Author: milantopalov

Five things we learned from Everything EV 2019

Last week’s Everything EV conference in central London bought together representatives from across the e-mobility ecosystem to discuss the sector’s direction of travel.

The Current± editorial team was on hand to report from the event, and here are the five key takeaways from Everything EV 2019.

The government’s lack of ambition only risks holding the sector back

The UK government’s stated aim of banning the sale of conventional vehicles by 2040 has definitely jarred with the industry, not least because Scotland, where the policy is devolved, has been far more ambitious by setting its phase-out date at 2032.

That lack of ambition has been widely criticised, and it was no different at the Grange St Pauls Hotel last week.

Labour MP and member of the BEIS select committee Peter Kyle was forthright in his opinion that such a stated lack of ambition, coupled with the political gridlock Brexit has created in Westminster, could see the UK cede any potential leadership of the e-mobility industry to international rivals.

Kyle revealed it was the committee’s opinion that the date should be brought forward from 2040 to somewhere between Scotland’s 2032 and Norway’s phase-out date of 2025, around about the late-2020s. While setting such a date wouldn’t immediately hand the UK a leading role in the electrification of road transport across the world, it would certainly give it a headstart.

Associated technologies are critical to business models… for now

Utilisation rates have been a crucial factor in making EV charging infrastructure work from a commercial perspective, with investors perhaps uneasy to finance installations without the guarantee of them being used and, as a result, those installs securing revenue.

One panel during the event zeroed in on this particular issue, ultimately concluding that while revenue certainty remains a barrier, there are ample options to sidestep it.

One solution that is becoming increasingly viable is the addition of additional, associated technologies to installations in order to bolster revenue ‘stacks’. We heard from Gridserve chief executive Toddington Harper, who spoke of his company’s combination of renewable generation and large-scale battery storage plant to provide vital grid services.

Utilisation rates will of course gradually decrease as an issue the more EVs can penetrate the automotive market, however the event also heard confidence in the rapidly growing electrified fleets market to play a crucial role in seeing the sector through.

Interoperability must happen, and at scale

It’s no secret that charging an electric vehicle using public infrastructure can be a complex activity. There are a number of different apps, cards, and accounts needed to top up an EV. Interoperability is a word being banded around regularly, often cited as something that will need to be implemented if EV uptake is to increase.

The need for a simplified, uniform charging system was stressed by several industry members speaking at the event, with Dale Eynon, director of Defra Group Fleet Services at the Environment Agency saying that charging needs to be made consumer friendly. He suggested making it so all EV drivers are able to pay using their debit card alone. Eynon also said that interoperability wouldn’t prevent the creation of unique products.

The need for collaboration was also stated by head of strategy at Connected Kerb, Chris Pateman-Jones, saying that “the time of operating alone is over”.

The need for consumer education

One thing that repeatedly cropped up in discussions during the conference was the increasing need for more consumer education, with many in the room agreeing that more was needed if the uptake of electric vehicles is to increase. Most notably, and of frequent discussion by panellists and speakers alike, were anxieties surrounding the range of EVs and ease of charging.

Head of roads policy for the AA, Jack Cousens, said a survey of AA members showed that 8/10 of respondents were reluctant to purchase an EV because of a perceived lack of charging infrastructure. Cousens added that more needed to be done to “get the message across” that there are more charge points than is the public perception.

Cousens’ opinion was echoed by other attendees. Senior transport planner for Nottingham City Council, Mark Daly, said that there is a lot of myth-busting that needs to be done, although he also said he believed the tide is turning.

Co-founder and director of Abundance Investment, Louise Wilson, agreed that people now wanted to listen but more had to be done to “cut through our busy lives and create the means of education.”

Collaboration is key

Of all the themes, topics and trends discussed at the conference, one of the most prevalent however was collaboration. The event was attended by representatives from across the supply chain, from OEMs, technology and solutions providers, energy companies and end users alike.

