Category: News

Drax launches ‘end-to-end’ C&I electric vehicle service

Energy group Drax has become the latest supplier to take aim at the UK’s nascent EV market, launching an end-to-end EV service targeting C&I customers.

Haven Power, Drax’s energy supply division, has launched the service which comprises EV charging infrastructure installs, operating software, vehicle leasing and renewable electricity supply.

Telematic systems which provide enhanced monitoring of electric vehicles will also be supplied, paving the way for vehicle-to-grid charging trials within Drax’s customer base.

The group has already enlisted its first customer, SES Water, which has taken on 16 new EV charging points to support the electrification of its fleet. SES Water is to initially replace 10 of its diesel vans with electric alternatives.

Drax’s service will help SES determine which vehicles and systems suit the company best, while also providing analysis of different charging methods to minimise fleet downtime and maximise their efficiency.

Jonathan Kini, chief executive at Drax Retail, said that the firm’s experience in the supply market had taught it that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not deliver what’s necessary for companies looking to electrify their fleets.

“Instead, we are working with customers like SES Water as an energy partner, to offer each of them a solution tailored to their specific needs. Giving them the optimal EV package will result in lower carbon emissions and costs, helping them to grow better businesses.”

Drax isn’t the first energy supplier to launch an EV proposition under the premise of it being end-to-end. Late last year ScottishPower unveiled a similarly-billed service using a partnership with vehicle dealership Arnold Clark.

And in January Centrica established an e-mobility division to house its EV-dedicated teams, following its investment in Israeli EV service provider Driivz.

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.

Copyright 2017 Xevent. All rights reserved