Implementing the green industrial revolution

Interview by James Steward, Director

20th November 2020

Implementing the green industrial revolution

Why collaboration is key to driving adoption and realizing the government’s new green vision

Interview by James Steward, Director

The government has just announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. This news brings the deadline forward a whole ten years sooner than originally expected.

Forming part of a new “green industrial revolution” to tackle climate change and generate much needed employment, the government is positioning the ban as a major step towards meeting the UK’s ambitious 2050 net zero target.

Despite the fanfare of this bold announcement, which should clearly be welcomed on many levels, the tough realities of implementation now stand before us.

While the disruption of the pandemic continues to impact hugely on consumer spending, the move towards greener mobility is starting to travel in the right direction. A clear example is shown by the latest statistics on electric vehicle (EV) sales, rising 172% in October, compared to last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The move to electric vehicles is considered as one of the fundamental solutions to achieving the UK’s environmental targets. However, many obstacles stand in the way. From range anxiety to lack of infrastructure, there is a long way to go before we will be living out the prime minister’s green vision.

We spoke to leading expert in the field of electric vehicles, Arun Anand, founder and CEO of Electric Miles, a software firm spearheading smart EV charging, to find out his view on the recent news and what more needs to be done to drive widespread adoption.

James Steward (JS): What does the government’s announcement mean for the future of electric vehicles and for your business?

Arun Anand (AA): The ban had been planned for 2040 but has been brought forward by a decade through Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan to tackle climate change. This is tremendous for the EV industry, and we welcome the law for the UK car market.

Fewer than 1% of cars on UK roads are currently powered entirely by electricity, so the prime minister’s plan to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will require an enormous investment in the infrastructure needed for electric vehicles.

Hence, the government has said it will fund £1.3 billion to accelerate the roll-out of charge points for electric vehicles in homes, streets and on motorways across England.

We know the future is electric and this news has given a real boost to the EV sector.

For a young start-up like us, it means we continue to press on with the deployment of our SMART intelligent charging software to businesses and home users. We are confident mass deployment will happen and we will achieve this pivotal green industrial revolution.

JS: What are your ambitions as the government doubles down on its efforts to accelerate the green economy and move to more environmentally friendly mobility solutions?

AA: Electric Miles has made charging seamless and easy with intelligent charging software for EV owners, fleet operators and charge point manufacturers. Our platform ensures you will always have the right charge in your vehicle at the right time, at the right cost and at the right carbon impact.

With this news, we can safely assume that every personal driver or business fleet in the UK will now be thinking of “which” EV to get rather than “why”. There will be millions of new drivers switching over to electric every year. They’ll be entering unknown territory when it comes to charging, especially.

The National Grid says it is confident that it is “suitably robust to cope with the forecast uptake in electric vehicles” from 2030, as long as the majority of charging happens overnight. This means drivers and fleets will need to deploy SMART charging. If consumers fail to adopt SMART charging, then the National Grid will struggle to cope with peak demand, which is expected to go up by 30%.

Considering the importance of smart charging, we will be looking to open source our software so that more charge point manufacturers are able to integrate with us, so we are able to deploy SMART charging capabilities more widely. We are also working closely with OEMs to be able to integrate with EVs, such as being able to remotely turn charging on and off, based on the consumer need as well as the National Grid.

We are also on plan to deploy demand side response Grid Flexibility (V1G) with the contracts we secured, delivering eight megawatts (MW) of flexibility across South East England, the East of England, London, the Midlands, South Wales and the South West for Wester Power Distribution (WPD) and UK Power Networks (UKPN). This will give us an edge to learn from this experience, and then be able to execute on Vehicle 2 Grid, once it becomes commercially ready to deliver.

JS: Critics are saying the allocated £4 billion outlined by the government is not big enough for the scale of the challenge ahead. Do you agree? What more needs to be done to achieve the “green industrial revolution” as the prime minister puts it?

