Charging a car takes about 15 minutes, but people might just be tempted to stick around longer. With trees, playful public seating, and even a swing-set, Denmark’s prototype charging station takes advantage of the possibilities – and limitations – of electric vehicles (EVs) to create a soothing and restorative environment. This is no gas station.
Designed by Copenhagen’s acclaimed COBE Architects, the place is immediately discernible as a different type of filling station. The wooden structure of light geometric canopies immediately sets itself apart from its counterparts. Gasoline is highly flammable, but EV chargers aren’t. This makes the pavilion a conspicuous symbol of electric vehicles – and their comparatively modest environmental impact.
While the use of wood takes advantage of an obvious EV benefit, the pleasant design is a response to an EV drawback: the cars take a longer time to charge compared to a typical gas station fill up. Although the new station uses what’s described as an “ultra-fast” charging system, the process is still 15 to 20 minutes long. (Older EV chargers can still require up to 12 hours, but Clever and E.ON’s ABB high power charging points are significantly faster – providing 150+ kW – and can be upgraded for up to 350 kW once mainstream EVs begin to support the higher output.)
Fortunately, COBE have transformed this waiting time into part of the appeal. Ample public seating and greenery – specified to promote biodiversity – foster a welcoming ambiance, inviting drivers to emerge from their vehicles during charging. It’s another contrast to typical gas stations, where the soil toxicity induced by fuel makes plant life all but impossible. Not here.
A perforated roof – itself topped by greenery – brings in ample light, nurturing the plant life below while creating the atmosphere of a small park for visitors. Away from the cars, a swing set completes the picture with child-friendly recreation.
“The energy and the technology are green, so we wanted the architecture, the materials and the concept to reflect that,” says Dan Stubbergaard, an architect and founder of COBE. “We designed a charging station in sustainable materials placed in a clean, calm setting with trees and plantings that offer people a dose of mindfulness on the highway.”
Located along a major highway that passes through the city of Fredericia, the new charging station is the first of a network of 48 such facilities planned throughout Scandinavia.
COBE’s simple architectural language was created with the network in mind. A modular system of building blocks allows the wooden canopy to take on a variety of sizes and configurations, depending on local needs and site context. In the longer term, most of the construction materials can be broken down into usable and recyclable components. It’s a promise of a truly green and sustainable future, and perhaps one where cars themselves – electric or not – are hardly used at all.
The small city of Fredericia is the site of COBE Architects’ first prototype for an ambitious series of electric vehicle charging stations.