As staff in gloves are disinfecting all of the payment machines in the Q-Park car parks several times a day, programme manager Willy Verweij and head of sales and marketing Mariëlle Velthoven are continuing work on another adaptation to our changing society: more possibilities for charging electric cars. In Zuidas, demand for charging stations is increasing fast. Residents are eager to have charging stations under their newly-purchased apartments and companies are demanding more of them for their employees’ electric cars. ‘For many companies, electrifying the vehicle fleet is low-hanging fruit in their efforts to achieve corporate social responsibility’, says Willy Verweij. However, he explains that, for Q-Park, installing charging stations is actually not that easy at all. ‘Many of these car parks have been there for years’, says Velthoven. ‘When they were built, no one thought about charging electric cars. This means there is enough power for basic facilities, such as lighting, ventilation and possibly a lift or escalator. But that’s as far as it goes.’ Because buildings often take years to develop and build, even recently-completed buildings still lack the electrical infrastructure required for sufficient numbers of charging stations.
Electricity grid capacity
This is not only because of the buildings themselves, but also the electricity grid. ‘A charging station needs to have sufficient power’, says Verweij. ‘Enough to enable you to make a reasonably long journey, say around 100 km, after four hours of charging.’ In busy areas, the grid is often incapable of supplying that. ‘The further you go into the city centres, the thinner the energy supply. Even in Zuidas, there are certain limitations. Especially so if you take into account the buildings that are still to be completed.’ To supply more power, a grid operator needs to install an additional transformer. But even that cannot be achieved immediately. ‘It takes around two or three more years to apply for the structural modifications and permits’, says Verweij. As Mariëlle Velthoven explains, Q-Park is pulling out all the stops to make that possible. ‘There needs to be a lobby to draw attention to this and to raise funds. It can come from the city of Amsterdam, but also from Zuidas employers. We’re certainly pushing for it.’
In the meantime, Q-Park is already working to make more power available by reducing consumption in other places in the car parks. For example, hundreds of thousands of light fittings are being replaced by LED lights in 200 car parks. But even if Q-Park succeeds in releasing sufficient capacity for a charging station, there are other impediments preventing its actual installation. ‘The people you need to do that are thin on the ground’, says Velthoven. ‘Everyone is calling for them at the moment.’ Q-Park now has a total of 250 charging stations in 60 car parks. As new car parks are built, 10% of the spaces are being reserved for electric cars. Zuidas will also be getting new charging stations. Mahler Q-Park is set to see the introduction of an area with around 100 public charging stations this year.
Smart use of space
Q-Park has a plan to make smarter use of these new spaces. Velthoven: ‘Cars often remain stationary at the charging station for nine hours, long after they’ve actually been charged. Ideally, people would find somewhere else to park their fully-charged cars.’ Instead, Q-Park has come up with an alternative solution. Each charging station will have two parking spaces, preventing the need for cars to be moved. New technology is being developed to indicate to the user when their electric car is fully charged. The technology should even enable fully-charged cars to supply power back to the grid in exchange for compensation. ‘The major players we are talking to understand that additional charging capacity is not the only issue’, says Velthoven. ‘Innovations of this kind can also contribute to the solution. If, in the future, we all use digital tools like this, twice as many people will be able to go home in their electric cars.’