Electric vehicle charging for public spaces: Feasibility Study

Submitted by FreeWire Technologies Ltd in partnership with the Westminster City Council — April 2019

Executive Summary

FreeWire Technologies is a global leader in all-electric mobile power, offering simple electrification applications using integrated battery designs for electric vehicle (EV) charging, making these technologies widely available at a fraction of the cost of conventional solutions. In partnership with Westminster City Council, FreeWire Limited was awarded £78,434 to conduct this feasibility study through InnovateUK’s funding competition, ”Electric vehicle charging for public spaces,” to assess the feasibility of offering FreeWire’s flexible electric vehicle charging systems on and around the streets of London and wider UK.

As the UK aims to continue its laudable progress in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions responsible for climate change, it must ensure a meaningful reduction in emissions from the transportation sector. The vast majority of transportation emissions – over 90% – come from road transport, and in particular, passenger vehicles.1 Thus, the British Government has made the aggressive deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) a central pillar of its strategy to reduce GHG emissions 80 percent by 2050 as detailed in its comprehensive EV roadmap The Road to Zero.

Spurred by increased EV adoption, demand for EV charging is growing fast but the availability of EV charging is not keeping up. Over the last five years the number of EV charge points across Great Britain has increased by 354% – from approximately 5,700 in 2013 to over 20,000 as of March 2019 – lagging significantly behind EV adoption growth of over 5,000%.2 3 We estimated this charge supply gap for Westminster, the difference between demand and availability of public charging, would reach 2,927 MWh in 2025 (or 925 additional standard chargers), and the ratio of rapid chargers to vehicles would be 253:1, well above the 100:1 target ratio. As the charge supply gap grows, the added costs of finding chargers is paid for by the driver. Currently EV drivers in Westminster spend 20 minutes on average finding access to charging, and spend 1,062 days, equivalent to £269,000 a year seeking charging.

Across London and other urban areas in Great Britain, the problems associated with traditional charging solutions are compounded and magnified by the constraints of the electricity grid, limitations in physical space and the potential implications of pro-EV policies for nonparticipants. Even if the grid could be modified to deliver power where it is needed, it would be costly to power locations such as on-street parking spaces, commercial parking lots, petrol stations, fleet depots, multi-unit dwellings and retail locations. In high density areas like Westminster, residents’ lack of access to off-street parking further complicates matters.

FreeWire sought to envision and assess the feasibility of what a driver-centric “charging as a service” solution could look like and its potential to overcome the barriers of current charging models. After extensive research and discussions with a wide variety of stakeholders we concluded that the best solution would allow an EV driver to park anywhere and order a charge from their phone, and to have charges delivered regularly and conveniently, reducing the time and anxiety associated with EV charging. After reviewing charge delivery options, FreeWire concluded the most feasible near-term implementation of this concept is to create public charging hubs at existing car parks, with 1 kilometer charging zones where a driver could park near the hub and have a charge delivered to their vehicle. This framework optimizes existing space such as car parks which are seeking additional revenue opportunities, creates high utilization from centralized charge locations and allows convenience for drivers by providing access to both stationary rapid charging and charge on-demand within a sufficiently broad area so as to reduce the time spent seeking a charge.  It represents a pathway to scale to meet the charge supply gap without stranding investment in outdated technology.

Finally, we assess the business model of providing the service and conclude that a five-year IRR of 10% is attainable, including initial low utilization rates which increase to 30% in year five. We modeled a 50% government contribution to cover start-up costs and first year operating expenses, and reasonable rates charged to EV drivers (£4.5 for on demand delivery, and 25p per kWh for rapid chargers). By year ten the IRR doubles. Core to its implementation is the support and collaboration of existing business interests. In the process of exploring feasibility, key stakeholders such as EV drivers, car clubs, utilities, petrol station owners, EV OEMs and car parks have been identified, engaged and are committed to supporting and exploiting the new charging business model opportunity.

Importantly, the solution is future proof, as FreeWire’s charging systems are significantly easier to deploy, replace or modify than conventional EV charging systems. It also has the potential to serve as a bridge to autonomous charging which would enable the most cost-effective utilization of charging assets and public spaces.

FreeWire aims to change the process of refueling a vehicle from a commodity purchase to a service delivery, lowering the total cost of charging and increasing revenue opportunities for underutilized assets. By literally severing the requirement for direct grid connection and dedicated parking, FreeWire will accelerate the adoption of EVs by improving the driver experience and making charging an afterthought in the consumer’s assessment of purchasing an EV.


Objective of the Study

The objective of this study is to assess the feasibility and potential for deploying a new model of “charging as a service” within Westminster through the use of FreeWire’s innovative battery-integrated charging systems. FreeWire is seeking to accelerate EV adoption by narrowing the charge supply gap1 and overcome infrastructure barriers of EV adoption by maximizing the utilization of chargers as shared assets, while at the same time deploying a driver-centric and service-based model.  The report concludes it is feasible to use the flexibility offered by the Mobi charger to deliver charging to vehicles parked on Westminster’s streets for all EV drivers, and specifically to benefit residents without off street parking. The Mobi models would be deployed for on-street charging from car parks that serve as EV charging hubs, where they would recharge. At the hubs, Boost Chargers (stationary battery integrated rapid chargers) would provide ultra-rapid charging capabilities for the vehicles parked on-site (fleets, car clubs or individual EVs). The Mobis would also be available for on-site charging during periods of low demand for on-street charging. The goal is to reduce so-called range anxiety and thereby promote the wider adoption of EVs through dynamic, flexible charging services that provide superior customer experience, increase asset utilization and reduce infrastructure constraints.

FreeWire seeks to make charging easier and more convenient for EV drivers, as well as increase net utilization of various assets. The goal of increasing utilization applies not only to FreeWire’s charging units but also to existing grid resources and underutilized property assets from transportation-related businesses, such as parking lots and petrol stations. By enhancing the value of these assets through modernized use, FreeWire will demonstrate the viability of a new model for charging vehicles.

The following data would be generated during a demonstration of the proposed business model:

  • Identify the gross margin opportunity for on-demand EV charging in London
  • Quantify the delivered kWh cost of energy from on-demand EV charging by delivery type (e.g. By van, by an attendant on foot)
  • Quantify consumers and fleet price sensitivity for an on-demand EV charging service by delivery mechanism
  • Confirm appropriate pricing models by customer group and/or delivery mechanism
  • Quantify revenue from other services bundled into an on-demand EV charging service
  • Validate daily and annual charge needed by vehicle and owner type
  • Determine charge density required to make the business model commercially self-sustaining
  • Quantify the impact on EV adoption rates from availability of on-demand EV charging service for all owner types and by subcategory (e.g. Residents without off street parking)

The initial idea in Westminster was to use vans or trailers to deploy FreeWire’s Mobi EV charger for on-street charging at a customer’s request. FreeWire’s Mobi is a mobile, dual EV fast charger that uses lithium-ion batteries as on-board energy storage, integrating energy storage onto a mobile drivetrain. After discussions with Westminster, this was determined impractical because high traffic flows and narrow streets do not afford enough time or space to unload the Mobi units from the delivery vehicle without creating an unacceptable impediment to traffic. Areas where this could be feasible were insufficient to justify the cost of this charge deployment mechanism. FreeWire is continuing to assess vehicle-delivered charging in lower density urban and suburban areas that are less physically constrained.

Figure 1 – FreeWire’s proposed solution of establishing rapid charging hubs at Westminster car parks and deploying its Mobi units in surrounding charging zones for on-street fast charging.

Having determined that vehicle-delivered Mobi units for on-street charging would be infeasible, FreeWire arrived at an elegant solution combining the separate schools of thought regarding rapid and slow charging through the development of a dynamic and flexible hub-based charging solution. While Westminster residents lack off-street parking at their homes, many choose to use one of the numerous paid car parks which also serve as a base for corporate and government fleet vehicles. These car parks would serve as charging hubs, where FreeWire’s battery-integrated rapid charging system, the Boost Charger, would quickly recharge the parked vehicles, adding significant value to drivers and serving as a differentiator for FreeWire-serviced car parks. In turn, the Mobi would provide a much-needed additional charging resource for EVs parked on Westminster’s streets at the request of a driver, thereby avoiding the considerable time and hassle associated with finding available on-street charge points. The resultant model is to offer flexible charging services that provide superior customer experience, increase asset utilization, and reduce infrastructure constraints.

1. Overview of the problem

A. Public Policy Review

In the course of this feasibility study, FreeWire has assessed numerous public policy developments at the national, regional and local level. These policy considerations underscore the need to pursue innovation in the area of EV charging and present a clear rationale for proceeding with this project in the context of the collective effort to address global climate change.

