Technical Article - September 01, 2020

Will Covid-19 alter the future of e-mobility?

Written by Expert: Rubina Singh 4 min read

The impact of Covid-19 has been unprecedented, negatively impacting people and businesses across the world. But in a dismal year for companies thus far, those involved in the energy and EV transition may benefit – but for other reasons.

People across the globe have noticed a remarkable improvement in air pollution due to the demobilisation of transport. A recent study shows that 45% of people have reconsidered their electric vehicle ownership plans as a result. This has also reaffirmed the decision made by a further 17% to make the switch to an EV [1]. It has also prompted many people to re-prioritise environmental action and put pressure on their governments to ‘build back better’. The significant investments being made by European governments in sustainable technologies to bring the economy back on its feet is also reassuring.

So, what can we expect in the e-mobility market over the coming years? Whilst we foresee EV’s share of global passenger vehicle sales to flatten in 2020, they are then forecast to continue rising as battery prices fall, energy density improves and more charging infrastructure is built, reaching 10% share of new car sales by 2025 [2].

How will EVs transform the way we live, work and move? How will it redefine our relationship with energy?

At Centrica, we have been tracking five high-potential mobility trends, each of which has experienced positive developments even during the crisis:  

  1. Innovation in EV charging technologies to meet the rapid uptake of EVs. Several innovative charging solutions are being developed including extreme fast chargers (XFC) with capability to charge at more than 400kW, mobile EV charging solutions to provide top-up charge to customers wherever they are and wireless charging technologies. Jaguar Land Rover and Momentum Dynamics recently announced a wireless EV charging trial for electric taxis in Oslo, Norway. It is important to instil consumers’ confidence in the system while also future proofing and reducing the risk of stranded assets as new technologies come to market. At Centrica, we’re helping partners to upgrade to innovative charging technologies to meet their needs and make using EVs as convenient for customers as petrol cars are today.

  2. Exploration of the potential value of Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X). V2X refers to the bi-directional flow of both energy and data from vehicles to their surrounding environments including vehicle-to-grid (V2G), homes and buildings. The UK government has invested significantly in V2X trials and emphasised its potential to enable additional flexibility in the energy system. Even amid the global pandemic, we are seeing more initiatives and trials to explore V2G being announced globally. Two highlights have been the launch of the Electric Nation Powered Up project in the UK to trial V2G and a $2.4m V2G trial announced in Australia to demonstrate how EVs can help regulate grid function and generate revenues.

  3. An increasing convergence of connected cars and connected homes. This is all about the integration of EVs within customers’ increasingly digital lifestyles. We are excited about the convergence of mobility and home energy into a new world of seamlessly connected customer experiences. Our partnership with Lotus seeks to further explore how the car can transcend a mode of transport to act as an extension of customers’ homes and lifestyles. This is driven by cutting-edge technology and an open flow of data and information that is making intelligent decisions on behalf of the customers.

  4. The widespread adoption of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). There has been a huge amount of activity and investment in this area in the past years, with start-ups and incumbents trying to capture value. Intel recently acquired Moovit, an Israeli MaaS start-up offering a multi-modal trip planning platform, in a $900 million deal [3]. Despite what the headlines might say, the markets haven’t completely seized up for multi-modal transport solutions though recent studies show that customers are increasingly wary of shared mobility in the wake of Covid-19.  There are challenges to be overcome and mobility service providers would need to provide new services, solutions and safety measures to stay competitive in the new normal.

  5. Connected and autonomous vehicles taking over the roads. Bloomberg [4] and MIT [5] are forecasting that Covid-19 could strengthen and accelerate the demand for autonomous vehicles (AV) with the emergence of new use cases where the services of driverless cars can be invaluable. AVs are already being deployed in China to help fight the pandemic, carrying out tasks such as cleaning, disinfecting and food deliveries. Recent news speaks to further growth in this space: Amazon is discussing a potential acquisition of autonomous car startup Zoox [6]; Didi (the Uber of China) announced a $500m investment in robotaxis in May [7].

These trends ultimately culminate in a connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) future. These are the most disruptive dimensions of mobility and the areas where we expect to continue making huge progress, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

The spirit of innovation and collaboration in the e-mobility sector points to an exciting future of reshaping sustainable transport. I believe that e-mobility has a bright future ahead – and let’s hope that Covid-19 is just a bump in the road. At Centrica, we’re committed to realising the potential of these future trends and making them a reality. So do watch this space as we move into a greener, electric decade of mobility.



About the author

Rubina Singh is a subject matter expert, thought leader and technologist specialising in renewable energy and e-mobility technologies. Rubina leads on e-mobility technologies and innovation at Centrica. She has published several papers on cleantech and the future of mobility in prestigious publications including IEEE, TechCrunch and PV Tech Power, and is also a regular speaker at international conferences. Her previous roles span across technology development, strategy consulting, launching new business propositions and heading cleantech innovation programs having worked in the UK, USA and Australia. She has a M.Eng in energy systems engineering from the University of MIchigan, Ann Arbor, and a B.Eng. in electronics and sustainable energy from the Australian National University.


References

[1] https://www.fleetpoint.org/electric-vehicles-2/electric-cars/ev-attitudes-change-amidst-covid-19-crisis/
[2] https://about.bnef.com/electric-vehicle-outlook/
[3] https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/04/confirmed-intel-is-buying-urban-mobility-platform-moovit-in-a-900m-deal/
[4] https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-self-driving-car-race/
[5] https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/05/18/1001760/how-coronavirus-is-accelerating-autonomous-vehicles/
[6] https://www.ft.com/content/ae0994fc-9b7a-4b27-a913-80460c08e7cb
[7] https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/29/softbank-pours-500m-into-didi-in-chinas-biggest-autonomous-driving-round/?guccounter=1 
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