And while there is of course competition between those companies to stake their claim in e-mobility, there is far greater clamour for the industry to collaborate and hold the discussions necessary to drive the sector forward.

National Grid’s Graeme Cooper was willing to bet with any of the 225+ delegates that if they don’t already own an electric vehicle nor currently plan for their next car to be electric, then the vehicle after that will certainly be electric. That will require a countrywide infrastructure network that provides an experience as seamless and intuitive as consumers currently get at the petrol pump.

The only way that’s likely to happen is with a sector-wide collaborative effort, and Everything EV provided a platform for such an effort to take hold.

Revenue security the most challenging EV infrastructure hurdle remaining

Security and predictability over revenue remains the most challenging aspect of securing investment for EV infrastructure, but the prospect of a government grab to replace fuel duty could change that in the future.

Those were the key takeaways from a panel discussion on emerging EV infrastructure investment trends at today’s Everything EV conference, where a packed room of delegates heard from finance professionals about how EV infrastructure business models were evolving.

Stirling Habbitts, senior lead for project finance at ethical bank Triodos, said that forecasting revenues remained the most challenging aspect of financing EV charging infrastructure with few long-term contracts available.

This, Habbitts added, had led to investments becoming a “location play”, with charge points based near high-demand areas such as taxi ranks and bus depots emerging as the direction of travel given their expected demand.

“This goes a long way to providing the comfort we need [to invest],” Habbitts said.

Axel Jaegle, commercial finance specialist at the government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority, echoed Habbitts’ comments, adding that “big uncertainties” remained over demand.

This led Jaegle to conclude that kilowatt-hours “can’t be the only income stream” for EV infrastructure, alluding to the use of battery storage and flexibility capabilities as additional revenues to justify investments.

Jonathan Maxwell, CEO at Sustainable Development Capital, disagreed however, suggesting that ongoing fleet electrification in urban areas and increasing demand from the last mile economy offered “so much predictability” over asset utilisation that concerns could be alleviated.

But the panel was dealt with a further question by moderator Chris Pritchett, head of energy at law firm Foot Anstey, who raised the prospect of further regulatory risks on the horizon.

As electric vehicles replace conventional counterparts, HM Treasury is facing the real possibility of a collapse in revenue from fuel duty. If HMT wanted to plug that hole, Pritchett asked, could the government seek to add a tax on EV electricity consumption that could impact on future business models?

The panel appeared split over that prospect, and Habbitts concluded that such a tax grab could be “fairly likely” and would feasibly be included in the regulatory risk of any business model.

Maxwell was of the opinion however that given the air quality benefits of decarbonising road transport, HMT may be wise to resist the urge to replace fuel duty with an electric alternative.

Brexit gridlock at risk of costing UK leading EV position, MP warns

The policy and legislative gridlock created by Brexit is at risk of costing the UK a leading position in the global electric vehicle market, Peter Kyle MP has said.

Speaking at today’s Everything EV conference, organised by Current± publisher Solar Media, Kyle warned that the current level of government ambition on electric vehicles is not fit to meet consumer demand.

The government has stood behind its target to phase out the sale of conventionally-fuelled vehicles by 2040 despite mounting opposition and Kyle, who serves on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee, said that the government’s refusal to budge on the policy had been a “real source of frustration” for the committee.

He added that it was the committee’s desire for the government to be more ambitious than most economies and set a phase-out date of the late 2020s, but there has been little movement despite such a date being supported by the Committee on Climate Change, amongst others.

Kyle said that the debates surrounding electric vehicle adoption and infrastructure “should be front and centre” given their importance, but are being “squeezed out by Brexit”.

The MP for Hove spoke of a Westminster all but paralysed by Brexit – he himself had been in the House of Commons aiming to negotiate a compromise to “end the gridlock” – with whatever resource that is available being dedicated towards the ongoing negotiations.