As the International Energy Agency has noted, “early EV market developments show that the availability of chargers emerged as one of the key factors for contributing to the market penetration of EVs.”5 It is essential to efficiently build out public charging infrastructure in order to meet the UK’s ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Both in Britain and globally, climate change mitigation strategies largely depend on the electrification of the transportation system. Hence, any failure to address the charging gap also means failure to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C in order to avoid the most disastrous consequences of climate change – including extreme sea level rise, severe weather and mass migration of climate refugees.
A range of incentives to support EV adoption and the buildout of charging infrastructure has stimulated EV adoption throughout the country. The initial results are promising, with total registrations of EVs increasing over 5,000 percent in the last five years from approximately 3,500 in 2013 to over 195,000 as of February 2019.6

Air Quality

Owing to remarkable progress through the shift to renewables and improved technologies, the UK’s energy supply sector sustained a 60 percent emissions reduction between 1990 and 2017.7 In contrast, transportation sector emissions have lagged behind and essentially remained flat over the same period (declining by 0.6 percent), supplanting the energy supply sector in 2016 as the largest source of GHG emissions and accounting for 27 percent of emissions economy-wide.8

The City of Westminster was the first local authority in the UK to recognize the importance of air quality through the development of an air quality improvement strategy. Due to its central location in London, with significant NOx and particulate pollution from vehicle emissions in particular, the City suffers from some of the unhealthiest air in the country. Therefore, Westminster has emphasized increased market penetration of EVs as a key component of its Air Quality Manifesto, which outlines its strategy to reduce air pollution and associated impacts to human health and the environment.

The City has implemented a number of measures to reduce the most polluting journeys and prioritize policies to support the deployment of EVs, such as establishing a diesel parking surcharge and reducing parking permit fees for ultra-low emission vehicles.9 The Air Quality Manifesto also requires all new developments with off-street parking to have 20 percent of parking spaces equipped for EV charging and an additional 20 percent to have cabling to enable future installation. The City is also considering capping the number of non-ultra-low emission vehicles that can receive parking permits on a per household basis.

Incentives Promoting Electric Vehicle and Charging Infrastructure

The UK government currently offers a number of incentives for EVs. For purchase of new Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) that can go at least 70 miles without needing to charge, the Government offers a grant of £3,500.10 In addition to the grants, the Government offers EVs costing less than £40,000 an exemption from annual Vehicle Excise Duty, and reduced company car tax for EVs owned by businesses. For charging infrastructure, the UK Government has plans to invest £400 million to create the “Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund,” expected to be launched by June 2019.

TfL is providing a total £4.5 million pounds to 25 boroughs, including £300,000 for Westminster, to install 1,500 additional standard public charge points in residential areas. TfL is also investing £18 million to expand the rapid charging network in London, with much of this funding reserved for rapid chargers dedicated to black cabs.

The Department of Transport strategy “Road to Zero”, launched in 2017, aims to ban the sales of internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2040.11 This level of ambition has drawn praise globally, and raised the stakes regarding the buildout of charging infrastructure necessary to spur increased EV adoption. TfL also adopted a new regulation in January 2018 that requires all newly registered taxis in London to be “zero-emission capable,” effectively ending the sale of old diesel models that have underpinned its fleet for decades.

Fleets and Car share clubs

Across London, borough and city agency fleets are doing their part to lead by example in the decarbonization of the transportation sector. For example, the City of London Corporation has banned new purchases of diesel vehicles and is transforming to an ultra-low emission vehicle fleet. The Mayor has also established a goal for all 9,200 London buses to be zero-emission by 2037. Electric buses are currently running on seven bus routes in London.

Car share companies and ride hail apps are also quickly modernizing their fleets to comprise electric vehicles. For car clubs, charging behavior is a major consideration on whether to bring EVs online. As one of the most popular car share clubs in London, Zipcar has ambitious plans to expand its EV fleet. This began in 2018, with 325 Volkswagen e-Golfs placed into service in London and broader ambitions for 9,000 shared EVs to serve 800,000 Londoners by 2025.12 BMW’s ride-sharing subsidiary, Drive Now, currently has 25% of EVs in its London fleet (including Westminster) and plan to achieve 80% by 2025.13

Leading ride-hailing app Uber is also taking a leadership position on EVs, aiming for its London drivers to be all-electric by 2025.14 Beginning this year, Uber is instituting a 15p per mile fee to provide financial support for its drivers that are making the switch to an EV. Uber expects to raise £200 million to support this transition. Uber is also partnering with ChargePoint to provide rapid charging stations in central London for existing EV drivers.

Public Policy Conclusion

There are strong policies in place to promote adoption of EVs and support EV charging equipment, and the data bears out that these policies are working. However, we estimate an increasing gap between the demand for EV charging and available charge supply. As detailed below, the report assesses the growing charge supply gap and foresees increasing marginal costs of deploying additional traditional fixed infrastructure as available public space decreases and grid-related costs grow. Public policy must focus on innovative ways to reduce this gap and create incentives to try new technology and business models. Subsidizing the deployment of ubiquitous infrastructure in and of itself is unlikely to solve the core supply gap problem and is not encouraging customer-centric solutions – an important element in solving common customer objections to purchasing EVs. Any resulting undersupply or added hassle to find charging will likely dampen EV adoption and increase conflict over public assets.

B. Adoption Analysis

Westminster has the largest charging network in the UK and has made significant efforts to promote the adoption of EVs within the borough including pioneering the trial of lamppost charging infrastructure in areas with high street-parking density. Although the City has made remarkable achievements to build out its charge network, this infrastructure is not sufficient to support the number of EVs on the road or the expected increase in EV vehicles.

Across London, the deployment of charging infrastructure lags behind the EV growth, as the number of EVs increased by 46% between 2017 and 2018 from 12,638 to 18,49315 and the number of charge points only increased by 17% from 1,586 to 1,869.16 Similarly, there are currently 1,511 EVs (Q3 2018, DoT) registered in Westminster, compared with only 170 public charge points. Despite sizeable investments by the British Government, Transport for London (TfL) and Westminster, the increase in the number of public charge points has not kept pace with growth in the number of EVs on the road.

In a Department of Transport survey conducted annually between 2014 and 2016, concern about recharging consistently ranked as the top factor deterring people in the U.K. from purchasing an EV.17 Despite growth in the number of charge points over that period, the number of respondents worried about the adequacy of recharging infrastructure actually increased from 40% in 2014 to 45% in 2016, the last time the survey was conducted. This concern is driven by the fact that charge points have failed to keep pace with EV adoption, and because the options for charging have not evolved accordingly. Successful demonstration of FreeWire’s proposed new service model will help bridge the current infrastructure gap.

In major UK cities, and particularly in London, the availability of off-street parking is dramatically lower than the rest of the country. In London, only 48% of drivers have access to off-street parking in comparison with an average of 72% across the UK.18 The Environment Committee of the London Assembly has identified the encouragement of EVs amongst Londoners lacking a driveway or garage as “the biggest challenge” for realizing its EV ambitions, noting deep-rooted concern about charging points among residents parking on-street.19 One of the Assembly’s key findings was that the spread, location and accessibility of electric charging points is more important than the overall number of charge points, a conclusion supported by this feasibility study.
In Westminster this problem is magnified, as it has some of the highest population densities and traffic flows amongst all London boroughs, with Transport for London estimating that between 41-50% and 81-100% (based on geographic subdivisions of the borough) of residents have no access to off-street parking in Westminster.20 Given that the portion of Westminster reporting the lower range covered three royal parks (St James’s, Green and Hyde Parks), FreeWire is assuming that the upper range (81-100%) is applicable to most Westminster residents for the purposes of this study.

The dearth of off-street parking in London, and in Westminster in particular, underscores the importance of building out flexible public charging solutions in high density areas. The National Infrastructure Assessment recommends a requirement for local authorities to install charging points at 5% of their public parking spaces by 2020, increasing to 25% by 2025 in order to encourage and support continued EV growth.21 However, fixed charging infrastructure such as lamppost chargers cannot be the only solution for people relying on street parking. Besides being inadequate to close the charge supply gap, we found high costs of finding charging and growing anxiety over charge availability to be important barriers to EV adoption amongst this group of drivers. Simply increasing fixed charging points ignores the importance of offering alternative delivery models for providing charging.

Electric Grid Limitations

In many locations that could be ideal for citing EV chargers – such as on-street parking spaces, car parks, petrol stations and commercial sites – electric distribution infrastructure is inadequate to deploy traditional charge points. Expensive and time-consuming upgrades are often necessary to deploy rapid chargers. Lamppost chargers have offered an additional option for on-street charging that uses existing grid capacity, but their relatively slow rate of charge, varying lamppost model designs, combined with the trend of increasing battery range for EVs, decreases their utility.

Furthermore, significant additional deployment of rapid chargers is needed to support working vehicles, such as taxis, car clubs and other commercial fleets. Major upgrades from low to medium voltage are often necessary to install a rapid charger at a typical location. Moreover, in the long term, the aggregate impact of traditional fixed charging infrastructure will increase peak demand overall and increase rates for charging, thereby increasing the overall cost of using the traditional methods. National Grid’s conservative estimate, premised on increased EV adoption, is that peak demand in London will increase by 5 megawatts, or 8 percent overall.22

We concluded that the proliferation of EVs will cause significant strains on London’s already constrained grid by intensifying peaks and increasing costs for all ratepayers. Though incentives to promote off-peak charging such as pricing can provide some relief, they are an imperfect solution. If there is widespread adoption of EVs, drivers will be charging at all hours. This is particularly true for certain vehicle fleets that are unable to adjust operationally to engage in smart charging. Our recommended approach to addressing the charge supply gap with battery integrated charging would deliver the most energy with the least amount of power required, thereby reducing the grid impact, and increasing ratepayer benefits.

