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New York architects propose urban EV “charging towers”

Ennead Architects has based the concept on “parking carousels” and would include both conventional and supercharging capabilities

A New York-based architecture firm has unveiled an innovative concept to facilitate EV charging infrastructure in cities. Ennead Architects developed the concept for an undisclosed Shanghai-based client as part of its ‘Ennead Lab’ project, which aims to “ask and answer complex questions with innovative designs”.

EVs in urban areas are proliferating ever-more rapidly and in many cases local governments are actively promoting them. With this increase, however, come practical issues such as the creation of charging infrastructure to support such vehicles. Furthermore, many EV models designed for urban areas have lower electric ranges, which means the charging solutions will have to accommodate for quick charging top-ups as well as the lengthier times needed to allow a full charge.

With this in mind, Ennead is proposing the “charging tower”. In design, the towers resemble an updated version of the “parking carousels” that have existed for nearly a century, almost since the birth of the commercial motor car. This involves an elevator system which carries vehicles to small platforms in the tower, allowing for a more economical use of space than a usual parking lot. However, in this case each platform in the tower is also equipped with an EV charger allowing customers to charge their vehicles as they park.

On the outside, the company would coat the tower in a reflective chrome lattice that would act as a beacon to drivers in need of charging.

In the company’s own words:

“In order to accommodate both a small, urban, pedestrian-friendly site and to maximize the number of cars simultaneously utilizing a standard charging system, we combined existing charger technologies with existing stack-parking technologies to create a “Charging Tower.” At the ground level, “super charge” stations are housed beneath a light-weight canopy. The parking towers above are clad in a reflective, perforated metal, recalling the chrome-filled aesthetic history of the automobile and creating a beacon for those searching for parking and car charging.”

The vertical design, like traditional parking carousels, would fit in well with the high-rise design sensibilities of modern cities, particularly in the US and China. However it does beg the question of how the “beacon” feature would work in, for example, downtown Manhattan amongst the inevitably much larger skyscrapers.

Addressing the problem of some drivers needing to top their cars up more quickly, Ennead would have the lower levels equipped with superchargers, allowing for a 100-mile injection in just 25 minutes. The upper levels would have more conventional chargers, which the company say would charge an average EV up in around five hours. What constitutes “average” was left unsaid.

Example of a traditional "car carousel"
Example of a traditional “car carousel”

Practical solution or just hot air?

Whilst the concept is certainly eye-catching, it is not without its critics. One question that has been repeatedly asked is why current parking lots and petrol stations are not simply fitted with charging capabilities right now? Whilst the appeal of Ennead’s idea rests partly on its spatial economy, the fact of the matter is that there are already hundreds of millions of parking spaces in cities across the world that could benefit from the (possibly cheaper) installation of chargers as EVs become more numerous.

Moreover, the possibility of the towers overheating would appear to be a problem as well. Dozens of batteries charging all at the same time could cause dangerous heat levels, especially in a glass building on a warm day. Ennead has not raised this issue in its concept proposal.

Nevertheless, whether or not the towers prove practical, innovative thinking with regard to EV infrastructure is welcome. As with this concept, no doubt many investors and city councils will continue to encourage it. Without the right infrastructure, it will be impossible for EVs to take hold in the major way that they will have to in order to keep air clean in urban areas.


About Harry Locke

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