This lack of movement meant that UK economy was now at risk of getting left behind, with the country’s growing EV sector possibly forced into procuring from Chinese or Indian competitors as the country’s domestic sector is left behind.

“The window of opportunity is open, but it won’t stay open for long. Britain must assert itself,” Kyle added.

He called for central government to be far more assertive and strategic when it comes to policy and work closely and cooperatively with manufacturers to identify and allay the barriers to public adoption of EVs.

“We need to be doing so much more… We must get a grip centrally,” Kyle said.

Day one of Everything EV continues throughout Tuesday (2 April 2019) and into tomorrow (3 April 2019), and all the developments will be covered on Current± in the coming days. A select few last-minute tickets for the conference are still available and can be purchased here.

GRIDSERVE unveils £1 billion ‘Electric Forecourt’ EV infrastructure programme

GRIDSERVE has unveiled plans to install a UK-wide network of ‘Electric Forecourts’, delivering ultra-fast EV charging for the public.

More than 100 forecourts are to be developed at strategic locations under a five-year plan valued at around £1 billion.

Each forecourt will feature dedicated zones for both private and fleet vehicles such as taxis, buses and delivery vehicles, and also incorporate a range of facilities for drivers to access while vehicles are charged including coffee shops, convenience stores and airport-style lounges with high-speed internet.

The firm has partnered with EV charging infrastructure specialist ChargePoint for the projects.

Chargers with speeds up to 500kW are to be made available for cars and light commercial vehicles, capable of fully charging modern EVs in less than 10 minutes. Multi-megawatt charging options for buses and heavy goods vehicles will also be accessible.

In addition, new solar farms to be constructed to supply the forecourts with clean power, while “multi-megawatt batteries” will be used to provide grid services. And it is this additional infrastructure which GRIDSERVE said would allow it to provide EV charging at prices which are competitive with home and destination charging.

Toddington Harper, chief executive at GRIDSERVE, said the intent was to make charging EVs as easy as using petrol stations.

“The latest generation of electric vehicles are awesome, and ready for mainstream adoption, but drivers still worry about if or where they can charge, how long it will take, and what it will cost.

“We plan to eliminate any range or charging anxiety by building a UK-wide network of customer-focussed, brand new Electric Forecourts that will make it easier and cheaper to use an electric vehicle than a petrol or diesel alternative,” he said.

Construction at the first sites at York and Hull, where GRIDSERVE is developing groundbreaking new subsidy-free solar-plus-storage sites, is to start later this year.

Locations for 80 sites have already been secured, placing the forecourts on busy routes near grid connections that are close to towns, cities and transport hubs.

An App is also in development which will seek to better driver experiences, including the capability to reserve charging slots and pay for ancillary services such as car washing. Frequent users of the forecourts will also accrue loyalty points – dubbed Road Miles – which can be used onsite.

The unveiling of more detailed plans comes around eight months after the company first broke cover with its Electric Forecourts initiative, announcing it at last year’s EV Infrastructure Summit.

Toddington Harper will be speaking at next week’s Everything EV, organised by Current± publisher Solar Media, in central London next week. Tickets for the event can still be purchased here.

GRIDSERVE unveils £1 billion ‘Electric Forecourt’ EV infrastructure programme

GRIDSERVE has unveiled plans to install a UK-wide network of ‘Electric Forecourts’, delivering ultra-fast EV charging for the public.

More than 100 forecourts are to be developed at strategic locations under a five-year plan valued at around £1 billion.

Each forecourt will feature dedicated zones for both private and fleet vehicles such as taxis, buses and delivery vehicles, and also incorporate a range of facilities for drivers to access while vehicles are charged including coffee shops, convenience stores and airport-style lounges with high-speed internet.

The firm has partnered with EV charging infrastructure specialist ChargePoint for the projects.

Chargers with speeds up to 500kW are to be made available for cars and light commercial vehicles, capable of fully charging modern EVs in less than 10 minutes. Multi-megawatt charging options for buses and heavy goods vehicles will also be accessible.

