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Parkland’s EV charging station of the future

A Scottish architect has won $25,000 for creating the winning entry in a global EV charging stati...

IMAGE: The winning EV charging station design

The winning EV charging station design from James Silvester. (Courtesy Electric Autonomy Canada)

A Scottish architect has won $25,000 for creating the winning entry in a global EV charging station design competition run by Electric Autonomy Canada (EAC) and sponsored by Parkland Corporation.

While Canadians submitted 40 per cent of the over 100 entries, the top selection came from James Silvester, the lead architect of JAS Group of Edinburgh. It is entitled ‘More with Less.’

Convenience store chain and independent fuel retailing company Parkland and EAC, a news and event platform focused on the green transition, collaborated on the competition. The concept arose from a conversation about the ongoing energy transition between EAC president and founder Nino Di Cara and Parkland CEO Bob Espey.

Parkland also agreed to build Silvester’s prototype at a yet-t0-be-announced location in B.C.

The competition’s mission was to “address range anxiety by eliminating the fear of the charging stop, rethink EV charging infrastructure from the ground up instead of adapting gas stations and to create EV envy among gas drivers.”

Behind the competition

Di Cara founded EAC in May 2019 after realizing the absence of information about the Canadian EV market, policy and regulation compared to the U.S. and Europe.

“Canada is not in the leadership position in this transition. Some great designs are coming out of Asia and Europe,” Di Cara told SustainableBiz. “So, where are the really cool Canadian designs? What do our charging stations look like?”

A common objection to EVs is how far the vehicles can go on a single charge. Di Cara wants to flip that notion on its head, noting: “It’s healthy to stop and take a break (on a long drive). If you’re driving an EV, you can enjoy some of the facilities in a beautiful environment.”

EAC and Parkland wanted an EV charging station design that looks like it was built from the ground-up for that purpose, instead of appearing at the side of the building or wherever enough space is available.

Entries were evaluated by a 10-person jury, “a cross-section of experts in the architectural and EV communities.”

Jurors included Magalie Debellis, the lead exterior designer for General Motors’ Cadillac division; Claire Weisz, the founding principal of New York-based WXY Architecture; Electric Vehicle Society president Wilf Steimle; and Di Cara. Parkland’s rep was Ian White, its senior vice president of strategic marketing and innovation.

Four criteria were considered: innovation of the concept, design quality, sustainability and feasibility.

The winning design

Di Cara had plenty of adjectives to describe Silvester’s design. He noted both the “calmness” of its appearance and the “beautiful” and “elegant” timber construction for its curvilinear canopy.

Bruce Kuwabara, a founding partner at KPMB Architects and jury member, compared it to Steve Jobs’ product designs.

However, most important to Di Cara was the modularity of the design. It can be expanded or contracted depending on the needs of the location. With expansion, it would be possible to add more guest services and outdoor spaces.

“The competition hit home with me because the architecture I specialize in is sustainable design – low-carbon buildings and low embodied energy,” said Silvester in his winning statement. “There was the opportunity to contribute to a very new typology – what we are designing is a question mark. If I could have some input in trying to define what this new typology is, then that would be fantastic.”

Silvester’s design includes electronic displays alerting drivers as to how many charging stations are available.

There will also be parking spaces for those who wish to use the amenities, cafes and restaurants, toilets, showers, and convenience stores. Optional amenities include gardens, arcades, public BBQs, exercise areas, art displays, hair salons, and food stalls.

In its press release, Parkland noted Silvester’s design could also accommodate its On the RUN convenience stores chain.

IMAGE: The second place rendering EV charging station

A rendering of Selçuk Kişmir’s second-place “The Circle” design. (Courtesy Electric Autonomy Canada)

Most of the top designs shared a circular hub-like approach to EV charging stations, something Di Cara noted many architects identified as an optimal way to organize EVs.

He also singled out a commitment to “bringing the outdoors in,” like the open courtyard featured in the second-place entry, “The Circle,” from Fabric Architects’ principal Selçuk Kişmir in Istanbul, Turkey.

The second-place “The Circle” submission was awarded $10,000, with ‘Plug and Play’ by Pavel Babiienko from Berlin, Germany, receiving $5,000 for placing third.

“We hope that (the designs) will inspire other organizations to rethink their EV charging offering and perhaps be inspired to build some of these other designs, to contact the architects who presented them,” said Di Cara.

EAC and Di Cara are considering a follow-up competition focused on EV charging stations for more urban or city centre environments, given the different challenges these properties would present.

Parkland, headquartered in Calgary, was founded as Parkland Beef Industries in 1975. It also counts among its brands and subsidiaries Chevron, Ultramar and M&M Food Markets.

Last year, Parkland launched 25 EV charging sites with dining and shopping facilities between Vancouver Island and Calgary. The company had previously announced plans to open B.C.’s largest network, by site count, of ultra-fast electric vehicle chargers. These installations are to be complete in the latter half of this year.

According to recent Statistics Canada data, year-over-year new battery EV registrations were up 25.7 per cent in Q3 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. However, this was tempered somewhat by an 8.2 per cent drop in total vehicle registrations.

Cadillac, CIBC and Denton were also sponsors of the competition.

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