AA: The government says it will spend £12 billion on the plan, but the truth of the matter is that only £4 billion of that is new money. While this announcement is very welcoming, it alone will not be enough to get the UK to net-zero. A transport think tank, backed by Quadrature Climate Foundation, has warned that the number of fossil fuel cars likely to roll onto British roads before the ban will be enough to blow the UK’s carbon budgets.

We do need to comfort drivers and businesses around their range anxiety – and no they won’t be stranded on the hard shoulder of a motorway with no charge – and we need to instil confidence by building the right infrastructure in the right places for public high powered ultra rapid chargers. To put this funding into context, it is only a fraction of the investment compared to £100 million spent on the HS2 project. I think Government needs to understand the scale of this green industrial revolution and stay committed to it for funding and regulation.

JS: EV adoption has clearly advanced greatly in the last few years but there’s a long way to go in terms of widespread adoption. What do you see as the biggest barriers and how do you think we can overcome them?

AA: To break this down, when it comes to personal EV adoption for social and domestic purposes, the three main barriers are:

1) EVs are too expensive. We are aware cost is a big barrier to move to EVs, but we are hoping that as Technology improves, choices will get wider, and eventually prices will fall for consumers to switch. If you look at the total cost of ownership over five years, some EVs are already cheaper than ICE vehicles.

2) Range Anxiety. I think we need to bust this myth, as per the Department of Transport, 98% of our daily commute needs are less than 50 miles. An average EV, even today, gives you over 100 miles. Smart Intelligent Charging is the way to go.

3) Not enough public charge points. Again, we need to bust this myth. There are more EV charging stations than there are fuel stations in the country. Also, 90% of charging will happen at home, and with home charging apps like ours, we will ensure customers always have the right charge, at the right cost, for the lowest carbon.

The major hurdles for fleet operators to switch to EVs are the limited grid capacity at the distribution supply operator to manage their charging. If the fleet business exceeds their kVA, it can be severe. They could overload the supply, leaving them with no electricity until costly repairs can be made. To top this, the network upgrade costs upwards of £100,000 and has a 12-month waiting time.

At Electric Miles, we have built a clever algorithm to tackle this. For fleet scenarios, our optimisation engine reduces the required charging peak power by 50 to 70%, which in turn reducing the CAPEX and OPEX spend for a customer by 30%. We will ensure businesses are automatically charging the majority of their fleets during off peak tariffs. Our intelligent methods prioritise vehicles based on the time of the drivers shift the next day and how much exact charge is necessary for the next trip.

JS: What advice would you give other businesses in the green mobility sector, looking to leverage this new announcement from the government?

AA: I think this definitely is welcome news, and the industry has to celebrate it. But we need to stay real, focussed, and align to our strengths. The challenge ahead of us is immense – but so is the opportunity. Key to these developments are four trends most easily remembered by the acronym ACES: autonomous driving, connectivity, the electrification of vehicles, and shared mobility.

No one company can achieve all of these four trends, so collaboration is key. It’s the only way forward to ensure businesses and the government are able to meet impending sustainable and commercial needs. This is especially the case in newer markets, such as smart mobility. Here, different domains, such as automotive, energy and utilities, all have to work together with government regulations to build products to achieve the same goal of net-zero by 2050.

I think it is paramount to understand that there is enough business for everyone if we get it right. There should be a focus on creating great products using collaboration, rather than thinking they can do it all and alone in-silo. Doing this will only slow the market for growth and this hockey curve demand will never be able to be met. Treat tech start-ups as key partners and use their agility towards quicker and slicker product development rather than a threat.

 

The road ahead

The latest news on banning petrol and diesel cars is a robust signal from the government that it is getting serious on environmental issues. The next major hurdle will be to create a widespread change in mindset and behaviour of consumers. This will be no easy feat. Traditional automotive manufacturers and innovative technology providers will need to work closely together to win hearts and minds, allay fears and bust myths, if we want to truly get on the road to a greener future.

To hear more on how the industry can make steps to encourage increased adoption of greener mobility solutions, tune into our upcoming podcast. We’ll be speaking to leading experts on the matter as we attempt to unravel the road ahead.

 

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