Space Limitations

The City of Westminster, with its distinctive mix of residential and commercial neighborhoods and high density of development and economic activity, has many competing demands on physical space. Westminster is believed to be the largest parking authority in the UK through its management of approximately 70,000 kerbside parking spaces.23 With respect to its 26,944 residential parking spaces, localized parking pressures persist. In particular, evening and overnight residential parking occupancy is very high across the City’s 28 parking sub-zones, with 21 exceeding 70% occupancy on a Monday night. It is especially prevalent in Abbey Road, Victoria, Knightsbridge, Paddington, Regent’s Park, Harrow Road, St. John’s Wood, Marylebone and Bayswater. Even on weekdays, when residential parking demand is lower, there are significant strains and variation in residential parking occupancy as depicted in the below heatmap contained in figure 2.

Figure 2 – Heat map showing the average occupancy for resident parking bays during the day on a weekday.

Addressing EV charging needs

Today’s charge provider solutions focus on two strategies to address the challenge of deploying adequate EV charging infrastructure to satisfy current and projected demand:

1. Rapid charging solutions

Rapid charging applications effectively seek to recreate the petrol station fueling experience for EV drivers, allowing for vehicles to be refueled quickly whenever needed. Once deployed, these charging assets require limited planning. They also can drive additional revenue to site hosts by operating as a loss leader, attracting customers to shops at petrol stations or other commercial locations. However, rapid charging systems are costly and slow to deploy, and require new or enhanced electrical service and high utilization rates in order to generate charging revenue. The systems are not suitable at many locations due to space as well as grid limitations. As fixed assets, these systems can become obsolete as charging technology evolves, resulting in sunk costs.

2. Slow charging solutions

Slow chargers, such as such as home, workplace and lamppost systems, are easier to install and offer users the convenience of charging at their destination. Like rapid chargers, destination chargers do not require much in the way of planning upon deployment. However, parking is a shared resource, and destination charging can create conflicts between EV drivers and nonparticipants, particularly where parking spaces with charging infrastructure are limited to EVs only. Westminster officials are intimately aware of balancing the needs of these constituents and seek to minimize conflict. The destination charging model relies on making the chargers ubiquitous, which is difficult if not insurmountable due to grid and space constraints. A strategy of maximizing deployment can also disrupt public spaces and, similar to rapid charging solutions, can result in sunken costs as the technology becomes outmoded.

Additionally, the differences in charge needs (e.g. driver behavior) of the three main types of vehicle ownership – driver-owned, fleet-owned, and shared ownership – highlight the need for charging options that optimize the use of limited space and electric capacity, and those that can be deployed to create a driver-centric charge experience.

Vehicle Ownership | Mileage and location requirements | Rapid or destination charging
Driver Owned Known, limited variation Destination
Fleets Known, limited variation Both
Shared Ownership Variable Both

Table 1 – The three major modes of vehicle ownership.

Driver-owned – Will vary highly on the lifestyle of the owner, usually prioritising the charging to be near their home or work.

Fleets – The rapid conversion of fleets to electric vehicles and the demand for limited space and charging assets only increases. Fleets are effectively a shared vehicle or asset that has a relatively known user base and behavior. They will compete for charge assets, likely needing rapid charging and some destination charging, and conversion to EV will be slow if mid-route or home base charging is insufficient.

Shared ownership – New shared vehicle business models (car clubs, car sharing, and ride sharing) effectively change vehicle “ownership” and/or expected vehicle location and driver behavior. These models are premised on improving asset utilization through algorithms matching users to assets in a dynamic nature. Unknown are the specifics of the vehicle’s route, eventual destination, and need for fueling. While the vehicle utilization is optimized in the “shared” model, supporting an all-electric fleet raises the question of how to optimize charging assets in a similarly dynamic way.

Importantly, neither the rapid nor the destination charging approach satisfies a core desire for EV drivers as customers for charging services: that of convenience. Both approaches require self-service by the customer, which can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Rapid charging is simply not yet fast enough to offer comparable convenience in comparison to a petrol pump, which refuels a vehicle 10 times faster than the fastest charging options available today. For destination charging, and in particular chargers located on London’s streets, a driver needs to first find parking next to a charge point like a lamppost and then connect the vehicle. FreeWire’s survey (described below) indicates that a driver spends an average of about 20 minutes to locate an on-street charging point. A resident relying on these on street chargers will have to engage in this process frequently. As the delta between charging demand and charging assets increases, so too does the burden on and anxiety of drivers to find charging, thereby increasing parking stress and the potential for conflicts.

Profile of Westminster

The City of Westminster is a borough of Inner London that is home to 247,464 people [ONS, 2016]. Composed of several very diverse local communities, Westminster is renowned for its historic landmarks and districts, including Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, House of Parliament, Marble Arch, SoHo and Trafalgar Square. It has a thriving local economy, contributing over £55 billion to Britain’s GDP. Population density in Westminster is especially high in the northwestern portion of the borough in the Wards of Queen’s Park, Harrow Road, Westbourne and Lancaster Gate (ref Figure 3).

Figure 3 – Population concentration

Westminster has 125,000 residential properties, with a median property price of £1,054,400 compared with a median sale price of £517,500 in London and £220,000 across the UK. Based on 2011 census data, 40 percent of households rent their homes, 31 percent own and 26 percent socially rent their homes. With an average of 56 dwellings per hectare spread over 2,203 hectares, housing density in Westminster is the fourth highest of London’s 32 boroughs and grew by 22 percent between 2001 and 2017.24 Within Westminster, parts of Queens Park, Harrow Road, Westbourne, Bayswater, Lancaster Gate, Hyde Park, Bryanston & Dorset Square, Churchill, Warwick, Tachbrook and Vincent Square have among the highest housing densities with greater than 100 dwellings per hectare.25

Figure 4 – Heat map of relative housing densities across the borough

Traffic flows assessment

Traffic flows show traffic hotspots with high volumes of vehicles traveling through certain areas. Depending on available space placing rapid charges near these hotspots would make it convenient for EV drivers to charge en route and increase charger optimization. Ideally charger-based hubs would be near but not at the center of these high usage areas so as not to add to congestion.

Figure 5 – Westminster annual traffic by vehicle type 1993-2017
Figure 6 – Heat map of Westminster’s Annual Average Daily Traffic flows

Assessment of charging infrastructure

Westminster has 214 charge points on the public highway, with 97 located at EV-only bays, 44 alongside dedicated car club bays and 73 retrofitted into lamp columns in predominantly residential parking bays.26 For the purposes of this report, public charging bays are defined as those available for anyone to use and does not include the dedicated charge club bays. Thus, Westminster has a total of 170 public charge points currently available. The City intends to make a direct award for a 5-year contract for the provision of up to 150 additional lamppost chargers each year, which will be dependent on budget allocation. Provided that budget allocations are made available, there would be 850 lamppost chargers installed on Westminster’s streets in 2023.27 In addition, Westminster has plans to install an additional 40 standard 7 kW chargers and 15 fast 22kW chargers at dedicated bays across the city. Once installed, this will bring the number of on-street public standard and fast charge points to 1,075 by 2025. The City also has plans to expand the number of rapid chargers, with plans to use TfL funding to support 10 dedicated taxi-only charge points at five taxi rest and refreshment ranks and the procurement of publicly available rapid charge points at 10 additional locations.28 Driven by TfL support, there are 150 rapid chargers in London today, with plans to have 300 online by 2020.

There are currently 18 public rapid charge points in Westminster, with plans to install 10 more in the coming years.29 In addition, design is underway for 10 taxi-dedicated rapid charge points at six taxi rest and refreshment locations and the City plans to use the TfL framework to build 10 more taxi-dedicated rapid charge points at five additional locations in the future. This will result in 48 rapid charge points deployed in Westminster, 28 of which will be available to the public and 20 available to taxis only.

EV sales analysis

In 2018, the market share of EV sales in the UK rose to 3.8% with 59,911 new registrations – a 21.8 percent increase year over year.30 BEV sales (15,474) were up 14 percent year-over year, while PHEV sales (44,437) rose by 25 percent. BEV sales are expected to increase with numerous long-range BEV models planned for introduction over the next several years. A continued marked increase observed in BEV sales means that an efficient build-out and right sizing of charging infrastructure is all the more important, as rising numbers of BEV drivers do not have the luxury of relying on petrol as a backup fuel and will therefore need to recharge their vehicles more often. A breakdown of the sales data by model is provided below in figure 7. In addition to the models listed in the chart, the London Electric Vehicle Company’s TX model has sold 644 BEV units as of Q3 2018.31 When the Tesla Model 3 comes online in the UK, BEV sales will likely increase markedly based on the US market as an indicator.

The number of EVs on offer for sale in the UK has grown significantly over the past several years. As the technology has evolved and battery ranges begin to increase, a growing number of EVs are coming to market that are capable of rapid charging at speeds of 50kW or greater. Approximately half of the 175,840 EVs registered in the UK as of Q3 2018 are rapid charge capable. About 75 percent of the EVs sold across the UK are plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) which tend not to be rapid charge capable although the top selling model, the Mitsubishi Outlander, is rapid charge capable. The majority of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are rapid charge capable. The Hyundai Kona, Kia Niro and Kia Soul are three new BEV models being introduced in 2019 that can rapid charge their long-range 64kWh batteries at up to 100kW speeds.

