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Tom Hurst, Fastned

Ultra-rapid EV charging due to improve in 2023 as Fastned expands in the UK

Fastned is a superfast EV charging network, powered by 100% renewable energy, with sites primarily in the Netherlands to date, but the company is currently expanding in the UK. To find out more about the company’s plans, we interviewed Tom Hurst, Fastned’s UK lead.

Founded 10 years ago, Fastned was one of the earliest DC charger manufacturers. The company was acquired by ABB which gave it the capital to implement its vision, which was to help enable the uptake of EVs by installing a charging network to give drivers freedom to travel long distances.

Fastned won 200 locations when the Dutch government was giving contracts to install charging facilities at motorway service areas. Fastned now has 240 sites, with the largest sites featuring 12-16 chargers. The company has an ambitious target for 1,000 stations across Europe, building 400 of these by the end of 2024.

Tom Hurst says that Fastned has a customer service focus and it wants its chargers to be quick and easy to use, safe and secure, and reliable. Due to the historic monopoly with chargers at motorway service stations in the UK, Fastned’s sites in this country primarily won’t be on motorways, however they should have high levels of passing traffic, be easily accessible and visible, and have quality amenities.

The above claims about service may be easy to make, but it looks like they’re being proven on the ground. Even though Fastned hasn’t had a big presence in the UK to date, the brand recently came in joint first place in the Zap-Map annual public charging network satisfaction rankings, being ranked particularly highly for reliability and ease of use.

One factor that helps with delivering consistent standards of ultra-rapid charging is that Fastned is investing in significant grid connections to ensure there’s sufficient capacity for its chargers. And Fastned also has its software, back office and maintenance all in-house, which Tom believes is critical in ensuring maximum uptime.

As well as being able to pay for charging using contactless payment, Fastned has an app, and it also offers Autocharge, which is similar to Tesla’s charging system – you simply plug in the car and the charge starts. Autocharge is open source, meaning that it’s available for other charging networks to use, however no other company has taken this up so far. Fastned is also on Zap-Pay, Zap-Map’s single-app payment system for different charging networks.

In the UK, Fastned is currently actively involved in construction at seven locations, from Cornwall to North Scotland. Grid connections are one of the biggest challenges, with connections typically taking from six months to two years. Another challenge is that the Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) around the UK, who are responsible for the electricity connections, all have different approaches. Tom says that it would be easier for charge point operators if all the DNOs had the same system and requirements – along with more resources.

Companies such as Fastned also need to deal with different local authorities around the UK, which also vary enormously in their approach to EV charging, along with their resources to deal with this area, which can also lead to delays with opening new sites.

So what does the future of EV rapid charging look like? According to Tom there will be bigger, faster sites, which will be needed to cater for the increasing numbers of EVs, especially those with 800v platforms, which enable ultra-rapid charging. Fastned, together with EVBox, has recently completed the installation of the first 400kW EV charger in Europe. The charger is now being piloted and is available for all Fastned customers at its station in De Watering, The Netherlands. The high-power charger can charge up to 100km of range in just three minutes.

One final area that sets Fastned apart is that it publishes ‘charge curves’ for electric cars, which show the rate of charge of different EVs. Many people believe that an EV that is capable of charging at 100kW will charge at that rate for the duration of a charge. However nothing could be further from the truth. EVs will charge at a high rate when they have a low battery charge, but this rate of charge will reduce as the battery becomes full. In some cases the maximum rate of charge quoted by a manufacturer will only be achieved for a very short amount of time, and as EV batteries reach a 50% state of charge, the rate of charge will drop off significantly, and this will get even worse by the time the battery reaches an 80% charge. Green Car Guide’s EV reviews publish Fastned’s charge curves; see our separate article about Fastned’s charge curves.

We look forward to the rapid charging experience for the growing number of EV drivers being further improved by Fastned’s expansion in the UK in 2023.

Paul Clarke

Paul Clarke Green Car Guide