Laurent Maack on charging infrastructure

Published on 27/03/2023, updated on 15/03/2024

Laurent Maack is a Sales Engineer at Energolux. His work now takes him into the field of electromobility. In particular, he sets up recharging infrastructures for large-scale projects.

Exactly what services do you offer in terms of infrastructure, and what role do you play in project implementation?
Energolux has been in business for 40 years. Our experience in the field of emergency power also gives us knowledge of charger and battery technology. We offer design, supply, installation, commissioning and preventive and corrective monitoring of infrastructures.

Who are your customers? What type of company is turning to your expertise today?
The interest in our electric mobility solutions comes from the same customers we’ve been serving for decades for generating sets, cogeneration, low voltage and medium voltage. These are road services, public transport, administrations, banks, large businesses and others.

In the case of your projects, whether completed or in progress, are the recharging infrastructures intended solely for businesses, or are they charging points shared with the public?
At the moment, all our projects are for in-house applications.

The professional sector is impatiently awaiting the announcement of government subsidies for the purchase of electrified commercial vehicles (vans, trucks, buses). In the meantime, are you sensing strong demand for recharging infrastructure, or do you think the market is more in a wait-and-see mode?
We’re seeing some concrete projects in the pipeline, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. I don’t think it’s just a question of state support. For me, it’s more a question of confusion. It used to be that you had to switch from petrol to diesel, and then back again. Electromobility infrastructure requires substantial investment. But no one is sure what that investment will be worth in a few years’ time. It is essential to create clear guidelines, ensure network stability and generate interest in this new technology.

In your opinion, are companies well informed about the state aid available to companies and large-scale projects?
As far as I’m concerned, I see that customers have already set their budgets and included the subsidies before contacting us. In principle, everything is already done when we start designing.

What are your customers’ requirements in terms of recharging infrastructure? What power levels are we talking about? What type of charging point are they looking for: AC, DC or a mix of the two?
We have requests for both technologies. What’s more, designs need to include the possibility of extension to optimise their operation. We need to reduce charging power everywhere, depending on availability. For AC, we’re talking about double charging points at 22 kW per charge point. DC solutions range from 50 to 190 kW. The public transport sector, meanwhile, prefers chargers between 300 and 450 kW.

In terms of cost, what is the approximate cost of installing a 22kW AC chargepoint compared with a DC chargepoint of 50 kW or more than 150 kW?
It depends on the wiring, especially the distances between the power supply points and the terminals. If you install a double 2×22 kW bollard on existing cabling that is “MID certified”, i.e. approved for rebilling the energy transferred, you can expect to pay €8,000. DC technology is currently still at a different budget level, with 50 kW costing €50,000 and 190 kW €70,000. The difference between a simple terminal and the similar “MID certified” variant is 15%.

In your experience, is it easy to mix AC and DC bollards under the same management platform?
That’s an interesting question, and I’d go so far as to say the key question in this field. There aren’t many manufacturers offering high-power DC solutions. Especially when you’re talking about open management between several manufacturers, you quickly reach the limits. In fact, the big challenge of the future will not be with chargers but with management software. The success or failure of the technology will depend on the perfect allocation of available energy according to operating demand. We are working on this internally and with our partners.

What maintenance is required on recharging infrastructures? Are there any wearing parts? What is your feedback?
We don’t yet have too much experience of wearing parts. There’s not much to be expected for AC systems. For DC, it’s comparable to rectifiers and inverters. Parts are replaced at set intervals, every 3 to 5 years. The maintenance plan varies according to the manufacturer and operating conditions. In terms of preventive maintenance, it’s the same for AC as for DC, with annual maintenance recommended.

Does the electrical power required often pose problems? Can you elaborate on this, and what solutions do you offer?
We can only convert as much power as we have available. We have a “medium voltage” team that adapts or extends transformer substations. This is an integral part of most projects, as few sites have enough power available to operate a large charging infrastructure.

What problems do you encounter in the field when using your chargepoints? Are there any problems with charging vehicles, and why?
Technology has come a long way. In the early days, there were often compatibility problems between vehicle and charger software. In the meantime, it’s rare to still see this kind of problem. Basically, the technology has become very reliable.

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