Figure 7 – UK EV sales by model type, 2018


Table 2 – EV models sold in the UK that are capable of rapid charging vs. those that are not capable of rapid charging

In Westminster, there are currently 1,511 registered EVs, with year-on-year growth of approximately 40% over the past four years.32 A conservative assumption of continued growth would place the total number of registered EVs in Westminster at over 3,500 in 2025, as depicted in figure 8 below. However, TfL has projected that this base growth will accelerate, resulting in 6,000 to 8,000 EVs registered in Westminster by 2025.33

Figure 8 – Number of EV’s registered in Westminster and linear growth through 2015

The City of Westminster also provided a list of its ECO parking permits broken down by Ward. Although the data includes non-electric low emission vehicles such as hybrids, CNG and hydrogen vehicles, FreeWire developed the below figure as a proxy to assess the geographical distribution of EVs in the borough and thereby determine the best locations for its electric charging hubs. Based on this data, EVs are generally more concentrated in the wards north and south of the royal parks, and at the highest in the wards of Abbey Road, Queen’s Park and Little Venice.

Figure 9 – ECO-vehicle permits by Ward

Charge demand profiling
In July and August of 2018, the City of Westminster carried out a consultation survey to obtain information about EV charging from 160 residents, with an even split of EV owners and those not owning an EV. In summary, the responses gleaned the following information:34

  • Most people (62%) did not have any access to off-street car parking and most people (70%) would be happy to have a charging point outside their house.
  • Over 90% of respondents indicated that 5 minutes or less was the suitable walking distance to a charging point.
  • Approximately half of respondents rely on on-street charging.
  • Approximately half of respondents would like to see fast chargers installed with smaller numbers wanting rapid or trickle chargers.
  • There is a strong chance that existing hybrid owners would change to a full EV in the future.
  • Respondents were concerned with air quality and attracted by the low cost of refueling an EV.

These responses indicate that Westminster residents are generally concerned about a lack of charge points, which they want to see located within a five minute walk from their homes.  The data suggest that the overall convenience of charging options is the paramount factor for consideration by a driver weighing whether to convert to an EV.

In March 2019, FreeWire commissioned Populus, a London-based research and strategy consultancy, to conduct a field survey to supplement the Westminster survey and gain additional information on charging behavior for this study. The survey involved responses from 207 drivers across the UK, and FreeWire then assessed a subset of 51 London drivers most relevant for this feasibility study.  Key findings include the following:

  • 62% of the respondents were interested in an on-demand charging service allowing a customer to park on-street and request the delivery of charging.
  • 43% say that 3-5 kWh of charging per day would satisfy their charging need versus 16% who said it would not and 24% who are unsure of their needs.
  • The majority (57%) of Londoners charge their EV overnight, and 47% reported charging in the evening.
  • Only 10% of Londoners reported using existing on-street charging resources such as lampposts for their typical charging needs due to issues including inaccessibility.
  • London respondents charge 2.8 times per week on average.
  • Drivers spend significant time, about 20 minutes on average, to find a suitable on-street charging point. This equates to over 140 hours or 20 working days of wasted time based on just the registered Westminster EV users and current densities, every week.

Similarly, Zipcar has identified the lack of charging options, and rapid charging options in particular, as the greatest impediment to its ability to realize its EV goals. One senior manager for Zipcar has stated: “[t]he infrastructure is not there to support [point-to-point EVs], so we will every two to three days have to take those vehicles overnight […] charge our vehicles and put them back on to the streets.”35 Zipcar provided FreeWire information for this study regarding charging behavior within its new London-based EV fleet, which is summarized in the following table:

Information regarding Zipcar’s fleet of 325 EVs in London
Average EV trip distance 5 miles
Average EV trip time 36-37 minutes
EV Range 60-65 miles during winter, 80-85 miles in warmer months
Distance driven by Zipcar team to recharge and rebalance a single EV 3.4 miles to the charging point; 3.7 miles to redeploy the EV; 7.1 miles total
Distance driven by Zipcar team to recharge and rebalance fleet (325 EVs) 1,105 miles to the charging points; 1203 miles to redeploy the EV; 2,307 miles total
Time spent driving to recharge & rebalance a single EV 12 minutes to the charge point; 16 minutes to redeploy the EV; 28 minutes total
Time spent driving to recharge and rebalance entire fleet 65 hours to the charge point; 87 hours to redeploy the EV; 152 hours total
Average time for a single EV to reach 90% charge 35 minutes
Average time for fleet to reach 90% charge 190 hours
Average charge required per vehicle 20-25 kWh
Frequency of EV charging every 6 days
Time of charging 10pm-6am

Table 3 – EV charging behavior for Zipcar’s fleet

The data provided by Zipcar underscores a substantial loss in productivity due to a lack of adequate charging infrastructure, a cost all drivers seeking public charging incur. Zipcar relies on the limited rapid charging points in place across London and has had to resort to overnight charging to recharge the EVs in its fleet. The dearth of rapid charging options is a particular challenge because 62% of the approximately 150 rapid chargers that have been installed across London have been reserved for exclusive use by the black cab fleet.36 Having access to more of rapid charging resources at locations convenient for Zipcar to charge its fleet will be key to realizing its ambitions for a vast expansion of EVs.

Based on the data provided by Zipcar, the average estimated charge time for one of Zipcar’s EVs to reach greater than 90% is 35 minutes. Its fleet of 325 London EVs needs to be refueled every six days, with charging generally occurring overnight.

Charge Demand

In order to assess the current and projected charge demand in Westminster, FreeWire assessed the number of EVs in Westminster today and expected in 2025 against its own survey data and other publicly available information regarding charging behavior. Then, the estimated charge demand was compared against the available number of charge points, assuming they are rather highly utilized. In terms of projecting the number of public charge points in 2025, FreeWire based its estimates on the City of Westminster’s current plans to build out public charging infrastructure. We acknowledge that there may be more or less charge point in place by 2025 as these plans are subject to change. However, the fundamental point is that a charging gap currently exists and is expected to grow larger, and that FreeWire’s technology and unique model of implementing can be used to both fill the gap as well as provide EV drivers with a new and more convenient option for charging.

There are approximately 5,000 charge points to support 18,500 EVs in London today. Only 150 of these are rapid charge points. In Westminster, there are 232 charge points, including 18 rapid charge points, for 1,511 EVs. TFL predicts that 3.4 to 8.2 percent of London’s cars will be EVs in 2025 and based on the 2,666,000 cars in London today, between 90,000 and 218,000 EVs will be on the road in London in 2025.37 In Westminster alone, TfL projects 6,000-8,000 EVs by 2025. Based on lack of infrastructure detailed above and average wait time to charge, Westminster EVs will be wasting 560-746 hours (80-106 days) per week just looking to find charge stations unless a more dynamic solution is implemented.

FreeWire analyzed the various data points described above regarding charging behavior, charge infrastructure and EV adoption to estimate current and projected demand for charging, which demonstrates a substantial infrastructure gap currently exists and will grow larger by 2025.

The most recent published DoT data indicates that there are 1,511 EVs registered in Westminster and TfL’s 2016 analysis suggests that at least 81% of these vehicles, or 1,224 of these EVs lack access to off-street residential parking.38 Based on FreeWire’s survey data, each EV charges an average of 2.8 times per week. Therefore, the average demand for on-street charging in Westminster is 3,430 charging sessions per week or 178,381 charging sessions per annum. To determine the electricity demand, this analysis relies on a 2017 DoT statistical release stating that the average energy delivered per charge for fast (22kW) chargers in London is 6.7 kWh.39 Multiplying this by the number of charging sessions yields an electricity demand of 23 MWh per month needed to satisfy all of Westminster’s public charging needs or 1,195 MWh per year, assuming driving patterns remain constant.

Next, the available on-street charging capacity was assessed based on the 170 public chargers currently installed in Westminster. Based on the DfT’s 2017 statistical release, the mean plug time where a vehicle is plugged into a charging station is 7.4 hours. The amount of time the vehicle is actually charging is just a small fraction of this, meaning that traditional on-street charge points spend the majority of their time in an idle state where a vehicle is plugged in but not charging. Therefore, dividing 24 hours per day by the mean plug time yields a maximum of 3.2 charging sessions per charger each day on average. To account for utilization variance, we assume a relatively high 40% utilization rate for each charge point. Thus, a single charge point averages 1.3 charging sessions per day. This means that Westminster’s 170 chargers can support an average 1,544 charging events per week or 80,277 events per year. In terms of electricity delivered, these chargers can supply 10 MWh to EVs in a week or 538 MWh in a year.

Therefore, the current annualized charge supply gap between demand and available public infrastructure for slow/fast public chargers in Westminster is 98,104 charging sessions representing 657 MWh. Put another way, the City would need 208 additional on-street chargers in place to meet this demand.

