André Dias's blog: A world where EVs become the norm - for everyone
06 April 2022
Petrol prices have hit a record high, as oil and gas costs soar and the global price of crude oil, international exchange rates and supply and demand around the world all affect what we have to pay at the pump.
While there is little we can do to influence this surge in costs, there are measures that businesses and fleet owners can look to put in place to counter big fuel and energy costs. Certainly, with the UK Government's 2030 ban on combustion car sales looming, a move to electric vehicles is a sensible step forward.
The train has already left the station
The trend towards EVs has already picked up pace in recent years. Driven by pressure from society, corporate strategy and influenced by government mandates and carbon emission reduction targets, individuals, corporations, and public bodies are already raising the priority of their own transition away from internal combustion engines. This, in turn, will place significant demand on the fuelling and charging landscape in our communities.
In 2022 and beyond, rather than seeing fancy electric vehicles as anomalies and therefore noteworthy, we are now witnessing an increasing number of makes and models of PHEVs and pure EVs alongside new changing infrastructure, which is making decarbonised mobility more commonplace.
More needs to be done
That said, there is still a way to go. What will really drive acceptance is when the infrastructure is in place because for adoption to become widespread, we need to improve the UK's EV charging network. Without confidence in related infrastructure and supporting services, some of the anxieties around switching to EVs, such as range, convenience, lack of charging points, etc, will continue.
To meet the steepening adoption curve, we need to ensure the infrastructure, management tools, and ancillary services are all in place to provide a smooth and cost-effective transition towards a green mobility service.
However, enabling decarbonised mobility is extensive and incorporates many different infrastructure elements as well as cultural and behavioural aspects. We must move away from "glutton fuelling", where we fuel, drive until the tank is empty and fuel again, and move towards "graze fuelling" - topping up every day. For this we need to have better home charging facilities; this includes ensuring that any new build homes and offices automatically have electric vehicle charge points.
New builds to install electric vehicle charge points
The good news is that these discussions are in already in play. Proposals requiring new builds to install electric vehicle charge points were first discussed in 2019. This proposed law change can be compared to the EU's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, in which new buildings and renovations including car parks are mandated to have the necessary connectivity for smart chargepoint installation.This law is a necessity, as reliance on a roadside, on-demand fuel supply model will not be cost efficient, nor will it be possible for an audience of majority-electric vehicle users. Electricity prices are rapidly increasing, and further national demand will only amplify this trend. Home charging, however, will remain cheaper and when you are buying the exact same product for a fraction of the price, customers are unlikely to tolerate spending more money elsewhere - except in exceptional circumstances.
Therefore, it is key that places such as homes, workplaces, retail, health, and hospitality spaces going forward are developed to provide electricity-as-a-service, attracting and retaining customers in the process. Government efforts to expand the electric charging network must happen at the infrastructural level for this to be effective. Alternative options, such as rent-a-driveway schemes, have been around for years but will likely never see mass adoption because they rely on individuals giving up the freedom of use of their own charger and driveway for someone else.
Adapting infrastructure to bring charge points to the spaces that vehicle users already frequent, such as offices, retail destinations, and homes, makes the change to electric vehicles far easier for consumers, both practically and psychologically.
Meeting the needs of a diverse population
Additionally, the UK's 2030 deadline will affect all drivers, which is why it is essential to consider the needs of a diverse population as we build out the infrastructure for electric vehicle users. A recent report from the Energy Saving Trust reveals the barriers that disabled consumers may face in using public charging infrastructure and highlights the need for clarity on the location of accessible charge points for those planning routes. This insightful report only highlights that, to work, technology aimed at improving our futures must ensure that its benefits are inclusive for all.
While local councils are investing in building and expanding the UK's electric charging network, accessibility must be central to the design of hardware and software alike. Different people and organisations have different mobility behaviours, and unequal access to resources. A woman with a young family, for example, is less likely to ride-share than others, and finds public transport less accessible because of the mobility behaviour that she has. In terms of electric vehicle infrastructure, we need to ensure it is inclusive, accessible, and safe - requirements that haven't necessarily been considered to date. For this reason, it is heartening to see Motability and the British Standards Institute's work to bring the needs of disabled users to the foreground of the electric revolution.
Obtaining the right level of support
When designing smart mobility solutions and charge points, it is essential that we embrace an approach that doesn't just focus on those most likely to adopt electric vehicles: higher income working individuals, predominately male and so on. If we build for a diverse community, we will ensure that the true potential of electric vehicle adoption is met, encouraging more people to transition to electric automotive worldwide.
Finally, any transition towards electric vehicles, whether this is part of an overall 'sustainability' effort, or a standalone project, requires conscious, defined strategy and real commitment to carbon reduction. Without this, and without the knowledge of the advice and expertise that exists, the steps required might be seen as too complex at this stage in industry and infrastructure development. This is where we can help - our Mobility Change Platform helps enterprises manage the transition of their fleet to low- or no-emission vehicles while reducing overall fleet and energy costs.
André Dias is founder and CTO of GoWithFlow