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E-mobility is the future

Ever more electric cars can be seen on Swiss roads each year. As an innovative, sustainable real estate firm, Swiss Prime Site wants to provide its customers and tenants with the option of charging their electric vehicles quickly and easily. The company starting by commissioning ten charging stations at Swiss Prime Site locations across German-speaking Switzerland in 2018, and expanded its trial area to include French-speaking Switzerland in 2019.

Why is Swiss Prime Site – a company whose core business is real estate – focusing on mobility? «We want to determine the growth potential of e-mobility and its influence on real estate and, ultimately, on living spaces as a whole. Doing so enables us to ensure that our properties are ready for the future. We also want to contribute to sustainability and provide our tenants and customers with added value by making mobility easier for them», explains Alexandra Bay, Head of Group Research at Swiss Prime Site. Bay holds a doctorate in economics and is the author of an internal e-mobility study conducted in 2018. The study concludes that in a decade’s time, there will be around one million electric vehicles on the road in Switzerland. These vehicles will need to be recharged at home, at work, in recreational areas and in shopping centre car parks. To be able to provide tenants and customers with the right infrastructure and accompanying services in good time, property owners should ideally determine suitable sites for installing charging stations as soon as possible. This means becoming acquainted with the requirements of the new technologies, finding the right partners for cooperation, and considering technical demands, for example the additional burden placed on power systems and safety provisions.

Promoting e-mobility to achieve sustainability

Swiss Prime Site recognised these developments at an early stage and is ready to both take advantage of the potential offered by e-mobility and address the related challenges. Furthermore, the reduction of CO2 emissions and promotion of e-mobility are two of the objectives set out in the company’s sustainability strategy, which is why Swiss Prime Site is also committed to the 2022 Electromobility Roadmap. The ambition behind this intended coalition between the automotive, electricity, real estate and fleet operator sectors – as well as the federal, cantonal and municipal governments – is to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road to 15% by 2022. And that’s not all: Swiss Prime Site also held an accelerator workshop focusing on mobility in 2018 as part of its aim to become a pioneer – not just a partner – in the field of e-mobility. During the workshop, eight startups had the chance to present their innovative mobility concepts.

More charging stations required as e-mobility becomes more widespread

Swiss Prime Site’s portfolio contains many publicly accessible locations, office buildings and shopping centres that offer ample parking. As part of a trial project, the company has been installing charging stations at suitable sites since 2018. Innovation always involves exploring uncharted territory, in this case resolving questions such as: Which charging station providers are best to work with? Which technologies have been developed to a sufficiently advanced level? «These are both key issues», states Bastian Zarske Bueno, Head of Corporate Ventures. «Some charging stations are specific to a particular manufacturer, while others work with open systems. And, of course, there are ever more all-new business models being tested out on the market.» This is why the first step was a very pragmatic one: «Swiss Prime Site tested users’ responses to two different partners’ business models and clarified whether they meet our strict requirements», explains Zarske Bueno.

The first 10 charging stations installed in German-speaking Switzerland

One of the charging station partners is the established energy company Repower, which has a great deal of experience in the field of e-mobility. Repower installed the first ten charging stations at Swiss Prime Site locations across German-speaking Switzerland, all of which are powered by electricity that is certified green. And how have the trials gone so far? Reto Felder, head of the trial project with Repower, reports: «We use a live tracking tool to measure usage on a monthly basis and have seen a moderate but steady increase so far. To offer a detailed and reliable overview, we will have to monitor usage over a longer period of time.» The services and the volume of data available are both set to increase: «We are planning another roll-out of ten charging stations by end-2019 – this time also in French-speaking Switzerland», states Felder.

«In the real estate business today, the focus is increasingly on additional services rather than just providing space alone. Such services also include e-charging stations», says Reto Felder.

By offering e-charging stations in shopping centers, we want to enhance the customer experience and increase the amount of time customers remain on site», says Bastian Zarske Bueno.

E-charging station with display advertising in the Shopping Arena St. Gallen.

Refuelling with free electricity thanks to an innovative advertising platform

The Swiss startup «Spark Horizon» is the second partner involved in the installation of the charging stations. Bastian Zarske Bueno, who is overseeing the partnership with Spark Horizon, reports on the developments: «In collaboration with Spark Horizon, we installed one charging station in the Jelmoli car park in Zurich at the end of 2018 and two in the Shopping Arena St. Gallen at the beginning of 2019. We’re trying out a different strategy for these three stations, namely: customers can use them free of charge. The electricity is financed by advertisements shown on a large display on the charging station.» What do the initial results look like? «The experiences so far are positive and give us good reason to be optimistic. The aim of this service is to enhance the customer experience and increase the amount of time that customers remain on site», says Zarske Bueno. It will also be interesting to see how well the display advertisements are received by the customers who use the stations.

Additional services for customers

For Reto Felder, providing charging stations for customers to use is definitely a step in the right direction: «In the real estate business today, the focus is increasingly on additional services rather than just providing space alone. Fully equipped co-working spaces – rather than a bare shell – and charging stations are just two examples here.» Swiss Prime Site wants to identify and meet these expectations as effectively as possible as part of a clear-cut customer journey.

The time is not yet right to set up a comprehensive charging station network for electric vehicles. For now, a trial charging station with space for two cars has been installed at the Prime Tower site. «The demand is not there yet, which leaves us enough time to install the necessary infrastructure. The electric car revolution is still on the horizon. But it is definitely coming», states Reto Felder with conviction.

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