Project Overview

The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) approached PNDC to examine the key challenges and solutions related to the availability of communication technologies and the impact of switching off the 3G network to the EV charging station.

Reliable and secure communication technology is one key requirements to ensure the flow of EV charging services, such as digital transition in pursuit of net zero targets. Secure and reliable communication is the backbone of a robust EV charging ecosystem, facilitating a smooth transition to electric vehicles and a cleaner future.

A wide range of communications technologies can be used to enable the connectivity needed to monitor EV charging stations. In hard-to-reach areas, the suitability of Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWAN) technologies such as NB-IoT, LoRa, RPMA, and BGAN satellite communication, along with G4/G5, wired broadband (Fibre Optic Cable and Coaxial Cable), and private LTE, varies based on their availability, the main end applications and the associated costs.

Objectives

PNDC has identified the key challenges of EV infrastructure in remote and rural areas, along with the appropriate solutions and the cost associated with each recommended option. This project has explored the key technologies that can be deployed in hard-to-reach remote and rural areas, taking into consideration their main advantages, disadvantages and estimated costs for EV charging infrastructure.

The report identifies potential future technologies that could be used in Moray, Western and Northern Scottish Isles, including Shetland and Orkney, or easily deployed to meet the communications and cyber security requirements for EV charging in the Scottish Isles. The report also focuses on the communication requirements for the EV charging infrastructure. It covers the available communication technology options that are most suited for this application – highlighting the advantages and limitations of each option.

The report includes learning from previous relevant innovation projects and previous experience we have built over the previous years, and it answers the following questions:

What are the recommended communication technology options to be used in connecting the EV charging stations in the hard-to-reach areas?

What are the key requirements to enable the functionality of EV charging by reliable and secure communications?

What is the impact of switching off the 3G network in remote and rural areas of Scotland?

What are the short/long-term communication solutions to be considered in EV charging?

Diagram - Remote and Rural Resilience for EV Infrastructure

Methodology

This work relies on a review research study conducted throughout the project duration. The study systematically searched for relevant studies, summarised and analysed their findings, and integrated these results with key learnings from PNDC industrial projects, technical knowledge, and workshops.
 

Delivery and Outcomes

This report examines communication technologies for EV charging stations in hard-to-reach areas of Scotland. Here are the key findings:

Challenges:

Reliable and secure communication is crucial for EV charging functionality, especially for monitoring stations and achieving net-zero goals. 3G network shutdown will affect existing stations using 3G for connectivity.

Communication Options:

Mobile Network (4G/G5): The best option for most areas if a signal is available (consider multi-network SIMs for wider coverage).

Wired Broadband (Fibre Optic Cable (FTTx) and Hybrid Coaxial Cable (HFC)): Fastest, Most Reliable options, but it may be limited in rural areas

Satellite: Expensive but the only option in areas with no mobile network coverage.

LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Networks): Technologies like NB-IoT, LoRa, and RPMA are suitable for remote locations with lower data needs (suitable for status updates and not reliable).

Upgrading Existing Stations: Legacy stations using 3G might require modem upgrades to 4G for continued operation.

Connectivity Options & Limitations

Throughout this project, we have discovered a crucial aspect of EV infrastructure in the Highlands, particularly in areas such as Moray, Western and Northern Scottish islands, including Shetland and Orkney. The connectivity in these regions, we found, is often limited, with the only immediate option in some spots being the use of expensive satellite communication technology.

As part of our research, we have identified a possible solution to ensure the best signal availability from the mobile operator. Multi-network (roaming) 4G SIMs can be the option to maximise connectivity in rural and hard-to-reach areas, assuming that at least one mobile provider can have coverage.

It has also been found that some legacy charging stations that use 3G networks for their connectivity might be affected by the 3G shutdown and require 3G-to-4G modem upgrades. Some manufacturers can easily upgrade the mobile connectivity module for some type of charging points, whereas some other models may not be upgradable. The age of the charging station, along with its model and associated communication modem and its functionality, will identify whether it requires replacement or upgrade.

Openreach is expanding FTTP broadband to hundreds of new homes in the Scottish Highlands, including Orkney (Kirkwall), Shetland (Gott), Isle of Lewis (Stornoway) and Islay (Bowmore). FTTP offers a reliable, high-speed alternative to wireless options, especially in areas with weak signal.

Remote island deployments might face delays, but Scotland is on track for nationwide FTTP by March 2028. Compared to satellite, FTTP can also be a cost-effective way to connect EV charging stations.

Testimonial

I love that every day’s a school day… especially in the EV industry! This is a fantastic report that clearly explains common EV charging infrastructure, communication technologies and analyses alternatives, generally and particularly for remote and rural areas.

Gemma Robinson – HITRANS

Download the report

The report explores potential future technologies for communication and cybersecurity needs of EV charging in remote Scottish Isles.

Get in touch

For further information on this case study and to discuss collaborative opportunities, please contact the PNDC project lead, Dr Kinan Ghanem.

Established in 2013, PNDC is one of the University of Strathclyde’s industry-facing innovation centres and focuses on accelerating the development and deployment of novel energy and transport technologies through multiple collaboration models and open access facility provision.

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