New Government plans to bring forward petrol and diesel car sales ban puts greater pressure than ever on the Electric Vehicle industry to catch up.

It was announced by the Government on the 4th February that a ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars in the UK will be brought forward from 2040 to 2035, in a bid to make sure we hit our target of emitting virtually zero carbon by 2050. It means within fifteen years, we will only be able to buy new cars and vans that are electric or hydrogen.

The news will supercharge the Electric Vehicle (EV) revolution, which will now accelerate at an even faster pace. But it’s not just regulatory headwinds at play here. Increased awareness around climate change means it has become a huge concern to both young and older generations alike, who now use EVs as a way of making a difference to the environment on a daily basis. Greater availability of renewable energy such as solar and wind means charging the car battery is even greener, while the production of more EV models from car manufacturers is giving drivers a greater choice.

The news should serve as a clarion call to the industries surrounding electric vehicles, such as EV charge point operators and energy suppliers, that they need to be doing more to keep up with the pace of change. Despite surging consumer demand (80,000 new EVs were registered last year), customer experience from charging is often poor. Little or no interoperability between providers means drivers of EVs are generally limited to using their own provider’s charging points, meaning it’s far less convenient than going to a local petrol station. Imagine going abroad and not being able to jump on another phone network, or driving to a petrol station and only being allowed to buy one provider’s fuel? Sounds absurd in 2020.

EV charge point operators are aware of these challenges but don’t yet have the incentives to change. They’re keen to protect their revenue and business models, but ultimately if they want to grow their business, they need to realise the EV experience will have to improve and become more seamless if more drivers are to switch.

The situation is also challenging for electricity distribution companies. They do not have visibility of the amount of energy being used at charge points, and in some cases don’t even know where they are. It means they are unable to monitor supply and demand, and therefore unable to balance the network in real time, which is absolutely critical for the stability of the network and crucial to avoiding power outages.

What are the solutions?

The EV charge point operators need to work more closely together so drivers can roam more freely across different charge point providers – much like being able to use any cash machine regardless of the bank it belongs to.

Providers say there are bilateral agreements in place between them, but they are limited. This isn’t genuine interoperability; it’s a reluctant nod towards previous government calls for operators to be more joined up.

The frustration is that there are examples of best practice that could be followed. There are interoperability platforms which are predominantly used in mainland Europe but as yet have not seen mass adoption here in the UK. These systems operate by connecting the charge point operators’ back offices, providing a much broader and seamless experience for the driver. However, this still doesn’t provide the visibility of the networks that electricity distribution companies require.

We need a solution that works for the drivers, EV charging point operators as well as energy companies. In line with the Government’s Smart EV Charging Consultation, we believe this lies in utilising the Data Collection Company (Smart DCC). This is the data and communications infrastructure company connecting smart meters with energy suppliers and network operators. At the moment, this is just being used for people’s homes to more proactively manage energy consumption and the energy network in real time. But there are already smart meters installed in every charge point – that is to say, a comms network that talks to the back office of a charge point operator to tell them who the user is, their energy use etc. Utilising the DCC secure network would allow information to securely flow more widely. It wouldn’t operate the charge point and the provider's commercial positions are protected. It would, however, provide benefit to the energy distribution companies and other third parties, who could create additional value to distribution companies or EV drivers on the back of this. Good examples include parking companies being able to provide real-time information to the EV driver, or retail offers being made to encourage charging at a specific location.

It is essential the industries involved in EVs commit to taking the next steps to improve customer experience and catch up with the gathering pace of the EV revolution.

Capita can support local authorities and businesses with the development of their electric vehicle strategy

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