Applying this methodology to estimate the projected charge demand based on the 8,000 EVs and 1,075 slow/fast public charge points projected for Westminster in 2025, the charge demand will be 18,162 charging sessions per week or 944,437 charging sessions per year. The electricity demand will be 122 MWh per week or 6,328 MWh per year. The available charge capacity will be lower by almost twofold, at 9,762 charging sessions per week or 507,632 charging sessions per year. The available electricity from these chargers will be 65 MWh per week or 3,401 MWh per year. Thus, the projected annualized charge supply gap in 2025 will be 436,805 charging events representing 2,927 MWh. To fill the gap, an additional 925 public charging stations would need to be built.


Figure 10 – Annual charging demand in terms of electricity and charging sessions

A similar assessment was performed for rapid charging infrastructure using the current and projected EV adoption and rapid charge point numbers against a desired ratio of EVs to charge points. A 2018 white paper from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) suggests the ratio of EVs to rapid charge points should be 50:1 under current “low” market conditions (based on the relatively low number of EVs on the road today) versus a 100:1 ratio 2025’s anticipated “medium” market conditions.40

To provide a meaningful assessment, we sought to only include EVs capable of rapid charging. Approximately 51% of EVs sold in the UK are capable of rapid charging, translating to 776 of Westminster’s 1,511 EVs. Given the increasing number of BEVs being sold, it is projected that 85% of Westminster’s EVs will be capable of rapid charging in 2025, or 6,800 of the projected 8,000 EVs. Based on the 18 rapid charge points installed today, the current ratio of 43 EVs for every rapid charger actually exceeds the desired 50 to 1 ratio suggested by the ICCT analysis. However, the 28 rapid charge points projected for 2025 will be insufficient to meet the demand of 6,800 vehicles. In 2025, the actual ratio will be 243 EVs for each rapid charge point versus the ICCT ratio of 100 to 1, resulting in an infrastructure gap of 40 rapid charge points.

Figure 11 – Rapid charging gap expressed in terms of plug ratio

Introduction of the solution

FreeWire’s Revolutionary Charging Systems

FreeWire Technologies aims to provide a customer-centric charging experiences to alleviate drivers’ range anxiety that limits EV uptake. FreeWire combines its innovative charging assets and the potential to use outmoded real property to provide a user-friendly and dynamic charging solution. FreeWire manufactures the Mobi and Boost EV Charger systems, battery-integrated EV chargers designed to minimize the impact on grid infrastructure and avoid utility upgrades and deployment delays while providing the high-power charging that consumers expect. These EV chargers can match or exceed the performance of other commercially available fast and rapid charging systems using a widely available, standard-voltage grid connection, which is typically already available at the vast majority of ideal EV charging locations.

The technology requires no expensive transformer upgrades, drives rapid deployment, and, critically, provides a low and fixed installation cost that enables purchasers to accurately estimate and plan for project costs in advance, removing cost uncertainty. In addition, these products offer the flexibility to optimize the deployment of charging assets due to the low cost associated with relocating them.

The Mobi

The Mobi is a mobile, dual EV fast charger that uses lithium-ion batteries as on-board energy storage. By integrating energy storage onto a mobile drivetrain, FreeWire’s Mobi increases charger utilization rates and reduces the need for expensive grid upgrades, enabling customers to scale up EV charging quickly and cost-effectively. The integration of mobility makes the Mobi a flexible and dynamic alternative to current on-street charging infrastructure, one that addresses both the constraints on physical space that persist in Westminster and within the electric grid.  Each Mobi unit is manufactured by FreeWire and includes the following elements:

  • A lithium-ion battery pack with 80 kWh of total storage capacity;41
  • Battery Management System (BMS) that receives inputs, including cell voltage, tap sensors, thermistors, and a total pack voltage sensor to calculate and monitor safe limits for the battery pack;
  • Battery charger with 100VAC to 260VAC input voltage, supporting up to 6.6kW input power;
  • An inverter block to convert between DC and AC voltage, providing 120VAC to 240VAC output, supporting up to 11 kW continuous output power and up to 20kW surge power (equivalent to 30 miles of range per hour);
  • Controllers to perform “handshaking” between the EV and Mobi and ensure proper EV charging;
  • Thermal management system, including a liquid cooling system for the high-voltage power electronics.
  • Housing, controls, and mobile drivetrain systems.

41 The Mobi can also be customized with a lower capacity 40 kWh battery pack.

The Boost Charger

FreeWire’s Boost Charger is an innovative battery-integrated rapid charger that outputs 120kW to the vehicle while only drawing 22kW from the grid. This design enables a 10- to 15-minute charging session for most vehicles, while reducing the need for grid power and using a standard, low-power grid connection.

Conventional Rapid Charger Installation42 FreeWire Boost Charger
New medium-voltage (6 to 21 kV) grid connection £76,000 N/A £0
New step-down transformer and power distribution unit £38,000 N/A £0
Installation and Trenching £19,000 Installation and Trenching with Surface Mounting £15,000
Charging Station and Power Cabinet £57,000 Boost Charger Unit £103,000
Total Cost £190,000 £118,000
Time to Complete Installation (inc. permitting, utility upgrades) £4-6 months < 1 month

Table 4 – Cost comparison between the Boost Charger and a conventional rapid charger

Each Boost Charger unit is manufactured by FreeWire and includes the following elements:

  • A lithium-ion battery pack with 160 kWh of total storage capacity;
  • Battery Management System (BMS) that receives inputs, including cell voltage, tap sensors, thermistors, and a total pack voltage sensor to calculate and monitor safe limits for the battery pack;
  • Battery charger with single phase 120V/240V or three phase 208V/277V/400VAC input voltage, supporting up to 22kW of input power;
  • DC power converter capable of up to 120kW of output power (i.e., 480 miles of range per hour);
  • Controllers to perform the “handshake” between the EV and Boost Charger and to ensure proper charging of the EV;
  • Housing, controls, and user interface;
  • Thermal management system, including a liquid-cooling system for the high-voltage power electronics, and the battery pack;
  • CHAdeMO and CCS connectors capable of simultaneously charging two vehicles from one unit.

Charging as a Service

As a result of the feasibility analysis the solution proposed by FreeWire is neither recreating the petrol station refueling experience or blanketing public thoroughfares with slow charge fixed infrastructure. Instead, FreeWire will address the charge supply gap and make charging easier for EV drivers while increasing net utilization of various assets through the development of dynamic and flexible charging hubs in London car parks. The scarcity of off-street residential parking means that many people in Westminster pay to use car parks in the borough. The car parks serve not only residents but other ownership interests, particularly corporate and government fleet vehicles. The car parks would serve as charging hubs for the Boost Charger to rapidly charge vehicles on-site. Mobi units would be situated at the charging hub for flexible deployment to provide on-street charging services as well as supplementing the charging of vehicles parked at the car park.

Our vision is a dynamic charging solution which delivers:

  • A driver-centric charge experience that alleviates range anxiety and the pain of finding available public charge points;
    • The average London EV driver spends 20 minutes looking for an available public charge point which is more difficult in dense areas like Westminster. A driver seeking to charge their EV must find an open parking bay adjacent to a charge point. FreeWire proposes a seamless customer experience where anyone parking on Westminster’s streets or in its car parks simply requests charging and has the service reliably delivered to their EV.
  • Lower total costs of charging by increasing optimization of the charging and real property assets;
    • Through its mobile design, the Mobi can be deployed where needed to maximize its utilization – on the streets of Westminster, at the charging hub locations or for rescue charging operations.
    • The co-location of Mobi and Boost systems at car parks also offers flexibility, where they can serve multiple user groups including individual residents, fleet vehicles and car sharing clubs. This optimizes the use of the charging assets and provides a new revenue stream for the car park as a real property asset.
  • Reduced need for dedicated parking bays for charging
    • Public charge points are underutilized due to the amount of “idle time” where the charge is complete, yet the vehicle still occupies the charging bay. Even with the City’s bold plans for expanding the number of public charge points, we forecast a persistent charge supply gap. Installing fixed charging exacerbates parking stress conflict amongst residents.
  • Reduced grid impact rates associated with peak period charging
    • FreeWire products alleviate the strain on the grid from charging by creating a battery buffer reducing overall power requirements. Similarly, the products and can be recharged during times that the grid has excess capacity, avoiding higher electricity rates and demand charges. This is especially true for the Boost Charger, which greatly reduces power demand associated with traditional rapid chargers.

Options Analysis

To assess the feasibility of providing charging as a service, FreeWire evaluated three scenarios in this study: (1) a baseline scenario that simply relies on filling the charging gap through traditional charge infrastructure solutions; (2) the deployment of on-demand charging services from vans; and (3) the preferred solution – establishing charging hubs at car parks to provide charging capabilities on-site and on-street within a defined radius from the facility.

Option 1: Maintain the Status Quo

FreeWire first considered a scenario wherein only traditional charging infrastructure is employed to address the increasing demand for and associated gap in charge points. Through this evaluation, FreeWire has determined that relying on traditional charging infrastructure would be too costly, too slow and insufficient to meet demand growth.

Even with the City positioned as a leader in charging infrastructure, with ambitious plans to deploy fixed self-serve charging assets, a significant gap exists that will only continue to grow in the years ahead. Westminster could choose to double down on its current strategy, and attempt to quickly build out the additional 208 slow/fast chargers needed to meet present demand and the additional 925 chargers it would need in 2025, but doing so would be exceedingly costly.

