Charging ahead to an electric future
In order to meet the needs emerging from EV growth, countries, cities, and municipalities need to align with this advancement
Electric Vehicles (EVs) are forecast to be 54% of global new car sales by 2040, and there are several reasons for their growth, including:
• The need to comply with government targets for CO2 emissions reduction
• An improvement in battery technology; resulting in increased range and reduced costs
• The trend towards autonomous vehicles – it is easier to build this capability into an electric vehicle which has fewer moving parts
• Charging infrastructure installations (public & private), are projected to grow from around 2 million in 2016 to 12 million+ by 2020
In order to meet the needs emerging from EV growth, countries, cities, and municipalities need to align with this advancement and implement appropriate charging infrastructure; enable interoperability between charge point network operators, ensure transparent financial models & standard technical specifications.
A mixture of organisations have seized the opportunity to implement charging infrastructure; this has ranged from automakers such as Tesla who has its own propriety chargers; a consortium between BMW, VW, Ford and Daimler has been set up to standardize charging across Europe, we have seen the emergence of public charging networks with different types of charging hardware, fuel providers such as Shell are now looking to enhance their services by incorporating electric charging at their service stations, and there are thousands of ‘destination’ chargers (for example, at locations where you would typically spend a few hours such as hotels or restaurants) provided by different organisations around the world.
Whilst the upsurge in charging facilities will support the growth in EVs; and is positive news for the industry, it is crucial for these organisations which span across different industries and sectors, to come together and agree on standard technical specifications. Today, we can take our internal combustion engine vehicle to any fuel station in any part of the world; and we will be able to fill up and know what the cost of filling our tank will be. We need to reach a point where electric vehicle charging infrastructure is standardized regardless of the brand of vehicle and your geographic location; and the cost of filling the battery is clear upfront.
Another area which requires further development is that of interoperability between network operators. Today, a typical EV user needs to download various apps; set up associated accounts – some are pay per use, others have monthly subscriptions, some charging network operators require you to apply for a physical membership card (which means waiting a few days for the card to come through before you can use that particular charge point; not useful if you are in the middle of a journey and need to charge).
We are beginning to see the emergence of new services such as BMW’s Charge Now, which, partnered with various network operators in various geographies, provides users with access to a wide range of chargers using one account. As more and more automakers start to set up agreements with different network providers in different geographies, this will result in a web of complex agreements being formed across these different industries. However, for the end user, the ability to charge at any location without having to worry about who the network operator will be and whether they have an account with them, what type of charging hardware there is, and what mechanism they will use to pay for it, is when they will be convinced that EV ownership is truly a practical alternative.
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