In addition, new solar farms to be constructed to supply the forecourts with clean power, while “multi-megawatt batteries” will be used to provide grid services. And it is this additional infrastructure which GRIDSERVE said would allow it to provide EV charging at prices which are competitive with home and destination charging.

Toddington Harper, chief executive at GRIDSERVE, said the intent was to make charging EVs as easy as using petrol stations.

“The latest generation of electric vehicles are awesome, and ready for mainstream adoption, but drivers still worry about if or where they can charge, how long it will take, and what it will cost.

“We plan to eliminate any range or charging anxiety by building a UK-wide network of customer-focussed, brand new Electric Forecourts that will make it easier and cheaper to use an electric vehicle than a petrol or diesel alternative,” he said.

Construction at the first sites at York and Hull, where GRIDSERVE is developing groundbreaking new subsidy-free solar-plus-storage sites, is to start later this year.

Locations for 80 sites have already been secured, placing the forecourts on busy routes near grid connections that are close to towns, cities and transport hubs.

An App is also in development which will seek to better driver experiences, including the capability to reserve charging slots and pay for ancillary services such as car washing. Frequent users of the forecourts will also accrue loyalty points – dubbed Road Miles – which can be used onsite.

The unveiling of more detailed plans comes around eight months after the company first broke cover with its Electric Forecourts initiative, announcing it at last year’s EV Infrastructure Summit.

Toddington Harper will be speaking at next week’s Everything EV, organised by Current± publisher Solar Media, in central London next week. Tickets for the event can still be purchased here.

Shell Energy boss pledges supply revolution as firm issues ‘statement of intent’

Shell Energy said its decision to rebrand was a “line in the sand” as it pledged to kick-start a consumer-facing revolution in the supply market.

Earlier this week Shell rebranded its First Utility unit as Shell Energy, switching all of its customers to renewable power supply in the process, a decision which chief executive Colin Crooks described as “bold” given Shell’s brand identity and position.

Speaking at yesterday’s Future of Utilities Summit, Crooks said that the rebrand was a “line in the sand, a statement of intent” from Shell to play a leading role in the energy transition.

“For Shell, the energy transition is not just a matter of survival, it’s a massive business opportunity and it’s imperative to respond,” Crooks said.

Crooks used forthcoming climate targets as a backdrop for its rebrand, arguing that the challenges the energy industry will have to the face in the coming years are “unprecedented”, and would require consumers to be brought into the proposition at every corner.

“That shift won’t happen unless we put the customer experience front and centre. It won’t happen unless we make propositions that are easy, compelling and quite frankly unnoticeable for the customer,” he said.

Shell Energy’s launch offering includes a raft of discounts and special offers, some of which lean heavily on its other brands and business units. All of the supplier’s customers will receive 100% renewable power – and, at current prices, significantly cheaper than some of its rivals – alongside a 3% discount at Shell-branded petrol pumps, free Nest smart thermostats and discounted NewMotion EV chargers.

Crooks confirmed yesterday that sonnen-branded home batteries will soon follow in what could be a game changer for the UK industry. Sonnen’s batteries, dubbed by Crooks yesterday as the “best home battery storage solution in the world”, have already been deployed in the UK through other partners, but offering them at discounted rates to Shell Energy’s 700,000-strong customer base stands to ramp up installation rates significantly.

The Shell Energy rebrand has capped off a frantic start to the year for the O&G major’s New Energies division, joined by both its acquisitions of sonnen and virtual power plant specialist Limejump. They join the likes of EV charging firms NewMotion and Greenlots within the New Energies department which also counts consumer billing app Wonderbill as a product.

Crooks said they all contributed towards Shell’s vision of the energy future, where the customer is fully in control.

“What’s exciting about this is that each part of the story is actually working somewhere in the world. We haven’t had to invent it all from scratch… but while much of the world does some of this well, nowhere is pulling it all together.

