Car parks are broken

One of the perks of owning an EV is the ubiquity of electricity, and the ease of access as a result of modern grid networks. Hub-and-spoke models in urban areas are a result of planning around having central locations with lots of charging infrastructure (5+ bays of rapid chargers) coupled with single-point fast chargers dotted around a town or city. That supplements the ideal scenario for EV owners, which is charging at home for the most part.

But at-home charging isn't always an option (something I'll come to in a future post) and hub-and-spoke charging has a major drawback when most cars on the road are EVs. By 2030 in Europe, we're looking at 40% of new cars being EVs, and that doesn't quite account for the volume of second hand cars on the market, and the hockey-stick growth that's likely to occur over the next decade.

One area that I reckon needs attention, on top of home-charging, hub & spoke infrastructure and anything else that's more commonly discussed legislatively, are car parks. All of them are broken, and not fit for purpose, let alone fit for the future. And they're designed, owned and maintained privately for the most part. Shopping centres, businesses, multi-storey units; all of them are useless for the simplicity and ease of the future.

Any business should be optimising for EVs. Your random two spots in the back corner with third party chargers that have the uptime of an impotent man won't cut the mustard if your car park is a destination location.

Let me explain.

It's 2021, and the world of EV adoption is moving on. The mavens are now clinging onto "the struggle" of owning a small car with a tiny battery that charges off of a domestic water hose. Early adopters like myself are no longer getting confused looks as we drive our silent cars around. All those people who spent a decade saying "my next car will be electric" actually did it, or are doing it. Their cars are electric.

We've just spent the guts of the last 2 years in a pandemic. If you weren't already digital-first, you likely are now more than ever before. People shop online more than they ever did before. And for mundane things, not just the fancy stuff. I get nappies and baby wipes delivered to my home at an alarming rate given there's only 1 child here.

Amazon's 3 yr revenue growth

Retail and services, where most car parks tend to cater to customers, are destination locations as-is. This means they're not as likely to attract passers-by, but be the place that people specifically travel to.

So as these destinations become more destination-esque, it makes sense for them to want to attract EV drivers. Not only because those drivers are clued into modern technology, but also because they tend to skew (at least, for now) more likely to spend more. Not because they're inherently trapped and need to charge their cars for hours. But because the socio-economic demographic of an EV owner is similar to the one that owned an iPhone in 2010. Yes, we've passed the maven or early adopter phase, but that new growth phase still captures the persona of a middle aged, middle classed man or woman who has some disposable income. Maybe even a kid or two. You want those customers, Mr or Mrs business man/woman.

My proposal for the future of car parks

Above is what I think is more likely to be the future of a car park. Yes, it's a bit sparce. But the priorities are straight. Folks who need to be closer to the ameneties are given the appropriate access as close as possible.

Bicycles need adequate space. And note that while that box has 2 allocated spaces for bicycles, which represents just under 15% of the space; but given the size of a bicycle compared to a car, can most likely house the same number of bikes as cars in this mock carpark. Ideal!

But almost every "normal" car park space is allocated to an EV. I've marked them green for obvious reasons but we also need to get away from the idea that an EV space needs special paint. Firstly, because it's genuinely not good for the environment to spill that much paint to state the obvious. Second, because it looks really stupid. And third, because it doesn't get away from the idea that you, dear carpark operator, need to spend more time enforcing the rules and punishing ICE cars that park in EV spots, etc.

Each of those spaces, in my mind, have a trickle charge. Nothing fancy. Maybe one or two spots with fast charging that costs money, while everything else trickles a little into the batteries for free if the owner decides to use it. It makes going to the establishment an easy decision and removes any potential anxiety.

Yes, modern EVs have enormous batteries that serve most people well. And yes, there is plenty of fast-charging infrastructure to serve most users travelling around Europe or America. But to encourage mass adoption and to pivot to the next generation of personal transport, carparks need to get with the times and future-proof themselves here.

In short, re-thinking a carpark is a neat way to look modern, attract a new type of customer, serve your new generation of commuter and future proof your space. And it avoids the current scenario of having 10 cars queuing for 8 chargers, only 5 of which are working, and 3 are occupied by fucking PHEVs.