent on the appetite of the procured supplier. It would require changes to contract agreements, for instance in relation to liability. Suppliers may also have to run training courses to certify people as qualified to perform specific tasks on their kit. With periodic refreshers and updates to keep pace with any changes to hardware models installed.

    We also received a suggestion during our engagement activity that work could be supervised remotely via a recorded phone call with a supplier-accredited technician. This could provide quick, low-cost fault resolution, that simultaneously upskills the local workforce.

  • Aside from technical and logistical components, the cost of maintenance contracts may be financially prohibitive to smaller organisations. Those based on islands have highlighted this as a particular challenge for them.

    This has, however, created the opportunity for shared maintenance partnerships between local organisations. A larger contract may be more attractive to suppliers and so developers should investigate any such opportunities to collaborate with partners on this. The local aspect may also allow for cost savings with materials and components more easily accessible. Regional maintenance partnerships with one maintenance provider can create the financial justification for this provider to have maintenance staff based in the region. Local authorities have indicated that without a shared approach there wouldn’t be the financial resource for this to occur. Our engagement has detected strong enthusiasm for regional maintenance partnerships, with the likes of Regional Transport Partnerships potentially being well placed to take on their management.

    Organisations can set up larger maintenance relationships to be run by specialist companies that may be more expert in the requirements for this. The employment of such specialists might, again, only be feasible on a collective scale where there exists a critical mass of investment. The funding your chargepoints section discusses the opportunity for collaboration between local authorities and SMEs.

  • One way to ensure that an issue with one chargepoint does not impede drivers from charging is to ensure that, wherever possible, more than one chargepoint is installed per site. Ideally, these will be of the same power rating to ensure the driver gets the same charging experience, though it is appreciated that multiple rapid chargers may not be viable in some locations.

    In these locations, you may instead consider installing an AC fast charge point alongside a DC rapid charger. If the rapid is awaiting repair service, then drivers can still use the AC to charge. This should enable the driver to top-up enough miles to reach if not their next destination, at least the nearest operational rapid charger, without introducing too much of a delay to their overall journey.

  • As highlighted earlier within the choosing locations your chargepoints section, less advantaged communities will often have a greater reliance on on-street charge points. It is therefore critical that chargepoints in such areas do not fall into disrepair due to poor maintenance and servicing support.

    On-street charge points are typically 7 or 22kW AC units. While it is acknowledged that AC units tend to be more reliable than DC, so have less onerous maintenance needs, it is likely that suppliers may view these as less profitable due to their expected lower possible energy throughput per day compared to rapid chargers. Leaving this solely to the market, it would therefore be expected that priority would be given to maintaining rapid units. It is important that local authorities negotiate a solution to ensure a fair balance of service between these different charging speeds.

  • Chargepoints have a finite life. Early DC chargepoints are achieving around 10 years in operation, with newer models expected to last longer. AC chargepoints can be expected last significantly longer, possibly with some components requiring replacement or updating. Aim to develop a life cycle strategy for your EVSE fleet, including reaction to utilisation and demand, end of life planning considering re-use, repurposing and recycling.  While newer variants will enter the market, the current plug and socket types will be constant (Type 2, CCS and a declining need for CHAdeMO). It is important to also keep abreast of industry developments, with user experience improvements such as contactless payment perhaps becoming expected in the near term, and inductive wireless charging one area that could become more mainstream on vehicles in the medium to long term.

    To give greater future flexibility, you should also investigate the functionality of your prospective EVSE’s communication systems. It is important you understand how it can interface with different back-office systems and receive over-the-air software upgrades, ie its compliance with the latest version of OCPP.

    The juncture of unit replacement also provides an opportunity to employ best practice in making the existing infrastructure as accessible and inclusive infrastructure as possible, taking into consideration the hardware, the physical environment and user experience. This should be in alignment with your wider strategy, following PAS 1899:2022. This guidance document for accessible charging is discussed further within the ensuring your chargepoints are accessible to all section.

A screenshot of the live map of available chargepoints on the Chargeplace Scotland network, taken from ChargePlace Scotland’s website on 19 January 2023.