“And that’s the opportunity we see today, to find the best people, to invest in the best technologies and bring them together in ways which empower and excite our customers,” Crooks said.

Extending the olive branch

Crooks also used his time on stage to acknowledge the richly competitive landscape that the UK’s supply market has become. More than 10 independent suppliers have ceased to trade since the start of last year and earlier in the day, the likes of E.On UK chief Michael Lewis and Engie boss Wilfred Petrie railed on the introduction of the SVT price cap which, they said, was the wrong policy to introduce.

But, despite those pressures, supply markets in Europe are not short of willing participants, especially from outside the energy sector entirely. Crooks pointed to Volkswagen’s decision to launch a supply division and Mitsubishi’s purchase of a stake in UK challenger OVO, stating that Shell “welcomed” the competition.

But, he said, it was time for energy companies to work together, alongside government and other regulators, to ensure the transition takes hold.

“We need to move collectively to the next phase of the energy transition. We want to work with government to deliver an inclusive energy transition, one where low carbon energy moves from a ‘nice to have’ to an essential service,” he said.

Crooks delivered a wish-list of government regulation that he said would go some way to improving the landscape for consumers, alongside far more rigorous building standards and deeper incentives for energy efficiency technologies, as well as “time-limited incentives” for heat and battery storage technologies which would allow low income households to access time of use tariffs that can save them money.

He also said a reform of EV charging was in order, mandating that customers can charge any time, anywhere and with any provider, encouraging the move to open, collaborative charging networks.

“These simple changes and others like them will ensure the UK remains not only a leader in the energy transition, but that the UK energy transition continues to enjoy popular support,” he said.

Crooks’ overriding message was that while the energy transition was unquestionably a long-term endeavour that would require “enormous levels of investment and profound changes in consumer behaviour”, its success was imperative.

“We don’t know exactly how the energy transition will play out, how long it will take or the perfect mix of products and services to enthuse and excite our customers, but we do know the path of technological disruption has never been more profound… our job now is to work together to translate these innovations into a better customer experience for all customers, and to show that we, the energy sector, are on their side as we move to a cleaner, smarter energy system.”

Juiced up: Octopus targets electric transport sector with new green power service

Two Octopus Energy units have collaborated to launch Electric Juice, a green power supply service targeted specifically at the electric transport sector.

Electric Juice, a collaboration between Octopus’ business supply and EV divisions, will supply renewable electricity to transportation businesses at lower prices, overcoming a significant barrier that arose during Octopus’ consultations with EV charging operators last year.

The company is aiming to sign up business customers from across the transport sector, ranging from fleet operators to charging network companies.

The new service comprises four, flexible tariffs that electric transport companies can choose from;

  • -EJ non half-hourly, a starter tariff for companies whose main energy demand is through peak periods and designed to help avoid price exposure on distribution charges.
  • -EJ TRI, a fixed, three-tiered tariff that splits charges throughout the day into peak, off-peak and night rates.
  • -EJ half hourly, a custom-built tariff designed to match a company’s half-hourly consumption profile, geared towards high-capacity rapid chargers and companies seeking Time of Use benefits
  • -EJ Agile, mirroring Octopus’ existing Agile Tariff which tracks day-ahead wholesale costs and prevents excessive chargers during peak periods.

Electric Juice will also offer firms that sign up to their tariffs data-led analysis to select which tariff would be best for them based on their needs, and a recommended metering strategy based on their usage profiles.

Reviews are taken every six months to ensure businesses remain on the best tariff structure for them.

Zoisa Walton, director at Octopus Energy for Business, said: “A significant barrier to securing our electric transport future is the availability of suitable charging infrastructure.

“We wanted to support those innovators who have already or are looking to enter the EV charging space in the UK by helping them access the best electricity costs to build into their business models.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Octopus Energy chief Greg Jackson, who said there had been a significant increase in demand for renewables and smart tariffs from across the electric transportation sector in the past year.

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