Why touchscreens are helping lead the ‘charge’…

Author : Ian Crosby | Sales & Marketing Director | Zytronic

01 September 2020

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In response to the threat of global warming & climate change, urgent action is being taken to reduce carbon emissions. Government legislation and the effect of net zero targets & EPS (Emissions Performance Standard) regulations is driving the automotive industry to move away from traditional fossil fuels, towards alternative fuel technologies.

This article was originally featured in the September 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

Today, electric has become the most rapidly growing powertrain technology and, according to a 2019 Frost & Sullivan study, global sales of electric vehicles are set to increase to about 34 million in 2025, 121 million in 2030 and 637 million by 2040. Here, Ian Crosby, Sales & Marketing Director at UK-based manufacturer & developer of touch technologies, Zytronic considers what this means in terms of charging infrastructure – and for the touchscreen technologies that will provide the user interface…

Mileage range anxiety is something that almost all EV drivers suffer from. For mass-market EV ownership to truly take off, charging points must become readily accessible to the driver, on demand. Yet, the dilemma of supply versus demand continues to amount to fewer public charging points than needed being installed. As at July 2019, market & consumer data provider, Statista estimates there were 170,149 public charging stations for electric vehicles in Europe (this figure includes normal charge under or equal to 22 kilowatts, as well as fast charge with over 22 kilowatts).

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As these publicly used charging networks expand, network operators will need kiosks to include point-of-sale payment devices. These must incorporate user interfaces that are robust enough to work in all weather conditions, 24/7 and all year round. In addition to proven reliability, as with any outdoor, unattended self-service kiosk, the interactive display must be sunlight readable and vandal resistant.

There are a variety of touch technologies with different methods of sensing touch, including resistive, capacitive, optical and acoustic. Of these, projected capacitive touch technology is favoured for commercial applications, since it is both highly sensitive, and yet will only react to a finger or conductive stylus (meaning ‘false touches’ are unlikely). Resistive touchscreens require considerably more pressure than a capacitive touchscreen and are prone to wear-related performance problems. Similarly, optical and acoustic-based touchscreens can be affected by inanimate objects falling on the screen, accumulation of dirt and even strong sunlight. In outdoor applications, this could include rain, snow or leaves landing on the screen.

Zytronic’s reputation for providing, reliable, all-weather, damage-resistant projected capacitive touchscreens is well known and proven. Several self-service fuel dispenser manufacturers around the world have already selected and deployed the technology over the last decade. For example, in Asia, Korea ENE selected this touch technology for its outdoor, partially supervised, self-service fuel dispensers. More recently, Barcelona’s Circontrol has used Zytronic’s technology on its third-generation DC Raption 50 quick EV chargers.

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As the choice of alternative transportation and fuel type has changed, so have the methods of payment for these services. Zytronic’s customised touchscreens are also capable of supporting secure PIN entry applications. The PCI3 (and shortly 5) compliant PTS (PIN Transaction Security) product, named CryptoTouch ®  Unattended, has been co-developed with Cryptera, a world leader in Secure Payment Technologies. It enables authenticated payments to be handled completely via the touchscreen without the need for a separate mechanical Encrypting PIN Pad (EPP). This technology is already being successfully used in ATMs, for a European bank, with other self-service applications including an upcoming ‘pay at the pump’ fuel dispenser OEM in Germany.

When EV charging systems eventually do become more widely available to the masses, there is a strong belief that conventional petrol/gas stations will eventually convert into EV charging stations. This is because they are already strategically located based on driving patterns and population density; therefore, this existing infrastructure will be a key element in creating an efficient EV charging network.

EV charger OEMs and operators are already renting space in petrol stations to install their charging points, prioritising areas where EVs are more popular, or areas where there are government incentives. At the same time, traditional fuel dispenser manufacturers have been keeping a keen eye on the rapidly developing EV market.

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A strong believer in the transition from petrol to EV station is one of the oldest fuel pump manufacturers, Gilbarco Veeder-Root. This company designed and developed its first petrol pump back in 1910, when trading as the Gilbert & Barker Manufacturing Co – hence the name Gilbarco. Notably, in 2018, it made a minority investment in Tritium, a privately held EV charger manufacturer based in Australia, thereby creating a path for its traditional customer base to begin building new charging networks.

Irrespective of who develops these charging units, build cost will always remain an issue. Paid advertising on EV stations’ digital screens could provide a way for companies to recover the costs; as drivers refuel, they effectively become a ‘captive’ audience for the few minutes it takes to ‘fill up’. Visitors to any forecourt may well have already noticed these appearing at the fuel dispenser, especially when it has been upgraded to a pay-at-pump system. However, as many fuel stations also include a convenience store, this move to conclude the transaction by the vehicle means that these shops are experiencing a decline in footfall and a consequent reduction in sales of impulse buys, such as drinks and snacks.

Introducing ‘click-and-collect’ services at the self-service fuel dispenser may be a way to reverse this trend for the larger fuel retailing chains. By making these advertising displays interactive, the person refuelling may be encouraged to add products such as drinks and snacks to their fuel purchase via the touchscreen on the pump. As soon as the convenience store receives this order, these items can be prepared and once the payment transaction has been completed at the dispenser, an employee can bring the goods out to the driver. The same ‘upselling’ process is likely to gain favour at the growing number of EV charging stations being installed, as even with a 5-10-minute delay while partial recharge occurs, the driver and their passengers will be even more susceptible to advertising.

Whether for conventional or alternative refuelling systems, and even personal urban transportation, the reliability of the supporting infrastructure is crucial. One thing is certain: touchscreen technology will provide the user interface for almost all of these self-service systems. And with a proven track record for its projected capacitive touch technology to operate in the harshest environments, and its flexibility in supplying small quantities of bespoke designs in-house, Zytronic is perfectly placed to support this development.


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