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Cyber security concerns were profiled in national media reports last month. Image: SSEN.
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EV cyber security, charging reliability and grid relationships highlighted as key emobility hurdles ahead of EV World Congress 2021

Cyber security concerns were profiled in national media reports last month. Image: SSEN.

Cyber security around electric vehicle charging infrastructure, charging reliability and relationships with grid operators have been identified as the key hurdles facing the emobility sector this year.

Those views were expressed by the EV World Congress Advisory Board, assembled by Current± publisher Solar Media, ahead of the 2021 EV World Congress, which takes place next month in Bristol.

The EV World Congress Advisory Board meets on a regular basis to discuss the most pressing issues facing the emobility and EV charging infrastructure sectors with a view of informing and steering the themes and topics that feature on the EV World Congress agenda each year.

Advisory board members agreed that one of the most pressing issues facing the industry is one of cyber security. Concerns regarding the cyber security of certain EV chargers available on the market today emerged earlier this summer when Pen Test Partners, a cyber security research firm, exposed failings in device cyber security which allowed them to effectively alter the operational nature of an EV charger, including turning it on or off and access an owner’s account.

The reports made national headlines in the UK and were followed swiftly by software updates from the manufacturers in question – consumers were urged to update their apps and chargers – however advisory board members voiced concern that consumers could be deterred from purchasing an EV if similar headlines surfaced again.

Tighter legislation around the cyber security of internet-connected devices is looming from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and indeed ensuring cyber security is a condition of chargers that qualify for grants available from the Office of Zero Emission Vehicles’ (OZEV) homecharge scheme. However these conditions should now be reviewed against emerging evidence regarding supposed flaws and tightened to give consumers more confidence.

One particular area of concern surrounding cyber security noted by the advisory board was the potential for a network of devices to be attacked or ‘bricked’ simultaneously, and the prospective impact that would have on a local distribution network should a large number of devices either attempt to charge or disconnect from the grid at any one time. Furthermore, questions were raised over who would be liable – and potentially fined – in the event of such an attack happening and triggering blackouts.

In January 2018 the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre issued new measures and guidance in response to what it labelled an “increasing number of threats” to the country’s power system, stating that utilities that were found to have insufficient cyber defences could face fines of up to £17 million.

It is crucial, therefore, that the emobility sector in its entirety highlight and tackle the issue of cyber security wherever possible, informing tight guidelines on OZEV-compliant chargers and collaborating on industry best practice.

Reliability and relationships

Another issue highlighted by the advisory board was the reliability of publicly accessible charging infrastructure, and in particular destination charging, noted by many members to be another area which holds the potential for reputational damage if it is not addressed in the short-term.

As greater numbers of the public embrace EVs, demand for public charging infrastructure is increasing in tandem. However elements of legacy infrastructure has issues with reliability, members of the advisory board said, with one member lamenting the number of times they had arrived at a public charger only to find it out of service, despite being listed as available by the network operator.

This is also being exacerbated by the introduction of new, faster-charging technologies that have also removed further barriers to adoption such as interoperability and a more complete suite of payment methods. Interoperability is being routinely addressed by network operators, however a more nuanced discussion is required amongst the industry to ensure that upgrades to and maintenance of existing EV charging infrastructure is conducted. This could, the advisory board noted, require policy or regulatory involvement, rather than allowing consumers themselves to effectively self-select the successful charging network operators of today by steering towards more reliable networks and avoiding those with performance issues. Also up for discussion are the need for a broader mix of charging technologies, including on-street charging, and the potential for community charging hubs as part of broader low carbon, microgrid-friendly projects.

One particular strength of the EV World Congress noted by the advisory board is, given its global scope, the potential for those in the emobility sector from all scales of the market to learn from examples of best practice at the city, regional and national level, with case studies from across the world set to be heard.

Charging infrastructure upgrades and broader siting are frequently being determined not by consumer desire or behaviour, but by distribution network operators and grid capacity, prompting calls from advisory board members for more honest and open relationships with grid operators as EV adoption proliferates.

One member of the advisory board gave a specific example of a project’s location that was determined due to network constraints affecting more desirable location, while other members discussed the potential for grid issues to be particularly prevalent in developing EV charging solutions for fleets.

All of the above issues will be discussed at length during next month’s 2021 EV World Congress, charged by BP, takes place between 19 – 20 October 2021 at the Marriott City Centre Hotel in Bristol. The event is to held in a hybrid fashion, meaning delegates can also participate remotely. Further details including ticketing can be found here. The event also coincides with the 2021 Electric Vehicle Innovation and Excellence (EVIE) Awards Ceremony, which is to be held at the Bristol Harbour Hotel on the evening of 19 October 2021. While the nominations deadline has now passed – category shortlists will be published shortly – ticketing details are available here.

The Solar Media EV World Congress Advisory Board members present were Peter McDonald, Nissan; Keith Budden, Cenex; Rachel Swiatek, Energy Savings Trust; Matt Croucher, WSP; Neil Isaacson, Liberty Charge; Melanie Shufflebotham, Zap Map; Sara Sloman, Elmtronics; Ashley Hutchinson, Sinewave; Paul Khullar, Petalite; Leigh Purnell, Petalite, and; John Curtis.

Members of the EV World Congress Advisory Board were present both in person and digitally.
Members of the EV World Congress Advisory Board were present both in person and digitally.
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Current± Staff

The editorial team at Current± Towers.

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