What do you think is currently the biggest roadblock to the EV transition in the UK?
There’s no single roadblock. Vehicle manufactures, charger manufactures, network operators, EV charging service providers, the national grid, distribution network operators, utilities, automotive after sales market, local authorities as well as central government are all having to collaborate to overcome their own specific challenges.
From an EV infrastructure perspective, we’d like to see central government setting out policies that allow local government to be flexible and meet the needs of local people, whilst avoiding a confusing and inconsistent asset base of EV infrastructure across the UK. In addition, the private sector must be able to work on commercial models that are profitable, returning on a high capital investment with a potential underutilisation risk.
Once policies and commercial models are in place, we will be in a much stronger position to implement EV infrastructure necessary for the sustained and long-term growth and utilisation of EVs in the UK. The sector will of course need to ensure it has the skills to ensure safe and high-quality installation and maintenance services.
Siemens Mobility has invested significantly in our EVI teams for over 10 years now, and as a result is able to provide the highest-quality service to the EV sector, now and in the future.
What do you think the impact of the 2035 ban on hybrids, as well as ICE vehicles, will be on charging infrastructure and demand?
Demand will rise more rapidly and sooner than previous forecasts. This makes it even more imperative for both the UK public and private sectors to have realistic delivery plans to provide the necessary infrastructure to meet that demand.
As well as the accelerated ICE ban date, increasing numbers of UK cities are now introducing new clean air zones and diesel bans. This will, inevitably, make people consider running an EV rather than a liquid fuel vehicle. We are already hearing anecdotal evidence that people are saying their next vehicle will be an EV, rather than the one after next.
The climate focus also causes people to give serious thought to their own impact on the environment, and vehicle choice is a major factor. This is going to increase demand on EV infrastructure including destination, workplace, high-powered hubs and home charging. On the last point, we must ensure that EV charging infrastructure in the UK is fair and conveniently accessible to all, and not just those that have off street parking.
At Siemens Mobility we are focusing on providing innovative, reliable hardware alongside excellent service to meet this demand.
How important will interoperability be going forwards, and what steps are needed to achieve it?
Interoperability is critical! Although people may have a loyalty preference to a certain fuel brand, most, if not all, drivers want to be able to refuel anywhere when necessary. The same is true of EV charging.
Consider for a moment the basic act of parking; people have a digital wallet full of parking providers, yet often find they need to register on yet another app to park at a new carpark. Far from ideal, but at least we usually have the option to pay with coins! EV drivers want to use chargers without having to register for a new subscription service each time.
The industry in the UK is composed of ‘walled gardens’ of different operators – interoperability will require a cross-industry collaboration, possibly with the help of an aggregator of services, in which operators agree to refuel other operators’ customers, probably at a transfer-price premium. This is similar to how mobile phone networks operate: with customers belonging to the same network calling each other at a preferential rate and calls across networks being charged at a premium.
A parallel enabler will be the predicted wide-scale uptake of Contactless Payments on EV chargers. These will be, by definition, interoperable and we are likely to see a move towards these ‘un-operated’ standalone EV chargers with direct payment solutions. These will be quicker to install and will be attractive to land-owners who wish to provide EV facilities without becoming operators.
Such facilities should provide AC and DC charging. AC for its simplicity, cost-saving and acceptance across the industry, and DC for its speed. We believe a mix of the two will be used with AC mainly in on-street residential schemes, carparks and destinations, and DC at destinations and public charging plazas.
The key to ensuring interoperability is to have clear open standards, supported by energy suppliers, car and EV charging equipment manufacturers and network operators, with active multi-disciplinary industry groups working supporting ongoing development.
How much of an impact will vehicle to grid (V2G) and Smart Charging solutions have on customer charging experience and behaviour?
Smart Charging allows us to install more EV chargers at a location than the power provision at peak allows for. A co-located network of chargers can interoperate to fairly distribute power from a restricted supply to a population of EVs making efficient use of available capacity.
V2G is a natural evolution of this and allows every EV driver to become a ‘prosumer’ – both a producer and consumer – when connected to a Smart network: if there is a sudden demand for power above the peak capacity on a network, fully-charged EVs may be authorised to sell their power back into the grid meet immediate demand. The technology for this exists; the blockage is regulatory. Siemens Mobility is engaged with Ofgem and Elexon to drive improvements to the legislation to allow this kind of power trading.
The problem is a lack of standardisation, or even agreement on what the terms mean at the implementation level.
One thing to consider is the harmful, deleterious effect of power cycling on the vehicle batteries – and this is difficult to communicate to users if they are to make informed decisions of the cost benefit of selling their power. Rapid development of battery chemistry and thermal management is likely to mitigate this in the medium term, however it is likely to slow the adoption of V2G in the short term. The most likely adoption route for this technology is for home-owners to use their own car as battery backup for the house (instead of a Tesla Powerwall, for instance), and only later will we see it gain wider adoption in public infrastructure.
It is our opinion that Smart Charging and V2G will facilitate a much wider uptake of EVs because they de-couple the demands of EV charging from the limitations of the power grid. As always, open, simple and clear standards, backed by industry discussion forums, will aid compatibility and improve the experience of the user.
How could Private and Public sector collaboration be improved to accelerate EV uptake and charging network expansion?
The public and private sectors need to collaborate to ensure that models can meet the needs of local people and work commercially. Local Authorities will need to ensure that they have a certain amount of flexibility to allow the private sector to be innovative and sustainable.
The end goal must be that the private sector can provide EV charging infrastructure to people that is safe, reliable and provides real value. Siemens Mobility has worked with Coventry City Council and Bristol City Council using different approaches, both cities deciding on an approach following market testing and taking time to understand their community’s local needs. Siemens Mobility is proud to be building EV charging networks in both cities alongside our partners.
Scott Bishop will be speaking at the EV World Congress, where EV experts from across the globe will gather to discuss the rapidly expanding sector. The event, organised by Current± publisher Solar Media, is to take place at the Marriott Hotel City Centre in Bristol between 29-30 April 2020. Further details of the event, including how to attend, can be found here.