Pop-up solar EV charging hub unveiled
27 May 2022
Author: Sean Keywood
A new pop-up solar EV charging hub has been launched, which its makers claim offers an easy solution to workplace charging.
The Papilio3 hub, from 3TI, is built from a recycled shipping container, and features up to 12 fast charge points offering speeds of 7kW, 11kW, or 22kW.
3TI, an established supplier of permanent solar parking facilities, expects it to find favour for use in office car parks, as well as at locations such as shops and leisure facilities.
According to the company, an advantage of Papilio3 compared with conventional charging facilities is that no expensive upgrade to a site's grid connection is required.
3TI says the hub can be deployed and installed within 24 hours, with its shipping container origins helping to make transportation straightforward, and minimal ground works required.
As a temporary structure, the company also says no planning permission will be required in most locations.
Around 25-30% of the power needed to charge EVs comes from the hub's solar panels, with the rest taken from mains electricity overnight and stored in the hub's batteries for redeployment during the day.
As well as charging EVs, power from the Papilio3 can also be supplied into nearby buildings such as offices.
3TI founder and CEO Tim Evans said the hub could help meet the UK's EV infrastructure needs, by providing facilities for drivers without access to home charging.
He said: "We have a problem with the availability and reliability of charge points. We also have a problem where currently EVs are really the preserve of more affluent people.
"If you can charge at home, it probably means you have got a drive and a garage. That means a larger house. If you live in a tower block, a block of flats, student accommodation, or even a terraced house, you can't charge on the pavement outside your house."
3TI CTO Mark Potter said: "We absolutely need to roll out futureproof EV infrastructure. We need to do it much more quickly than we are doing at the moment.
"The ratio of vehicles to EV charger points has been reducing steadily year on year. It's fantastic we are getting the EVs out there but we are not getting the charge points out fast enough."
Evans explained that the hub's solar panels and battery capacity allowed it solve problems created by irregular power demand during a working day.
He said: "If we look at the profile of electricity that gets used on a day-to-day basis, we see not very much at night, a peak when everybody comes in and puts the coffee machine on, and another peak at teatime when people are going home.
"If I want to put electric vehicles on to that site, the only space I have got is the bit in the middle [of the day]. How do I get a significant or worthwhile number of chargers onto that site? I have two options.
"The first option is to apply to have the grid connection increased. That's expensive, it takes forever, and if you're charging at those times of day, this is gas peaking, this is expensive carbon. Option two is to stick some solar on the site."
Evans explained that by pairing solar panels with a battery, the hub could store and redeploy surplus solar energy collected during the middle of the day as well as overnight mains power.
He said: "It's cheaper, but power coming off the grid at night is also low carbon - most of it comes from wind and hydro."
Evans said that while these principles had also been behind 3TI's previous large car park developments, the Papilio3 hub would allow it to enter other markets.
He said: "We have been tackling the large car parks, nothing smaller than 200 parking spaces. That is very roughly 36% of the UK market.
"A very big market that we haven't looked at at all is [car parks with] less than 100 spaces. We've got 13 million spaces to go at. The market is huge."
The first Papilio3 hub has been installed at Surrey Research Park in Guildford, and a crowdfunding campaign will be launched in June as 3TI works towards full production.
Evans said around a dozen would be produced by September, to go to existing customers, with general stock to be available for order from October.
The hubs will not be sold, but rented. Evans said rental periods could be from three months, but he expected most to be for a year.
However, he added that there was potential for them to stay in place for longer, with their portable design making it easy for them to be taken away and upgraded with new batteries as technology developed.