Lidl invests in ABB’s fast charger

2016-12-05 - Lidl has become Sweden’s first store chain to invest in a major expansion of fast chargers for electric cars – and this is just one aspect of the supermarket’s ambitious environmental work.
Lidl is setting its sights on becoming Sweden’s most sustainable store chain.

For some this may sound surprising given that Lidl is primarily known as the inexpensive alternative. Many people probably assume that the supermarket chain has limited environmental and sustainability ambitions. Yet any doubts are quickly put to rest when Heike Daase Undorf, who works at Lidl Sverige’s construction department, talks about ecological zones, solar cells – and fast chargers for electric cars.

“All of the electricity we use comes from renewable sources. We are currently involved in a pilot project in Stockholm’s inner city where we deliver goods at night with an electric truck in order to reduce traffic disruptions. The trucks bring recycling materials back to the warehouse. We collaborate with AllWin, which collects food that will soon expire and gives it to people who are in need…”

She continues with many examples, highlighting Lidl’s extensive involvement in sustainability issues. For example, a store building in Växjö is one of the first in Sweden to receive, at the planning stage, the extremely stringent BREEAM Outstanding sustainability certification.

“This is lofty, but possible,” says Heike Daase Undorf.

Why are you doing this?

“We want to help society move in the right direction. Environmental issues are decisive, and we believe we have to take part and drive them.”

This is why Lidl installed ABB’s fast charger for electric cars at two of its stores, in Ljungby and Gothenburg, at the end of November. This is the beginning of an ambitious investment in fast chargers, which are sought after among those already driving electric car and have had to get by with slow charging or a carefully selected route based on the location of fast chargers.

“We will have fast chargers at all of our new Lidl stores, as well as at a few existing ones. For more people to dare to buy an electric car, there have to be more fast chargers in Sweden, and to be able to charge your car fully in 25-30 minutes while you do your shopping is perfect,” says Heike Daase Undorf.

Lidl is an international giant with 10,000 stores in 27 countries. Fast chargers are being planned for 100 stores in Germany. Lidl in Belgium and the Netherlands has come a long way with 20-30 fast chargers in each country. The German headquarters is behind the decision to make the ambitious European investment in fast chargers.

“We are a major player and were able to produce a solid concept for how we wanted electric car charging to work at our stores. When we had done this at 2-3 stores, we learned which conditions were required and how the cables needed to be laid. Installing a fast charger isn’t really all that complicated. It should be possible to accomplish within a couple of months from the time an order is placed until the fast charger is operational.”

Lidl decided to purchase ABB’s multi-standard fast charger, which can charge all existing electric cars.

“Cooperating with ABB felt like a natural choice since the company’s infrastructure allows delivery in all of the countries where Lidl operates. ABB has the technical know-how and has provided excellent help when minor problems have arisen along the way,” says Heike Daase Undorf.

What type of car do you drive personally?

“We don’t actually have a car at all, ha ha. My family and I live in a Stockholm suburb and have always been able to manage without one. We were part of a carpool for a while, but now we can borrow our neighbor’s hybrid car whenever needed.”

“Cooperating with ABB felt like a natural choice since the company’s infrastructure enables delivery in all of the countries where Lidl operates”, says Heike Daase Undorf.
Read more about the cooperation initiative.

After 5,000 fast chargers – ABB is ready for more
When Lidl decided to install fast chargers at its stores, ABB’s products were selected. “A major breakthrough for electric cars in Sweden is now imminent,” says Henrik Holmér at ABB.

If you drive from Santiago to the coastal city Viña del Mar in Chile and need to charge your electric car, there is a very good chance that you will do so with an ABB fast charger. The same applies if you are on a road trip in Estonia or cruising around in China. ABB has already delivered 5,000 fast chargers around the world. Approximately 120 of them are in Sweden, and the same number is on the way out, for example to Lidl’s stores.

“Lidl’s investment is a fantastic addition to the infrastructure for electric cars. I am very impressed by what they are doing,” says Henrik Holmér, who is responsible for fast charger sales at ABB.

He says that the order from Lidl is important for ABB since it demonstrates to other similar chains that ABB has the products and is ready to install additional fast chargers in Sweden. Henrik Holmér believes that even if the fast charger at this point can be seen as something that is “nice to have” for store chains, it will transition into a “must have” in a few years.

“By 2030, Sweden’s car fleet is to be independent of fossil fuels. There are still not as many electric cars on Sweden’s roads as we had hoped, but we know that the share will increase rapidly. Stores that want customers to be able to drive to their locations in the future as well would be wise to start the expansion now.”

ABB has both AC and DC chargers for electric cars. AC chargers are generally referred to as slow or regular chargers, and they are the most common in Sweden at present. The DC chargers are the most interesting, however. They can charge a car battery in 20-30 minutes. ABB has fast chargers with two different outputs: 20 and 50 kW. Henrik Holmér says that the installation itself is not difficult provided that the right conditions are in place.

“The trickiest aspect is probably the step that involves applying for a grant from Klimatklivet via the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, but doing so can result in up to 50 percent of the investment expense being covered. When this has been done, it only takes 5-6 weeks to order and install a fast charger from ABB. The installation definitely does not require “rocket science”, and we are naturally happy to help.”

Henrik Holmér believes that the major breakthrough for electric cars in Sweden is finally imminent:
“It has been a slow process, but it feels like it is underway now. The infrastructure is being expanded at a rapid pace, and many interesting car models for the mass market will be launched over the next year. It’s happening now!”

Facts about ABB’s fast chargers
The fast chargers are made of stainless steel, and can withstand punishing climates and environments. The chargers are available in 50 kW or 20 kW, and they are equipped with all three types of charging sockets: CHAdeMO, CCS and Mode 3 type 2, in various combinations.

The stations have five respectively two power modules (10 kW/each). The charger will still work even if a module breaks, and it can be used until a service technician arrives to replace the broken module.
In addition to the hardware, ABB has also developed all of the necessary software for operations monitoring and service.