Service Station – Charging Power from the Bakery?

The future of service stations probably no longer lies in the hands of mineral oil companies alone. Battery-electric drive systems in particular are bringing new players to the playing field. But what makes a service station fit for the future? We take a look at new trends and technologies for the service station of the future.

Die Tankstelle der Zukunft bietet mehr als Antriebsstoffe. Foto: Shutterstock - Marcel van de Bos, kmls. Montage: Monika Haug

The future of service stations will not be in the hands of mineral oil companies alone. Foto: Shutterstock – Marcel van de Bos, kmls. Montage: Monika Haug

The concept for the service station of the future is as simple as it is logical: It will provide each drive technology the exact amount of energy needed to continue the journey. But what happens when more and more vehicles sneak up on charging stations on electric velvet paws? It’s quite possible that the future of service stations will have to be renegotiated. Even today, battery-electric drives are bringing new players to the playing field. So why not get electricity for your electric car from the bakery? In Hilden, North Rhine-Westphalia, this has been possible since the beginning of October. Roland Schüren, a bakery entrepreneur, has set up one of Europe’s most modern charging stations at the Hilden interchange between the A3 and A46 highways. In its current expansion stage, the elegant electric charging station with photovoltaic system and high-performance storage units provides almost 30 fast-charging columns from Tesla and Fastned with charging capacities of up to 300 kilowatts. But a service station of the future might also take the charging infrastructure to the vehicle. Volkswagen, for example, has developed an autonomous charging robot that places a mobile energy storage unit on the electric car in car parks and underground garages, connects and removes it again when the charging process is complete.

The boom in charging stations also calls for DEKRA’s expertise

 The future of service stations will not be in the hands of mineral oil companies alone. Nevertheless, they’re likely to have a say in the expansion of charging infrastructure. The German government’s “Master Plan for Charging Infrastructure” includes a coverage requirement, which is intended to encourage service station operators in Germany to include their charging points in their portfolio. Big players like Aral, Shell, and Total are already pushing the pace to expand capacity. Shell recently said it wanted to have a total of 100 charging stations with 200 charging points in operation in Germany by the end of 2020.

Die Elektrosachverständigen von DEKRA prüfen in Ladeparks und Stromtankstellen die Installationen an Systemen wie Trafostation und Abschaltschränken. Foto: Ringleb

DEKRA’s electrical experts inspect the installations at systems such as transformer stations and disconnection cabinets in charging parks and charging stations. Photo: Michael Ringleb

DEKRA’s expertise will be in demand once new charging stations start springing up all over the country. After all, a technical serviceability acceptance test will be required for the installation of all charging stations, disconnection cabinets, and transformer stations. “The safety and functionality of charging facilities for electric vehicles must be tested and monitored. This is a task for qualified specialists,” knows Michael Ringleb, Electrical Engineering Product Manager (ELT) at DEKRA. The electrical expert has already made 25 colleagues fit for testing and monitoring tasks in charging parks as part of his teaching assignment.

The classic service station of the future produces its own fuels

Does that make the classic service station a thing of the past? A look at the service station in Fürholzen West (A9), which opened in the fall of 2017, shows how the service station of the future could function. The pumps can be used to fill up with gasoline, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas, natural gas, and hydrogen all under one roof. For the electromobile clientele, there are four fast chargers in a separate area. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA) in Dübendorf near Zurich are going one step further. They envision a filling station of the future that produces its own hydrogen and synthetic fuels in a multi-stage chemical process using green electricity. The filling station’s equipment is also likely to be different than it is today. The Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) is working on a multi-energy fuel pump that supplies electricity, hydrogen, and methane, a natural gas substitute, from the same unit using renewable energies.

New technologies will shape the metropolitan mobility center

The service station of the future is likely to woo customers with new services, especially in big cities. With the Mobility Hub in the center of Berlin between Alexanderplatz and Ostbahnhof, Bochum-based fuel and lubricant provider Aral is now taking the first steps toward the future, in which the service station will function as a mobility center. The facility includes a charging station, battery exchange machine, parking spaces for e-scooters and car sharing, as well as a DHL parcel station. In addition, Aral is testing a so-called microgrid, which allows ultra-fast charging with low network capacity. The system is not connected to the local power grid – instead, a local battery provides the charging power. New technologies are also in demand with regard to digital services at the service station. In Düsseldorf, telecommunications provider Vodafone and Total recently equipped a service station with 5G mobile communications technology for the first time. This enables data to be transmitted around ten times faster than with a conventional DSL connection. Possible areas of application for the technology include mobile payment at the service station, but also the control of price displays and digitized advertising boards.

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