The road to EVolution

Considering the road to ‘EVolution’ in the UK, Michael Watts, Strategic Sales Manager, outlines the importance of a collaborative approach to EV infrastructure development, that brings together the best minds from government, the automotive industry, the energy sector and digital technology firms to achieve results.

At an event hosted this week by RSM in London, EV experts and stakeholders gathered to discuss ‘The road to EVolution’ with views shared by National Grid, the Renewable Energy Association, investors and technology providers. With everyone acknowledging that it’s not if, but when, EVs become mainstream, the discussion was proactive and collaborative – just what is needed to ensure that the UK’s EV market developments keep pace with change and innovation abroad.

An upward trend that is set to continue

Electrical Vehicle (EV) purchases are on the rise. According to the latest vehicle registration statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the current market share of new battery EVs registered is 0.9%, while the overall market share inclusive of plug in and hybrid vehicles is 5.9%.

Although hybrid vehicles purchases have dropped off somewhat in response to the recent government grant cuts, battery EVs have seen a 55.5% change increase with 7,499 registered this year to date (1,517 alone in April 2019).

These numbers might sound small, but it’s the percentage change figure that sheds light on the rapid upward trend for EVs. As discussed by those attending the RSM event this week, in many cases it’s already been that demand has outstripped supply, requiring individuals to sit on waiting lists for the delivery of new vehicles.

As one participant explained “There’s a massive tsunami of vehicles coming online in the next few years” as an increasing number of car manufactures commit to producing new EV models.

In the 2018 Future Energy Scenarios published by National Grid, we saw an increase in their forecasts for EV adoption. In all four scenarios, the estimated number of EVs is in excess of 30 million cars by 2050.

Meanwhile, with initiatives such as the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London, aiming to cut emissions and improve air quality, EVs are positioned as vehicles of choice.

A collaborative approach to infrastructure development

Exploring the upward trend of EV registrations also necessitates a discussion around infrastructure – can our roads, homes and businesses cope with the rapid change we are seeing today and the forecasts we are mapping out?

At the RSM event, there was a lively discussion around the challenges of delivering EV infrastructure. From ultra rapid charging installations along motorways that ensure drivers don’t suffer ‘range anxiety’ on long trips, right through the to complexities of charging your vehicle at home and the potential to overload the local distribution network.

Despite questions around who will ultimately pay for the needed infrastructure developments and upgrades, there was a general consensus that collaboration is the only way to reach targets.

Collaborative efforts can be seen already, with car manufactures working closely with charging solution providers to identify synergies. Moreover, charging solution providers are looking at ways to move from operating in silos, to creating a more open ‘roaming’ network for drivers.

Collaboration also fosters innovation, such as improvements to batteries that aim to reduce cobalt and lithium dependencies, ultra rapid charging capabilities and new vehicle software capabilities. We are also keenly following the applicability of blockchain usage in the EV sector, another application to mention beyond those I outlined in my last blog post that covered ‘Blockchain in Energy’.

Government initiatives, such as a new £25 million funding programme (APC13), opening for submissions on 13th May 2019, demonstrate the UK’s commitment to developing advanced EV capabilities. This funding aims to support collaborative research and development projects that advance the UK’s low carbon automotive capability.

In order to meet the UK’s carbon reduction targets, 50-70% of car sales will have to be EVs by 2030. This is no small feat, but others have shown it’s possible. In 2018, Norway recoded a 50% EV market share, and in the last quarter of 2018, 80% of their car purchases were EVs. We should learn from these international success stories to inform our own future and shape the collaborative approach that’s already gaining momentum.