€200,000 competition aims to find new electric car charging solutions

1 Jul 2014

Dr Brian Motherway, chief executive of SEAI; Tom Kelly, divisional manager at Enterprise Ireland; John McSweeney, head of innovation at ESB; and Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, TD

A new €200,000 competition for small businesses to find the future of electric vehicle (EV) charging technology in apartment blocks’ parking areas has been revealed by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Known as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) competition, it will be the first of its kind in Ireland and is a collaborative effort between the SEAI, Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the ESB.

As electric car use in the country grows, albeit at a slow pace, the ESB has rolled out more than 1,500 public charge points across the country and has begun introducing charge points within people’s homes and driveways. However, the ESB has come across a stumbling block when it comes to facilitating those living in apartment blocks, where parking spaces are remote from their meter point.

As part of the SBIR competition, entries must be adaptable to cater for underground, multi-storey or other privately run car park developments, where EV owners will require access to charging facilities. 

Speaking at the launch of the competition, the ESB’s head of innovation, John McSweeney, said, “It is critical that the charging infrastructure to support the widespread adoption of EVs is capable of meeting the needs of all car owners, including apartment dwellers.

“Without the ability to give people living in apartments access to a private charge point linked to their own power supply, the uptake of EVs will naturally be limited. This innovative competition structure allows us to directly access the brain power and enterprise of the Irish SME sector to find a solution to what is currently a global problem.”

The first phase of the competition is now open to applicants for up to four feasibility studies. Contracts are expected to be awarded at the end of October this year, with a budget of €25,000 each.

When two successful studies are selected, they will be invited to participate in a prototype demonstration in spring 2015, with a proposed budget of €100,000-€200,000.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic