Innogy eMobility Solutions – the German energy giant’s e-mobility arm – offers a variety of electric vehicle (EV) charging solutions, from compact charging boxes for domestic charging to fully integrated complete solutions for public, workplace or fast charging.
It provides services to domestic customers, regional traders and retail chains, fleet operators, utilities and hotels, bars and restaurants. Its ‘eOperate’ service provides monitoring, access control and billing. Innogy eMobility Solutions has worked with hotel chain Radisson, supermarket ALDI and courier DHL, among others.
Karl Anders, CEO of Innogy eMobility UK, talked with Current± ahead of speaking at the EnTech event in London this October about eOperate and how to stay ahead in a rapidly changing market.
What is driving innovation in the EV market?
The industry is being influenced by a large number of rapidly increasing external drivers and influences. The obvious influences on innovation are regulatory changes to reduce emissions and push towards newer technology and growing taxation benefits. There are also evolving competitive pressures within both the automotive and charging infrastructure industry to stay ahead of the competition and be able to offer what competitors do or better and not be left behind with old technology as the market moves away.
However, I believe the most underappreciated driver of innovation in the EV market is the substantial change in consumer awareness, behavior and demand. Customers themselves are demanding the industry offer the vehicles they want and need. Sales figures do not tell the true story of demand for electric vehicles due to the increasing waiting lists for the vehicles. We have moved from supply push, including regulatory push, to runaway demand pull.
How much of a need for collaboration between sectors is there?
Go back five years and the automotive industry had no interest in the energy industry, DNOs, National Grid or other energy providers. Now collaboration is absolutely key because of how the car and energy industries have a degree of overlap.
I think the markets are starting to merge. If you’re in the automotive industry, you need to understand energy. If you’re in the energy industry, you need to understand the automotive industry as our impacts are now linked. So that whole market segment is literally being revolutionised as new players come in.
My background is in the automotive industry. I’ve never seen true revolution [in that industry] until the last five years and it is increasing exponentially. The car market and the automotive sector are going through a vast change. The rules have basically been ripped up and rewritten to drive evolution and innovation faster than ever.
How do you keep up with a rapidly evolving market?
The market is changing rapidly but if a technology meets a current user need right now, it will still meet that same need in the near future despite other developments that may make other choices available.
No technology meets all needs and some existing charging technology prevalent in the UK is dated. The important factor is to anticipate what will be needed as the market is evolving significantly. This is the crucial role of innovation to make new technology meet a wider range of applications.
[You need to] understand what the customer of next year wants and adapt so you are ready for it. This requires some accurate and detailed analysis of the market and having the intelligence gathering capability and networking to have good visibility to anticipate what is coming.
How does this inform your eOperate software?
Our new Generation III smart chargers and upgraded eOperate software are designed to integrate seamlessly and meet the requirements of the next few years.
eOperate links a network of chargers in a back end system to enable an operator to do many important functions and move towards smart charging. It allows the user to control and manage a network themselves giving control over charging, data, authentication and over the air diagnosis and reprogramming where needed.
The UK EV charging market has been dominated by low cost, limited function basic chargers from existing local manufacturers who dominated the market for many years. Lowest cost and limited functionality has been a big factor here over the past few years.
The UK government is steering the industry to adopt the higher tech smart charging products more common in Europe which is why we have entered the UK market.
How does data feed into a solution like eOperate?
Data can get the right chargers in the right place. Once the charging is installed, a robust back end management system like our eOperate system becomes crucial to figure out the charging pattern, being able to vary tariffs and being able to understand where charging is coming in to be able to use that data to understand what’s behind the system. You have to ensure that the output of charging can be matched by the input and so that data becomes very, very key.
For example, if you’ve got six installed chargers, you might find that those six chargers can’t run at 100% at all times due to the available power supply being below the full output. Having something very high tech like eOperate to be able to look at different ways of managing that bank of chargers becomes absolutely crucial to maximise the customer experience.
Karl Anders will be speaking at Current± publisher Solar Media’s EnTech event in London, which runs 8-9 October 2019 and will discuss the country’s burgeoning energy technology sector. Details of the event and how to attend can be found here.