For rapid charging, the need for grid upgrades is already a major impediment, from both a time and cost perspective, to siting the chargers at many ideal locations. This will also increasingly become the case for standard slow and fast chargers. Adding to the already high installation cost, the associated grid upgrades will become more and more expensive over time as suitable locations for charge points are exhausted from a grid capacity perspective. In Westminster, congested streets, elevated traffic flows and high population and housing density compound the problem, as the limited physical space for charging infrastructure will also increase cost over time.

A strategy of solely increasing fixed and self-serve charge points also risks becoming outmoded, resulting in sunk costs in underutilized, stranded assets. EV sales in the UK are undergoing a marked shift from low-electric-range PHEVs to long-range BEVs – the growth in BEV sales in January 2019 rose by 110% whereas PHEV sales declined by 15%43 – because battery range and capacity have improved, and more longer-range BEV models have come to market. This trend will only continue with the advancement of battery technology and the expected introduction of numerous long-range BEV models.

The risk of installing soon-to-be stranded assets is of special concern regarding lamppost charge points.  While lamppost chargers avoid some of the above-described constraints in terms of the grid and limited physical space, they charge at a low rate – 4 kW on average. These charging assets risk becoming outmoded because, while long range BEVs will need to recharge less frequently, they will need to do so at higher speeds.

While lamppost charging is an important tool to address the charge supply gap, it is hard to see improvement in their utilization and reduction in the “idle time” discussed above. Although FreeWire wasn’t able to develop an estimate of the average plug time for slow chargers, it is safe to assume that it will be longer than estimates for fast chargers by their very nature. Thus, even if an EV commenced charging immediately after the previous EV drove away, these charge points can serve a maximum of 3.2 vehicles a day on average. In practice, this figure is likely even lower because an EV will not immediately plug in after the prior EV has left a charge point. For lamppost chargers, the figure would be even lower than EV-dedicated parking bays with standard chargers because non-EVs are free to occupy parking bays adjacent to lamppost units.

Finally, the self-serve fixed charge point model does not adequately improve the convenience for the EV driver. Our survey data indicate that the average EV driver spends about 20 minutes looking for a public charge point along London streets. In a year, the 162 available public charge points in Westminster were calculated above to have the capacity to provide 76,500 charge sessions. Thus, collectively, EV drivers in Westminster alone spend 1,062 days searching for available charge points. Building out more fixed self-serve infrastructure may reduce this somewhat, but it fails to solve for this lost time and productivity.  Based on the London living wage rate of £10.55 an hour, the time spent searching for parking in Westminster is equivalent to £269,000 in lost wages.

Option 2: Deploy On-Demand Street Charging from Vans

The second option considered for addressing the charge supply gap was to provide charging as a service through the delivery of Mobi units to charge vehicles. In this scenario, users would simply request a charge through the FreeWire app, after which the Mobi Charger would be brought to charge the parked EV without any further user intervention. The van-deployed Mobis would also be available to provide rescue charging for EVs with depleted batteries, addressing a key driver of charge anxiety amongst drivers.

FreeWire evaluated the recharging needs for the Mobi units. Assuming the 6.7 kWh average charging session reported in DoT’s 2017 analysis, a single Mobi charger would be capable of charging 12 EVs before needing to be recharged itself. Thus, a single Mobi would be capable of delivering the same amount of charging as 9 standard chargers based on the demand calculations showing a standard charger is available for 1.3 charging sessions a day.  Ideally, the vans would be able to park next to a vehicle and provide charging from the Mobi units situated in the van, avoiding the time needed to unload and reload the charger. However, based on the high population density and parking occupancy throughout Westminster, it appears unlikely parking would be available adjacent to the EV. Therefore, based on a visuo-spatial analysis in comparison with the relative density of EVs by Ward, FreeWire determined an average redeployment time of 13 minutes between charging sessions consisting of four minutes to load the Mobi onto a van, five minutes to drive to the next vehicle and four minutes to unload the Mobi from the van. There would still be a need to constrain public access as the Mobis are off-loaded making the operation unappealing by temporarily blocking roadways. Thus, 12 vehicles could be recharged in approximately 11 hours. as depicted in the figure below.

Figure 12 – Mobi daily discharge and recharging profile

FreeWire assessed a number of potential Mobi recharge locations, including gas stations, public charge points , retail centers and car parks. Petrol stations were determined to be unsuitable due to limited quantity (approximately 10) distributed in Westminster, space-constrained locations and lack of security. Similar concerns for security arise if the Mobis were recharged at existing public charge points, which would be counterproductive as it would further constrain the availability of this already underutilized infrastructure for charging EVs.

Westminster has numerous car parks throughout the borough, with many situated in ideal locations adjacent to high traffic and residential areas. Many of the car park operators are seeking ways to increase the revenue from the car park and providing EV charging is an attractive option. The car parks are monitored 24 hours a day, and would be ideal for recharging as they could also accommodate vans used for deploying the Mobis. In particular, there are car parks in northern and southern reaches of the borough, with locations that appear suitable in the Wards of Abbey Road, Queen’s Park and Little Venice where EV concentrations are high. Mobis could flexibly provide charging to EVs located at the car park itself, or in the vicinity of the car park. Thus, the initial conception of a car park as an ideal recharging location emerged, and this laid the groundwork to develop the “car park as a charging hub” framework described below.

Finally, the assessment turned to the technical feasibility of deploying Mobis from vans. With Westminster’s high traffic flows, parking occupancy and narrow streets, it has been determined that the unloading process would be infeasible. Due to limited available parking, the time lost would be unacceptable if the vans were required to find parking near the EV seeking to charge. This left us with an undesirable scenario of unloading the units from the van while it was double-parked in the street. We remain optimistic that van-deployed Mobis would be suitable for on-street charging in other less congested areas of London and more broadly across the UK. In addition, van-deployed rescue charging also remains a viable proposition based on this analysis.

Recommended Approach: Establish Hubs for On-street and On-site Charging.

Description of the Solution

After determining on-street charging deployed by vans would impractical, FreeWire explored an alternative mechanism to address the charge supply gap. Having identified that the City’s numerous car parks in residential areas could serve as ideal centralized facilities to recharge the units and also maximize their utilization by providing on-site in addition to on-street charging, the study considered whether we could take advantage of the Mobi’s built-in mobility by having attendants on foot deploy the units for charging within a fixed radius around the facility.


The car parks themselves would serve as public charging hubs, where FreeWire’s battery integrated Boost Charger would provide rapid charging for both vehicles parked at the facility and EVs seeking an ultra-rapid recharge. EV-driving customers who choose to park at the facility could schedule charging for their cars and have it handled by staff at the car park. Drivers seeking to only use the chargers rather than parking at the facility would be able to freely access the Boost Charger and initiate a charge with their smartphone or credit card. These drivers need not pay any parking fees, but instead only the cost of charging, provided that they promptly unplug and drive out of the facility. In this fashion, use of the Boost Charger would be optimized for various user segments, from fleet vehicles and residents parking at the facilities to EVs that are on the road and need to quickly recharge. Mobi units would be deployed for on-street charging within a fixed radius of the facility, referred to herein as a charging zone.

A phone app would provide a GPS map allowing drivers to easily visualize whether they are parking in a charging zone, as well as depicting any street segments where charging would be restricted due to the narrowness of the footpath. This would effectively allow an EV driver to park in any eligible space within the zone, open their charge hatch, and schedule charging on their phone, which would then be delivered by charging hub attendants. Users would be notified when charge is completed, including information about how much electricity was delivered. In the interest of maximizing the utilization of the Mobis, the units would be available to recharge vehicles parked at the charging hub facilities during periods of low demand for on-street charging, which are typically expected to occur during the day based on the survey data described previously. On-street charging would be provided primarily overnight, when residential charge demand is at its highest and in order to minimize pedestrian impacts for Mobis deployed on footpaths next to the parking bays.

Car parks as charging hubs

Westminster has the second highest average price for property of all local authorities across the UK, at £1,093 per square foot. In order to surmount this prohibitive cost barrier, FreeWire sought to identify charge hub locations at existing facilities that could be co-purposed for charging, where the addition of charging infrastructure could serve as an additional revenue source for the facility owner/operator. Initially, FreeWire considered establishing charge hubs at petrol stations. However, FreeWire found most of the 10 petrol stations considered in Westminster are not in close enough proximity to residential locations to serve as charging hubs. In addition, per the Option 2 discussion above, petrol stations in Westminster are somewhat space-constrained and could present a security challenge.

FreeWire determined that car parks are ideal for the charging hubs because they have sufficient space, provide a supply of vehicles that may need charging services on-site and are often co-located in residential areas that could serve as charging zones to deploy the Mobis for on-street charging. There are over 30 car parks in the borough, with NCP and QPark serving as the leading providers. Adding charging capabilities at a car park would enhance its value proposition for the facility owner/operator, allowing them to offer charging as an additional service and attract more people to utilize the location. In addition, these facilities can help maximize utilization of the charge assets themselves, as the on-site charging would be available to fleets, individual drivers and car clubs.

Figure 13 – NCP and QPark locations in Westminster.

