Technical Article - March 2, 2020

Preparing for the electric vehicle revolution: three emerging trends

Written by Expert: Rubina Singh 6 min read

Centrica's Rubina Singh discusses the challenges of plugging-in to a new era of sustainable transport

Not since the automobile replaced the horse and cart has transportation felt such shock waves of revolution. The tipping point for mass Electric Vehicle (EV) adoption is fast approaching, but this 21st Century mobility revolution is even more exciting and challenging than the first.

The complexity and intricacy of the challenge and scale of integration has been a recurring theme at many recent EV mobility industry conferences I attended as a guest speaker. 

Unsurprisingly, a key theme has been addressing the power challenge to provide energy infrastructure and support services for enabling the future of mobility. Another is the rise of greater connectivity and autonomy, which are turning traditional car ownership on its head with the advent of shared mobility.

Together, these are encouraging new disruptive technologies and the entrance of new innovators who are developing the advanced hardware, software and data solutions to drive transport power solutions, connectivity and interoperability.

What consumers want

The key findings of the Consumers Vehicles and Energy Integration (CVEI) project were revealed at an event held by the Energy Systems Catapult in Summer 2019. This is a three-year study, including the world’s first trial of battery and plug-in hybrid EVs by mainstream consumers, commissioned by the Energy Technologies Institute and led by TRL, the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory. Researchers examined the market structures and energy supply systems required to encourage wider adoption of plug-in vehicles (both battery and hybrid) and their integration into the energy system.

One of the key findings was that up to 95% of EV drivers in the trial were willing to use smart charging. Some of the benefits include the price advantage of lower electricity costs during peak periods (4-7pm) and higher annual savings. The availability of public chargers nearby also made smart charging more attractive to consumers.

This has important implications for the future design of low emission vehicle charging infrastructure and electricity network reinforcement, with the potential to increase the use of renewable energy and limit requirements for additional fossil-fuelled generation to supply peak demand. On-site battery storage and generation technologies like solar can be key in meeting the energy needs and supporting the electrification of transport. EVs can offer power flexibility and also unlock new revenue opportunities in the future.  

Besides consumers’ willingness to pay for managed charging, the study also revealed that rapid uptake of EVs could be achieved by enabling access to rapid charging (150kW) and increasing the range of electric cars to 300 miles.

Widespread EV adoption will ultimately be driven by consumer demand and choice and I believe that ensuring a positive experience and making it convenient for consumers is essential.

It was inspiring to join professionals across the depth and breadth of EV mobility and gain insights into innovations that are set to transform transportation.  Substantial progress has been made in laying the foundations for the mass transition to EVs, but there is still some way to go. This means addressing the following three key challenges.

Three important EV challenges

1.  Holistic approach

A holistic view is needed across the entire EV value chain. This ranges from ensuring supply meets demand, to having energy infrastructure in place to deliver the power needed, operation and maintenance, and setting up a second-hand market as the EV markets advance further.  One of the current barriers to deployment is availability of vehicles, which opens up a huge opportunity for automotive suppliers.

Coordination of the siloed EV supply chain is vital to making the entire experience for consumers as seamless and convenient as possible.

2.   Charging Infrastructure

One of the key points discussed during the panel session at the CVEI event was instilling consumer confidence in EVs – supported by a national network of reliable and accessible public charging points, particularly along motorways and A-roads. This requires a coordinated effort at an individual council and network operator level to ensure that the extra low emission power needs can be met without straining the local network. Using solar and storage is key to alleviating additional demand on the grid and delivering flexibility and sustainability.

The acceleration towards sustainable transportation can be driven by commercial fleets and public bodies, who have the economies of scale to make the transition financially viable.  They have the greatest potential to integrate charging into their existing distributed energy assets to maximise emissions reduction and demonstrate the possibilities of future-proofed low emissions infrastructure.

3.   Collaboration 

EV transportation is multi-layered and incredibly complex, requiring strong partnership between the energy and transport/logistics industries and involving several other technology providers and stakeholders, such as operations and maintenance providers; software specialists; charge point operators; mobility service providers; businesses and public bodies; individual consumers and local and national governments.

This approach is working in the Netherlands, where public private partnerships helped create the market model that spurred the EV industry growth and made it the success story it is today.

In rolling out Centrica's own EV Enablement  charging infrastructure solutions and our mobility ventures services, we are taking a collaborative approach,  including our recent partnership with Ford to offer new electric vehicle services in the UK and Ireland.  Ford will work exclusively with Centrica to deliver a dedicated home charging installation service and EV tariffs from British Gas and Bord Gáis Energy that will allow Ford customers to benefit from lower energy prices for overnight charging.  Centrica will also make its installation service available to support hundreds of Ford dealerships. 

Positive future

The spirit of innovation and collaboration in the EV mobility sector points to an exciting future to reshape the future of energy and transport sustainability.  As we strive to decarbonise the global economy and reduce air pollution across our towns and cities, the EV sector offers an affordable long-term solution that can work in harmony with a wider lower-carbon energy system.

EV Enablement

Centrica Business Solutions has created an EV Enablement solution to provide the complete end-to-end  EV infrastructure solution from one single supplier.  Our modular package of solutions can provide support across the entire process – from design to long-term operation and maintenance and is designed to make the transition to EV simple and easy.  

This Article was originally published on Centrica’s latest EV White paper .

About the author

Rubina Singh is a specialist in mobility and clean energy innovation and commercialisation having worked across the UK, USA and Australia. She currently leads on global channel strategy and strategic partnerships to launch novel energy technologies at Centrica Business Solutions. Her previous roles have involved leading the EV proposition at Gemserv in the UK, and heading Fraunhofer TechBridge for accelerating cleantech innovation in the USA. She has published several papers in international journals including IEEE, TechCrunch and PV Tech Power and is a regular speaker at international conferences. Her experience includes residential and commercial solar, e-mobility and battery storage in the UK and international markets. She has a M.Eng. in energy systems engineering from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a B.Eng. in electronics and sustainable energy engineering from the Australian National University.

Written by Expert: Rubina Singh on March 2, 2020

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