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A recent roundtable convened by Siemens, and held at the ICE, focused on identifying the critical steps for the successful rollout of electric vehicles (EV’s) in the UK.
The need to decarbonise transport, and improve air quality in cities, is a government policy priority. It is highlighted in the recently published National Infrastructure Assessment as well as the 'Road to Zero' strategy, in which the government aims to lead the world in zero emission vehicle technology. This also includes an aim that no new vehicles sold from 2040 will have a traditional internal combustion engine.
UK consumers are already making the move. Since 2013, the number of electric vehicles on the road has increased by 69%, but the number of charging points available is lagging behind with only 31% growth in the same period. If we’re going to accelerate take up, the UK will need more charging facilities available in the right place at the right time.
Participants were clear that if the government’s ambitious targets are to be met, policymakers must take a whole system approach looking at the network and available capacity, but also how the end user – either a car owner or a vehicle fleet owner – would interact with the infrastructure.
“It needs to be aligned across county borders and across the country to do it properly. We need to make having an electric vehicle the ‘new normal’ and at the same time realise it will be a big leap for people,” said one attendee.
This approach also extended to the charging infrastructure. Participants said the most important thing was providing an “open system, which worked across a range of vehicle types in a predictable manner”, to reduce ‘range anxiety’ and mean charging their vehicle would be as easy as adding fuel is currently.
Key to all of this is collaboration between infrastructure and energy specialists, such as Siemens, as well as the system operator, utilities, local authorities, policymakers and the end user. Such collaboration would deliver a fit for purpose system, which is easy to use and provides value for money.
While there are multiple players who will define how successful the electrification of transport is, there are other large-scale infrastructure developments, which they can learn lessons from, such as the broadband and mobile network rollouts.
This would help to design a cohesive programme, which benefits fleet and private electric vehicle users as well as thinking about the different needs of rural and urban areas.
One way to assess the different needs of users would be to implement a large-scale test – such as a living lab.
This test would also aid understanding how people use their personal transport. While most private journeys made are between the home and work, where car charging is likely to take place, there will be times when quick charging points on a long journey, at a motorway service station for example, need to be available.
The charging infrastructure will also be an important element for the logistics sector, to speed up the transition to electric vehicles. For a business with a large vehicle fleet, the cost of implementing a dedicated charging facility at a central site could be cost prohibitive and will again rely on collaboration as well as a strong business case for capital investment.
And, further cost pressures come from the availability of vehicles on sale. While a range of electric vehicles are available in the passenger market, this isn’t the case for logistics – especially at the heavier end of road transport.
“Euro 6 diesel vehicles make more business sense in some cases. Until there is wider cost parity, it will be difficult to make the business case for the investment, when it takes many years to break even on the cost of the vehicle before the cost of charging infrastructure is taken into account,” commented one participant.