Legal Considerations

FreeWire next assessed legal considerations associated with its proposed approach of deploying Mobis for on-street charging in consultation with the Westminster City Council, which provided its opinion regarding the viability of operating in consideration of various regulations and legislation. In short, the barriers to operation appear minimal, comparable to a street vendor operation. FreeWire would need to obtain a license to trade in order to operate its Mobis for on-street charging as a service.

On-street charging by the Mobis would likely not be subject to Part 5 of the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2013, as the Act defines “charging apparatus” that is subject to its provisions to include “any fixed equipment” and FreeWire’s Mobi should not be considered a fixed appurtenance because it would be operating in any given location only on a temporary basis.

In addition, this interpretation appears to be consistent with the federal Government’s strategy to build out the necessary charging infrastructure to enable a transition from internal combustion powered vehicles to EVs. The strategy appears to be derived from Part IV of the Environment Act 1995, which requires any local authority to periodically review the air quality within its area. Section 83 also requires they designate an air quality management area where air quality objectives are not being achieved or are unlikely to be achieved within the relevant period. Once an area has been designated, the local authority must conduct an assessment and develop an Action Plan for the air quality management area. Increasing electric vehicle charging infrastructure is a key component of Westminster’s current action plan, and FreeWire’s proposed charging service could clearly help Westminster realize its plan.

The primary relevant license that would be needed in order to operate FreeWire’s Mobi system for on-street charging is that for “street trading.” The City of Westminster Act 1999 requires anyone engaged in “street trading” to obtain a license from the city. The act of “street trading” is defined as the sale or offer for sale of any article, or supplying a service, for gain or reward. It does not matter whether the transaction took place elsewhere. A street trading license is required as long as the display of goods or services rendered took place on a street, where a street is defined as any road, footway or other area not within permanently enclosed premises that is within 7 metres of any road or footway that is publicly accessible. Therefore, as the activity of charging would be taking place on streets as defined by the 1999 Act, a street trading license would be required to operate the proposed on-street charging services.

Evaluation of potential charging hub site – NCP London-Victoria Car Park

FreeWire evaluated NCP’s London-Victoria car park as a potential charging hub location. This location was selected because it is in the ward of Churchill, in the EV-dense southern area of Westminster, where a visual analysis shows a substantial amount of residential property in the surrounding area with limited off-street parking. The facility is also co-located with ZipCar’s London office, which has confirmed that it would use a rapid charger located there to charge its EVs, adding to the overall utilization of the hub’s charging assets. Within an approximately 1 kilometer radius of the facility (see below figure), there are an estimated 5,000 kerbside parking bays along the roads. Based on current EV penetration in Westminster (2.7%),44 FreeWire estimates that about 140 EVs park in this area. If 20% sign up for on-street charging as a service, 28 EVs would be serviced within this area. Based on FreeWire’s survey data, each vehicle would need to recharge 2.8 times a week on average meaning that there would be 78 on-demand charging events needed each week. A single Mobi, capable of charging up to 12 vehicles per night, could handle all of these charge events. However, to optimize charge time and have reserve charge ability, several Mobis would be housed in the charge zone. One attendant can deploy multiple Mobis, optimizing their time by leapfrogging between Mobis as they deliver their charge.

Figure 14 – NCP London-Victoria car park and surrounding potential charging zone

Technology and Product Requirements

By utilizing charging hubs that have a mix of fast and rapid charging assets in the Mobi and Boost respectively, FreeWire’s technology is uniquely suited to the current and projected mix of charging profiles for EVs on the road in the UK.  About 50 percent are capable of rapid charging, which the Boost Charger can reliably provide to vehicles parking at the charge hub as well as vehicles that “charge and go.” For vehicles parking at these facilities that are not capable of rapid charging, an on-site Mobi can be utilized to match the charge profile of the vehicle and ensure that the rapid charge points are not being underutilized by vehicles unable to take advantage of their high-power output. In other words, FreeWire’s proposed solution right sizes the charging infrastructure based on the capabilities of the EV.

In order to create the convenient customer-centric charging experience that FreeWire envisions in this proposal, the Mobi would use a modified software platform currently used for charging on corporate campuses including Google, LinkedIn and Microsoft. The AMP software would allow a user to check-in after parking an EV in a workplace parking lot, communicating the location and vehicle information with an attendant. The driver can request charging at a certain time and is notified of his or her position on a standby list for charging and when the vehicle is finally charged.

FreeWire developed mock-ups of how the charging hub service could be employed on the streets of Westminster using FreeWire’s existing AMP mobile app.

First, a driver looking for a charging hub would open the app to see available charging hubs in the area.  For the purposes of this example, we included three charging hubs at NCP’s London Victoria, Maida Vale and Regents Park facilities. The number displayed next to each hub point shows the available number of charging sessions for on-street charging from each facility.

After selecting a charging hub, the driver would be able to see the parameters of the associated charging zone. Once the vehicle is parked within the charging zone, the driver would provide the location of his or her EV. Using the GPS-integrated software, the app should automatically detect the location of the driver and EV.  After ensuring that the proper location has been selected, the user would check-in through the app. The user could request expedited charging, as well as utilize the comment icon to provide any relevant information about the location of the vehicle or timeframe within which a charge is required.

If the driver wanted to park and request charging at the car park itself, the pin could be placed at the appropriate location within its floor plan.

The driver would next receive a notification after successfully checking in.  If needed, the driver could update the EV location or cancel the scheduled charging session. The app provides notification once charging has commenced, and the driver could monitor the status of charging in real time.

The app would notify the driver once charging is complete, and the driver can view details regarding the amount of power delivered to the vehicle during the charging session.

A similar process would play out through the mobile app for an attendant operating the Mobi. The app would show the attendant all the locations within a charging hub where charging has been requested.

The attendant would next select a vehicle for charging and receive details about the vehicle model, color, license plate and charging request, including the amount of power requested and desired completion time.  The attendant would next select the Mobi unit being used to deliver the charge.

The attendant would then identify the appropriate charging port and commence charging.  The attendant would also be able to view the status for each vehicle being charged through the app.

Finally, the attendant would be notified once charging is complete in order to efficiently move the Mobi to the next EV in the queue.

FreeWire would develop and tailor user profiles for UK drivers and attendants into this software platform, and ensure it is suitable for customers by vetting it with focus groups of drivers and attendants in London. Additionally, FreeWire would deploy algorithms to optimize the deployment of the Mobis to meet the charge requests based on the charge characteristics of cars of requesting charge, their charge speed, proximity, and any special requests such as charging needed within a specific timeframe.

Cost Model

To develop a cost model for the proposed solution, FreeWire conducted a time and motion study integrating the cost of Mobi and Boost chargers and expected labor rates for the charge hubs with expected charging rates, drive time between vehicles and electricity rates.

Financial Estimates
Mobi Charger | Boost Charger
Hardware & Software Costs
Charger Price £49,618 £114,50445
Installation & Infrastructure Cost £763 £15,267
Software License (annual) £458 £4,122
Energy & Demand Charges
Peak Start Time 16:00
Peak End Time 19:00
Off-Peak Pricing (per kWh) £0.05
Peak Pricing (per kWh) £0.07
Demand Charges (per kW) £5.00

Table 5. Financial estimates for FreeWire’s proposed model

FreeWire’s Mobi Charger costs approximately £50,000 and £763 to install if electrical upgrades are needed, and the Boost Charger costs approximately £114,500 and £15,267 to install. For the purposes of this study, we assume peak electricity rates would occur in the late afternoon through the early evening and establish a baseline demand charge of £5.00 per kWh based on a commercial rate query from Prestige Business Solutions.

Next, we developed assumptions regarding the usage of the charging assets at the hubs.

Usage Assumptions
Mobi Charger | Boost Charger
Charger Battery Capacity 80 kWh 160 kWh
Charger Max Power 11 kWh 120 kWh
Charger Average Power 9 kW 70 kW
Available Grid Power 6 kW 22 kW
Energy Delivered Per Vehicle 6.7 kWh 20 kWh
Operating Hours Per Day 24 hrs 18 hrs
Start Time 0:00 0:00
End Time 24:00 18:00
Busy Hours N/A 3 hrs
Start Time N/A 11
End Time N/A 14
Charging Session Length 45 mins 17 mins
Time Between Charging Sessions 5 mins 40 mins

Table 6: Usage assumptions for FreeWire’s proposed model

Assuming that 30 Mobi units are deployed across seven to eight charging hubs with labor cost set at £9.15 for 9.8 hours per day, with one attendant able operate three Mobis, costs in the first year would be approximately £2,018,000, consisting of £1,630,000 in hardware costs for the equipment, £50,000 in energy costs, £11,000 in demand charges and £327,000 in labor costs. If charging sessions cost £4.50 each on average and each Mobi delivers 12 charging sessions, the revenue potential would be approximately £584,000. Assuming Government funding support of 50% of these costs, total cash flow would be a net positive in year four, with a five year IRR of 9.57%.

Overall the 30 Mobi chargers would deliver about 869 mWh of charge each year, enough to charge about 130,000 vehicles (6.7 kWh per charging event), exceeding the current standard charging gap of 657 mWh (98,000 vehicles) and filling 30% of the projected charging gap in 2025 of 2,957 mWh (2,900 vehicles). The charging capacity of each Mobi is equivalent to about 9.2 standard charge points.

