The increase in the number of electric cars in Estonia has been significant in recent years, and therefore, there is a constant need for new charging solutions. Most owners of electric cars charge their cars at home, but the increase in the number of public charging stations is inevitable in the near future.
If more than 20 parking spaces are provided for a building, various non-residential buildings – including shopping centres, public authorities, offices, and schools – will need to have at least one charging station for electric cars by the beginning of 2025.
Signaal TM, a traffic management company belonging to the Forus Group, is an active partner for building owners and offers a complete solution – in addition to the installation and maintenance of electric car chargers, they also offer suitable signs and road markings for the chargers, thereby standing out from among their competitors.
As the company is engaged in the manufacturing and installation of markings, traffic lights, and signage, among other things, charging solutions for electric cars were a logical continuation. ‘Forus is a unique service provider in Estonia – they are able to be a partner at every stage of the real estate life cycle and already services thousands of buildings today. As charging points for electric cars will also be an important part of buildings in the future, there was no reason to outsource this service – we could just do it ourselves,’ says Mikk Mehide, Sales and Development Manager of E-Mobility at Signaal.
Public charging stations installed by Signaal can be found in several car parks of EuroPark, at the Tondi Tennis Centre in Tallinn, at the Tammsaare 56 office building in the business quarter, and on two floors of the parking garage of the Confido Medical Centre, as well as in Forus’ own building on Kadaka Road.
Electric car chargers are divided into two groups – fast and semi-fast chargers. Currently, Signaal is installing semi-fast chargers with up to 22 kilowatts of power. This means that about an hour of charging means you can drive 100 kilometres.
Such loading solutions are suitable for shopping centres, offices, apartment buildings, catering and entertainment establishments, and other public buildings where people spend more than an hour at. The company does not rule out that they will also install fast chargers in the future.
Where can a charger be installed?
The first condition is the availability of parking spaces. ‘When you think of the large blocks of flats in Mustamäe or Lasnamäe, it is difficult to install a charger there – apartment owners often do not have purchased parking spaces, but park where there happens to be vacant space,’ Mikk Mehide says.
Apartment buildings are a separate customer group. In these cases, in addition to the availability of parking spaces, it must be taken into account that the houses have a limited amount of power capacity, i.e. amperes. So, it needs to be ensured that the power consumption does not exceed the capacity when everyone suddenly starts charging their electric cars.
According to Mehide, the solution for this is a dynamic load distributor that is placed in a switchboard. ‘Essentially, the surplus energy from the building is distributed to the chargers and the consumption of the house is never disturbed,’ Mehide confirms, adding that if there is nothing left over from the consumption of the residents, the consumption capacity for charging electric cars will be low or even non-existent at times.
In the case of new real estate developments, the developers are already asking for various solutions, because they have already planned for an electric car charging station. In the case of older apartment buildings, the solution is that the association will install a public charging station – those who have an electric car will get a separate chip and pay the energy price specifically for charging, plus a symbolic service fee so that the charger will earn its cost back over time.
How do I know that I am not paying for my neighbour?
This issue will be resolved by the service provider. Mikk Mehide said that it is not reasonable for the apartment association to install an electric meter at every parking spot and try to install them on their own. This system will become complicated, as there may be four new people who want a charger the following year.
There is a separate billing solution service for this purpose. As electric car chargers are smart, they already contain a meter, so it is easy to determine how much electricity one or another charger has used up from a distance. Reports can be sent to the apartment association. On this basis, the association can issue an invoice.
Public-use chargers have a payment solution. Billing works through the app. Signaal works in cooperation with Telia for billing – the charger has a QR code, according to which the phone will display a prompt and a selection of service providers to choose from.
Is charging a car as easy as charging a phone? Mikk Mehide admits that this may not always be the case. For example, the charger may become stuck in the car. ‘The most likely reason for this is that the charging has not been properly completed and has not yet been paid for,’ he says, adding that from time to time, the car’s own systems may also report error messages.
We need to look for opportunities
Statistics show that 80% of electric car owners charge their cars at home. ‘When you look at how many chargers we are installing all over Estonia and how long it takes for the service to start paying for itself, every service provider has to take this into account,’ finds Mehide.
Public charging points are, however, inevitable solutions. For example, the Old Town of Tallinn cannot install chargers due to heritage conservation restrictions, and running cables there is difficult. The building in question may also be located on a difficult landscape that sets its limits. In those cases, there is no other way than to charge in a public space.
If an employer has installed an electric car charger in their office parking lot, many people use that option. ‘Do you pay for the charging yourself or do you let your employer do that? People should look at their behavioural patterns. If an employer offers that opportunity, then make sure to use it,’ Mikk Mehide says.
The cost of installing an electric car charging station point depends on whether the customer wants it for their own use only or if it is a public charging station.
A private customer who wants a charging solution for their house will have to pay a few thousand euros for it. A public solution with two charging points will cost between 4,000 and 7,000 euros. A lot depends on how far the charging point is from the switchboard and how many cables must be run.
Signaal is also prepared to offer equipment rental and payment in instalments. The goal is to find the most optimal and convenient charging solution for the customer, combining it with power, chargers, infrastructure, installation works, and real and future needs and investments.
If you would like an electric car charging solution for your home, an apartment association, or an office building, please contact us at .