Charging Infrastructure: "The real estate industry is currently only doing what is required by law"

Expert Interview – December 8, 2023

Ralph Müller-Eberstein, Business Development Manager at Bender subsidiary ebee smart Technologies GmbH

Electromobility is on the rise, but the challenges for charging infrastructure in apartment blocks and rental properties are manifold. In our exclusive interview with Ralph Müller-Eberstein, you can find out what crucial role charging infrastructure plays in the real estate industry.

Interview with Ralph Müller-Eberstein, ebee smart technologies

What impact does charging infrastructure have on the real estate industry?

In principle, customers want to charge their car where it is parked. This is usually at home or at work. This must be taken into account when finding a solution for a charging infrastructure in the housing or real estate sector.

Existing residential buildings must therefore be upgraded for charging and the issue has to be taken into account when planning new properties. What are the major challenges here?

Unlike petrol and natural gas, I can get electricity on every corner. According to the German Federal Motor Transport Authority, a car drives an average of 40 kilometres per day. Based on this figure, it is easy to deduce that a car requires around 12 kilowatt hours of energy to be properly charged, based on around 8 to 10 hours of standing time at home or at work. This means that there are no major requirements in terms of charging power. In addition, the customer is not prepared to pay a higher price for charging than he would pay at his energy supplier. This results in the fact that a slow-charging infrastructure in the building has to be relatively cheap and the provider cannot earn as much money as it would like. If a more expensive fast-charging technology, DC technology, is installed in the building, it must also be used frequently in order to be efficient. This does not happen when cars are parked for long periods of time. The added value of a reduced charging time of 6 to 8 hours to 20 minutes is for the driver on the road, for example on holiday trips, when you want to have as little downtime as possible.

What could an ideal solution look like for real estate companies to successfully provide an effective charging solution?

This is the next big challenge that has not yet been solved. The real estate industry is currently only doing what is required by law. The fact that we have a rental market means that there is no incentive to provide the services of general interest that would be necessary to get e-mobility rolling. If the landlord does not offer a charging point, there will still be someone interested in taking the real estate. However, things are slowly changing in the commercial real estate sector.

How does your company, ebee smart Technologies GmbH, support the charging infrastructure sector in the real estate industry?

We provide our customers with a technology that allows them to adapt an existing charging infrastructure to new requirements or standards and regulations through software updates, for example in the area of technical developments. Charging points that have already been installed do not have to be reinstalled if necessary, but can be upgraded to save costs. This can happen if the network operator wants access to the charging points or if charging points are required by law to comply with calibration law.

This means that the real estate industry needs future security and certain standards. Which technologies and approaches are currently promising?

Current topics include PV electricity, surplus charging, using self-generated electricity for vehicles, tenant electricity and balcony power plants. However, the housing industry in particular does not yet have an answer to these issues because it cannot generate any added value from them. In future, this topic will be handled by service providers because the housing industry cannot take care of this area. It is not their business.

It will therefore be outsourced, i.e. others will take care of the installation, operation and billing of charging points in the real estate sector?

That is right. But it also needs a framework that has to be created by politicians. That is generally the big issue with the energy transition, that nobody really knows which player will take on which role. And this is also reflected in electromobility. However, as soon as there is market access for third parties, the investment is worthwhile for the operators and the market participants are reached, interest in using the technologies that are already available is increasing. And this can also be applied to the charging infrastructure. This complex topic consists of more than just the socket for charging. In addition to the functional issues, there is also the issue of electrical safety and electricity billing. When it comes to billing, for example, a real estate management company will look for an operator that offers this in its portfolio. And that costs money - and it is precisely here that it is important to convince the user that other fields will dock onto this worthwhile business model. These topics go hand in hand and the big challenge is to open up access to this market.

How are architects and specialist planners organised and trained in this area?

It is relatively easy when it comes to technical building equipment, which has been around for a very long time. It is more difficult with the new charging technology. The one standard on which everything is based does not exist here. When a planner or project planner designs a system, they want to ensure that the technology that a potential user or partner brings with them corresponds to the pre-installation - in other words, that the additional charging technology works together with the existing technology. This is the biggest sticking point for a project planner.

The real estate market is currently under pressure due to high interest rates. Would now be the right time to demand charging solutions?

Yes, because the time has come for providers to differentiate themselves on the market and generate added value. If charging electric cars becomes a basic need, this will lead to strong competition in which the price of charging solutions will ultimately play a major role. And perhaps the market - as with commercial real estate - will switch back to a tenants' market. In this case, prospective tenants will look for the real estate that suits their electric car.

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