For the Boost Chargers, assuming 15 are deployed across seven to eight hubs, an initial 10% utilization rate and based on the above electricity rate assumptions, year one costs would total approximately £2,056,000 pounds, consisting of £1,950,000 in hardware, £90,000 in energy charges and £20,000 in demand charges. The year one revenue, based on £0.25 per kWh charge, is expected to be £417,000. Again, assuming Government funding supports 50% of these costs, total cash flow is expected to be a net positive in year four, with a five-year IRR of 9.95% (this assumes that the utilization rate ramps up to 20% in year three and 30% in year five).

Overall, the 15 Boost Chargers would 1,545 mWh of charge in the first year, enough to charge approximately 77,000 vehicles (20 kWh per charging event). Assuming that utilization increases to 30% by 2025, the Boost Chargers would deliver 2,644 mWh (132,200 vehicles). By adding 15 boost chargers in Westminster, approximately 38% of the projected 2025 rapid charging gap of 40 chargers would be accounted for at a cost approximately £1 million cheaper than the deployment of traditional rapid charging infrastructure.

Similar to the analysis for the Mobi described under Option 2 above, FreeWire estimated the maximum daily usage of the Boost Charger. Assuming a 30% utilization rate and an average charge delivered of 20 kWh, with busier hours between 11:00 and 14:00, the average charging session would last 17 minutes and the interval between charging sessions would be 40 minutes. Under this scenario, the Boost could rapid charge 24 vehicles per day, as depicted in the figure below.

Figure 15 – Boost daily discharge and recharge profile (30% utilization scenario)


FreeWire’s assessment to resolve the charge supply gap in Westminster resulted in an appreciation for a multi-faceted, dynamic approach focused on relieving the costs and anxiety that EV drivers suffer from lack of charging solutions. Public policy will continue to drive adoption of EVs and the lack of innovative charging options will be a hindrance to realizing that objective.

This report concludes that it is unlikely that traditional approaches will be able to fully close the charge supply gap and much of the investment will be sunk in today’s potentially outdated technology, whilst also having significant negative impacts on public spaces. Because of the population, traffic and housing density of the area, it was also determined that van-delivered street charging was economically and logistically infeasible in Westminster.

The report recommendation – combining rapid and on-demand charging at accessible car parks and on-demand charging on streets within the hub-based charging zone – results in a viable business model with fewer impacts on public resources and is significantly less invasive to deploy, modify and scale. The proposed solution recognizes the need for many mechanisms for vehicle charging and has been tailored to specifically address residents lacking off-street parking who spend significant time searching for available chargers.

This customer-centric approach is economically viable and with sufficient public support (similar to what was received by fixed infrastructure projects), generates a double-digit rate of return within five years. The solution would make a material contribution reducing the charge supply gap for public access by nearly a third, whilst improving the rapid charger to vehicle ratio from 243:1 to 158:1 by 2025.

The recommended business model, proven in a high density setting, can then be exploited throughout London and urban centres in the UK, matching the charge needs and topography of a community with the right mix of charge assets and delivery mechanisms to satisfy the charge supply demand. While there are a few examples of other mobile charge models, nothing has been envisioned to so comprehensively reduce driver anxiety and promote ease and convenience of charging.

Because of the high utilisation and reduced costs associated with integrated batteries the solution is better for EV drivers and non-participants alike. FreeWire has received positive feedback from EV drivers, other boroughs, fleet owners, deployment partners and key stakeholders across the supply and value chains are collectively prepared to deploy this solution.

1 Department for Transport, The Road to Zero: Next steps towards cleaner road transport and delivering our Industrial Strategy, available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/739460/road-to-zero.pdf.
2 Zap Map Charging Point Statistics 2019, https://www.zap-map.com/statistics/.
3 Source: SMMT, OLEV, DfT statistics.
4 We calculate the charge supply gap by estimating charging demand of vehicles, using adoption rates and mileage estimates, and the available charging supply of existing and planned fixed infrastructure deployments and their estimated utilization.
5 IEA Global EV Outlook 2017, available at https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/GlobalEVOutlook2017.pdf.
6 Source: SMMT, OLEV, DfT statistics.
7 National Statistics, 2017 UK greenhouse gas emissions: final figures – statistical release, available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/776085/2017_Final_emissions_statistics_-_report.pdf.
8 National Statistics, 2017 UK greenhouse gas emissions: final figures – statistical release.
9 City of Westminster Air Quality Manifesto, https://www.westminster.gov.uk/sites/default/files/air_quality_manifesto_2018_0.pdf.
10 https://www.gov.uk/plug-in-car-van-grants
11 Department of Transport, 2017. The Road to Zero: Next steps towards cleaner road transport and delivering our Industrial Strategy
12 https://www.zipcar.co.uk/electric
13 https://www.electrive.com/2019/02/07/drivenow-expanding-uk-fleet-by-130-evs/
14 https://www.uber.com/en-GB/newsroom/uber-helps-london-go-electric/
15 Department of Transport, Table VEH0131: Licensed plug-in cars, LGVs and quadricycles by local authority: United Kingdom, EV registrations through 2018 Q3, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/all-vehicles-veh01#ultra-low-emissions-vehicles.
16 Data retrieved from Zap Map, http://www.zap-map.com.
17 Department of Transport, Surveys, Public attitudes towards electric vehicles, 2014-2016, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-on-public-attitudes-to-transport.
18 PWC, Charging ahead! The need to upscale UK electric vehicle infrastructure, April 2018, available at https://www.pwc.co.uk/power-utilities/assets/electric-vehicle-charging-infrastructure.pdf.
19 London Assembly Environment Committee, Electric Vehicles in London, May 2018, available at https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assembly-publications/electric-vehicles-london-0.
20 TfL, Plug-in Electric Vehicle Uptake and Infrastructure Impacts Study, November 2016, available at http://content.tfl.gov.uk/ev-uptake-and-infrastructure-impacts-study-updated-nov-2016.pdf.
21 National Infrastructure Commitment, National Infrastructure Assessment, June 2018, available at https://www.nic.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/CCS001_CCS0618917350-001_NIC-NIA_Accessible.pdf.
22 National Grid, Our energy insights: Electric vehicle announcement and what the papers say, 8 August 2017, available at http://fes.nationalgrid.com/media/1264/ev-myth-buster-v032.pdf.
23 Westminster City Council, Parking Occupancy Survey 2018, March 2019.
24 London Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Dataset, Number and Density of Dwellings by Borough, available at https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/number-and-density-of-dwellings-by-borough
25 London housing density map based on 2015 LSOA public data. https://emu-analytics.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=a69b6f69271d4065b58fe9b3309fbd9b&extent=-0.5362,51.3439,0.3627,51.6738
26 Westminster Cabinet Member Report, Electric Vehicle Charge Point Expansion in the City of Westminster, November 2018.
27 Westminster Cabinet Member Report
28 Westminster Cabinet Member Report.
29 Westminster Cabinet Member Report.
30 https://insideevs.com/plug-in-car-sales-uk-2018-ev/
31 https://www.nextgreencar.com/electric-cars/statistics/.
32 Department of Transport, Table VEH0131: Licensed plug-in cars, LGVs and quadricycles by local authority: United Kingdom, EV registrations through 2018 Q3, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/all-vehicles-veh01#ultra-low-emissions-vehicles.
33 City of Westminster, Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy 2019-2025.
34 These results are reported in The City of Westminster, Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy 2019-2025.
35 London Assembly Environment Committee, Electric Vehicles in London, May 2018, available at https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assembly-publications/electric-vehicles-london-0.
36 London Assembly Environment Committee, Electric Vehicles in London, May 2018, available at https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assembly-publications/electric-vehicles-london-0.
37 http://content.tfl.gov.uk/ev-uptake-and-infrastructure-impacts-study-updated-nov-2016.pdf
38 Note, this is a conservative estimate of the number of EVs that require public charging in Westminster as it does not account for the high number of vehicles that drive through Westminster on any given day, but are registered elsewhere.
39 DfT, Electric Chargepoint Analysis 2017: Public Sector Fasts, available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/electric-chargepoint-analysis-2017-public-sector-fasts
40 ICCT, Lessons Learned on Early Electric Vehicle Fast-Charging Deployments, July 2018, available at https://www.theicct.org/sites/default/files/publications/ZEV_fast_charging_white_paper_final.pdf. Note that while the white paper estimates a 150:1 EV to rapid charge point ratio for medium markets, we believe this ratio should be lowered to 100 for Westminster in consideration of the lack of off-street parking relative to most other cities. If using the 150:1 ratio cited in ICCT’s analysis, the 2025 infrastructure gap is lowered to about 17 rapid charge points.
41 The Mobi can also be customized with a lower capacity 40 kWh battery pack.
42 Some public sources report lower costs. However, installers and site hosts have confirmed the relative accuracy of the estimates included herein.
43 https://insideevs.com/all-electric-car-sales-uk-phevs/
44 Based on DoT licensing statistics, 1,511 EVs out of 54,000 total vehicles in Westminster.
45 Includes estimated taxes.

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