Last week’s Everything EV Live conference in London saw representatives from across the e-mobility sector come together to discuss the most pressing opportunities, challenges and stage of change in the market, with a focus on the country’s capital city.
The Current± editorial team was on hand to report from the event, and here are the five key takeaways from Everything EV Live 2019.
Grid upgrade requirements are still a huge barrier to EV infrastructure – but do they have to be?
Needing a grid upgrade is not a problem for the average person when looking to install an EV charger on their driveway. But for those wishing to install multiple chargers on one site, be it a collection of 22kW chargers or one 350kW charger, capacity is suddenly a dreaded word.
The struggles of securing the required capacity, namely the costs associated with a grid upgrade, were a hot topic at the conference. Denise Beedell, policy manager at the Freight Transport Association, said that for fleets, “the actual charge points aren’t necessarily the big spend; the grid reinforcement is.”
However, Beedell did point to other solutions, including battery storage.
UK Power Networks’ head of connections service delivery Neil Madgwick, stressed the importance of exploring other options before requesting an upgrade, in particular “more efficient use” of the energy already on site.
“Smart, flexible solutions have to be our first port of call”, he said, lauding smart charging over other solutions.
“I think we can all agree storage has a roll to play but you shouldn’t reach for storage if you can optimise your charging,” he added.
Sam Clarke, founder of all-electric last-mile delivery service Gnewt, also demonstrated the importance of optimising charging before upgrading, which has previously allowed his company to avoid grid upgrade costs. “There are means and ways of doing things without having to spend the Earth,” he said.
The right chargers must go in the right locations
One of the highly-discussed topics at the conference was ensuring the right chargers with the right speeds went into the ground at suitable locations, matching dwell times with charging speeds.
Speakers gave examples of chargers that were under-utilised as they were installed in locations that weren’t suitable and Adrian Keen, CEO of Instavolt, warned that “nobody can afford to build vanity projects”.
“The sentiment of matching dwell time and speed is bang on. It should be at the heart of all business models,” Keen added.
Ian Hawthorne, assistant director of environment special projects at London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, said “we need a balance” of all charging speeds, but that “it’s about location, as well”.
This was echoed by principle transport planner at the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Mohammed Chibou, on a separate panel discussion, who confirmed “it’s all about the site selection”.
Policing overstaying in charging bays is a contentious issue without a clear answer
For the local authorities attending Everything EV Live, how best to ensure the cars parked in designated charging bays were in fact charging and not either taking advantage of the free parking or already fully charged and not moved on is a trying challenge.
Suggestions for combating it included the introduction of an overstay charge for cars plugged in but not charging, however exactly how to determine this was still up for debate.
Royal Borough of Greenwich’s Mohammed Chibou said his borough had put a £5 overstay fee on their rapid chargers which “seemed to solve the problem”.
For cars in charging bays that aren’t plugged in and therefore can’t be charged overstay as an integrated part of the price paid for charging, Instavolt’s Adrian Keen said there needs to be a way of “levying a fine or utilising the people on the ground”, such as parking attendants.
High costs are a major deterrent
The costs of electric vehicles compared to conventionally-fueled vehicles, despite costs falling slightly as more models come onto the market, has long been a contributing factor to putting consumers off.
However, the cost of buying electric vans – as well as the lack of choice – is a huge problem for fleets looking to electrify, Sara Sloman, zero emission mobility lead at Foot Anstey, said.
For wider electrification, the issue of who should be responsible for footing the costs was also up for debate. Manufacturers, operators, drivers, networks – the answer was unclear.
When it comes to fleet electrification, particularly in the context of grid upgrades and other measures for solving capacity issues, Denise Beedell from the Freight Transport Association said that “at some point we have to actually deal with who pays”.
“The industry can’t continue to be expected to pay for the whole amount”, she said.
London Borough of Hammersmith’s Ian Hawthorne added that it would have to be up to central government and the private sector as “the budget isn’t there” from local authorities.
Smart charging is an essential component of the EV roll out
Smart charging is “absolutely critical,” Chris Wright, co-founder of Moixa, said. His statement was echoed by others on the same panel.
Jeremy Yapp, head of flexible energy systems at BEAMA, described it as “essential” for the EV roll out, and Joseph Cosier, policy executive for new energy and heat at Energy UK said it is “absolutely necessary to unlock all the benefits” of electrification.
Lauded for its ability to avoid those hefty grid upgrade costs, its importance was universally agreed. Although when asked how to convince consumers of this, Yapp argued that “what we don’t have in this country is a coherent narrative on what smart energy management can do”.
A coherent narrative was also lacking among the speakers at the event as to whether not vehicle-to-grid would also play a key role. Many were uncertain how commercially viable it could be, while others touted its flexibility and cost-saving potential.
Wright said that costs would have to come down quite a bit but that Moixa “do see these costs coming down”.
Yapp added that its appeal will likely depend on whether the technology is “suitable, reliable and affordable”, as well as “policy and markets that reward providers of system flexibility”.
The next event in Solar Media’s Everything EV series will see it head to Berlin, Germany, between 18 – 19 February 2020. The event, organised in collaboration with the German Federal Association for eMobility, will tackle the challenges unique to the German EV market. Further details on that event can be found here.