With the UK government having announced plans to cease all sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, the race is on for the electric vehicle (EV) revolution.
Though we are beginning to witness a significant rise in the uptake of plug-in vehicles – registrations increased from 3,500 in 2013 to over 150,000 in May 2018 – there is still some way to go, with potential roadblocks to overcome – not least the establishment of a far-reaching EV charging network.
As transport overtook energy as the most carbon-emitting sector of the economy in 2016, EVs have taken on increasing importance for our sustainable future. Indeed, for the UK to meet its greenhouse gas targets by 2030, it is estimated that three-fifths of our vehicles must be electric. For this to happen, momentum needs to be maintained and accelerated, with the government working closely with industry to ensure that consumer uptake of EVs is significantly increased in coming years.
Below we look at three ways in which, by working together, British businesses, the UK government, and EV market stakeholders can help drive the EV revolution forward.
1) Devise a national strategic EV roadmap
Besides declaring that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2040, the UK government in 2017 affirmed its commitment to “develop one of the best electric vehicle charging networks in the world” as it announced the introduction of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill and pledged billions in investment.
However, given the massive infrastructural challenge that stands in the way of the EV revolution – no amount of government pledges alone is likely to provide an effective solution.
The private sector can neither be expected to act independently in addressing the most pressing concerns hanging over EV market development. This comes both in terms of how we can best establish a nationwide public charging network to accommodate the greater number of EVs expected on our roads, and how we update the electricity network to ensure we have enough capacity to charge these vehicles efficiently.
There are therefore widespread calls for greater collaboration between government and industry to develop a comprehensive, strategic EV roadmap.
According to Price Waterhouse Cooper, such a roadmap should “clarify the type of charging infrastructure the country requires and where key investments need to be made across the power networks (transmission and distribution). It will also set a target roll out timetable and establish the commercial and regulatory framework”.
To this end, thanks to our status as one of the UK’s leading Meter Asset Providers (MAP) and Meter Operators (MOP), as well as a specialist in electricity connections projects, SMS Plc is ready to take part in these discussions, and to work with both the private and public sector in delivering the charging infrastructure that will truly make Great Britain a global EV leader.
Read our blog on the challenges and opportunities for EV charging in the UK
2) Develop our smart energy system
The success of the revolution will not just be about having the right charging infrastructure in place, but also making sure we have enough energy capacity to power the millions of new cars that will all be drawing from the grid.
As EV road adoption increases, demand on the grid will significantly increase, causing potentially huge stress on the network. To counteract this, new sustainable ways of generating and storing energy for electric automobiles must be developed.
Considering that an increased burning of fossil fuels would defeat the objective of the EV movement, then this must be achieved through the greater use of renewables and storage technology, facilitated by the establishment of a smart energy system.
Central to the realisation of this smart energy system is the continued government rollout of smart meters – within which SMS Plc is a key player. By informing network operators of real-time electricity demand, smart meters are pivotal to the better integration of renewables, battery storage and the use of demand-response mechanisms that help balance out the grid.
With current research showing that most EV charging is done during peak times, one solution to the challenge of potential capacity overload comes in the form of ‘smart charging’.
Enabled by the information collected by smart meters, time-of-use tariffs are being introduced to encourage EV owners to charge their vehicles ‘smartly’ at periods of low demand – with the idea being that this will eventually be an automated process. This could not only ensure that the grid remains balanced, but also enable EV owners save money on their energy bills.
Taking this one step further and ensuring EV charging is not just a one-way street, vehicle-to-grid technology (V2G) currently being developed will essentially allow users to charge their vehicles but also return energy to the grid and effectively smooth demand.
Through our investment in smart energy systems, SMS Plc is at the forefront of the laying the foundations for these technologies to exist, and to be developed to a point where EV charging is as efficient as it possibly can be.
Read our blog on how smart meters can help accelerate EV uptake
3) Businesses to take on the EV mantle
Though the recent surge in EV ownership has largely been driven by private domestic ownership, UK businesses have a fantastic opportunity – and increasingly, a responsibility – to influence even greater deployment of EVs.
Businesses not only have the chance to boost their CSR through reduced emissions but can also achieve significant savings, at the same time helping expand the EV charging network and contributing to a smarter energy grid.
While it is true that new EVs are generally more expensive to purchase than petrol/diesel equivalents, such extra costs cost can be significantly offset by various Government grants and tax benefits available to businesses for buying low emission vehicles. Average running and service/repair costs savings are also significantly less for EVs, meaning savings can multiply with the more vehicles there are in a firm’s fleet.
Businesses, it is important to mention, do not even need a fleet of vehicles to take advantage of the EV market. While EV charge points are essential for organisations with e-fleets, other businesses can also benefit from installing this infrastructure at their premises – particularly in the retail and leisure sectors.
As well as helping expand the EV network for the public good, EV charge points can help attract new customers, encourage EV ownership amongst employees, boost sustainability credentials amongst visitors and stakeholders, and – if combined with solar PV and/or battery storage – help save significant amounts of energy and money.
By including EV charging stations as part of a wider energy strategy, cost savings could be leveraged – for example – by utilising solar carports or rooftop solar to charge EVs with electricity generated onsite. Meanwhile, EV charge points with integrated batteries can further support businesses with reducing costs, such as from peak demand avoidance and the extra income from participation in demand response schemes.
At SMS Plc, we are experts in advising on and delivering business energy efficiency – of which EVs are set to play an increasingly central role in coming years.
With businesses being a major contributor to air pollution and energy use in Britain – the government has tasked British industry to improve its energy efficiency by at least 20% before 2030 – it likely won’t be long before the Government puts greater pressure on firms to support the transition to EVs. Investing now could not only help deliver significant commercial advantages in the short term, but also help future-proof organisations for the longer term.
Looking for a partner for your EV charging project? We are able to provide expert assistance at any stage of the process – be it infrastructure connection, meter asset provision and operation, or data and energy efficiency services. Contact us today to discuss your needs.