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Author's profile photo SEBASTIAN WAGNER

Real estate as an essential part of future mobility


Charging stations in front of office building


The decision of the EU Parliament that newly registered cars and light commercial vehicles will no longer be allowed to emit carbon dioxide from 2035 – should it also be approved by the Council of Ministers – will have far-reaching consequences, not only for the drivers and users of vehicles, but also for other groups, above all the automotive and mineral oil industries. But real estate owners and operators of the infrastructure including residential areas, will also face new challenges.

The primary goal will be the creation of a nationwide, efficient, safe and, at the same time, affordable charging network for different mobility scenarios and user groups. It is, therefore, to be expected that the EU states will be obliged to significantly expand the charging infrastructure on freeways so that quick recharging is possible on longer journeys without long detours and waiting times. For this purpose, existing infrastructure such as petrol stations and rest-stops will be used first. But other options that should be checked are the use of parking lots along freeways or P&R spaces at freeway exits for charging stations with self-sufficient, photovoltaic-powered systems. An interesting, albeit complex, alternative to the already intricate overhead-line projects on German autobahns is the use of inductive charging while driving that is currently being researched at various universities. While these technologies allow charging while driving, the construction effort is high and the use of steel, concrete, asphalt, and other building materials has a negative impact on the carbon footprint, even if recycled materials or “green” asphalt with biocarbon are used. We can assume that, initially, there will be no cheap and climate-friendly alternatives to the quick-charging stations at petrol stations and rest-stops for recharging on long journeys.


There will also have to be more options for charging electric vehicles in the city. The public charging options that can be created with reasonable economic effort will probably not be sufficient for this. This makes the use of semi-public parking areas and charging stations of companies, institutions such as schools and universities, hotels, or residential complexes interesting. In the underground garages of a company’s building, in associated parking garages and on outdoor parking spaces, private electric vehicles of customers, tenants, visitors, guests and employees could then be charged in addition to the charging of business or commercial electric vehicles used by the company. This has the advantage that a large part of the required infrastructure is already in place. However, there are still costs for access, security, and parking guidance as well as billing systems. These are necessary to ensure a smooth operation that allows owners to generate a return on charging external vehicles, and thus make the construction and provision of charging infrastructure more attractive.


However, the income from charging third-party vehicles is not the only advantage of semi-public charging options for the owners or managers of real estate; the charging option would also increase the attractiveness of such buildings or even entire districts, and this could generate more walk-in customers for shops, restaurants, service providers, medical practices, etc. Studies by real estate consultant Knight Frank in 2021 show that offering charging stations increases the time people spend in stores and, therefore, the amount of money they spend there too. Tenants and other users know the value of existing charging infrastructures, which is why this already represents a competitive advantage in marketing. Last but not least, investors, owners and portfolio managers can actively improve the ESG evaluation criteria and sustainability of their building portfolio and make it clearly visible to the outside world.


There is, then, no question that offering a charging infrastructure will lead to a significantly higher appreciation of the property. And precisely because the initial investments are high, owners, managers and operators of real estate should consider whether they make, at least temporarily, the charging stations that they have only used themselves available to external parties; the additional income helping to compensate for the costs of building and operating the charging infrastructure in the long term. Waiting times of two to three hours at the charging stations are ideal for as many drivers as possible can then charge and thus make the charging location more attractive. The attractiveness and thus the use of the charging infrastructure can be further increased via incentive programs such as paying for the charging costs when shopping in certain shops.


To optimize these processes, the use of software in the form of mobile applications and the Internet of Things (IoT) – in this case, the communication between the vehicles, charging stations and buildings involved – is essential. In the long term, IoT will probably play the dominant role and communication will increasingly take place between the vehicle (“charging station wanted”) and the building (“charging station available”), with people only passing on their wishes, preferences and destinations and the system then taking over the navigation independently. With the help of software, the user can optimize the charging process based on cost, distance to work or shopping center or ease of access. In addition to the software solutions mentioned above, that are integrated with the vehicle systems, suitable billing procedures will also be required. Here, too, it should be made as easy as possible for the user to start charging quickly and efficiently, for example, by means of license plate recognition when entering the building, through intelligent parking guidance systems or through contactless payment. Finally, the use of autonomously driving vehicles or automatic parking systems that make charging independent of the presence of a driver will significantly increase the efficient use of the charging infrastructure.


Matthias Grimm, Global Head of Real Estate Portfolio and Building Management at SAP SE, stresses: “Mobility and electromobility in particular are of central importance to us. From 2025, SAP will only include emission-free vehicles in its fleet. Part of our mobility concept will be the expansion of our charging infrastructure at all locations. For efficient use and expansion of the infrastructure, intelligent charging solutions with appropriate load management are required, which, in combination with the building management system, allow for optimized solutions.”


In the future, with the help of the integration of semi-public parking infrastructure and a networked charging infrastructure, modern building control technology, autonomous driving and mobile apps, significantly more electric vehicles can be charged routinely than if they are used exclusively for private purposes. With this, private real estate and parking spaces, as well as intelligent building technology, are becoming important, if not essential, components of future mobility.

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