Making electric mobility mainstream is one of the biggest challenges and opportunities we face. If electrification of transportation is successful, it will bring many benefits in the form of better air quality, lower operating costs for vehicles and environmental savings – not to mention better vehicle performance. E-mobility also represents an important opportunity to overhaul our energy infrastructure and make necessary investments in renewables and new grid technologies.
There is a clear need for the e-mobility industry to create a truly energy efficient and sustainable form of global transport, but opportunities and challenges remain. From policymakers to automakers, businesses to drivers, all types of players need to work together to bring e-mobility to the mainstream and enable sustainable travel.
EVs improve air quality
People are increasingly concerned about sustainability and environmental issues, particularly at the local level. According to our research, nearly half (49%) of UK consumers are concerned about the air quality in their community. Furthermore, the majority of consumers (51%) think the local authority should be doing more to improve air quality. This perspective is particularly common among 16-29 year olds (56%) and 30-44 year olds (57%).
EVs lower emissions overall and centralise them at power plants where electricity is generated, helping clear the air where people live. However, there is a significant gap between consumer intent and consumer action in the form of EV adoption. It seems that consumers recognise the role that EVs can play when it comes to improving air quality in their area, but are yet to take the plunge and drive electric. To encourage adoption, communities can promote how driving EVs improves local air quality.
EVs put (positive) pressure on the energy market
As the benefits of driving electric combine with a boom in renewable energy, e-mobility will continue to get even greener as additional sources of renewable energy are added to the grid. Charging stations can run on renewable energy, keeping down emissions and potentially electricity costs. By 2040, 34% of electricity worldwide will come from wind and solar, and renewables continue to become more affordable, making driving electric both environmentally and financially sustainable.
The UK once had a relaxed take on the energy market, but recent major policy commitments, the increase of decentralised energy installations and the growth of domestic and grid-scale storage, combined with the changing needs of consumers and businesses, are making a restructuring of the electricity market not just inevitable, but fundamental. This restructuring should centre on renewables.
Technology accelerates the transition to e-mobility
There is no doubt that EVs will put increased pressure on the UK’s power grids. Energy demand is typically highest at the end of the working day, which is also when most drivers plug in their EVs at home. Fortunately, it’s easy to shift energy demand from EVs with scheduled charging. Drivers can still plug in when they get home, but use a smart charger to schedule charging later at night when other demand is low (and electricity costs are, too).
National Grid is already committed to procuring 30-50% of balancing services from demand-side sources rather than power stations. Smart chargers and time-of-use tariffs will help support the transition to e-mobility and make EV charging demand more predictable. It must remain easy for EV users to delay their charge to soften peaks in demand on the grid and fill in the troughs, particularly at times when power is more abundant, clean and cheaper for drivers.
In addition, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology allows EVs to function like a giant battery with an intelligent software interface feeding power from the vehicle to the grid, or vice-versa, on an as-needed basis. The technology is being proven with large-scale projects in the UK that started in late 2016 under Nissan’s leadership. Among these, vehicle-to grid chargers were installed at Newcastle University. In addition to providing energy and power services to the grid when the car is parked, these chargers can also ensure that the EV’s battery is fully charged when the driver needs it.
Charging ahead together
Consumers are motivated to drive electric vehicles for health, environmental and financial reasons, but they’re also driven by convenience and cost when it comes to charging their vehicles. Energy companies must be able to respond to increased demand for energy from EVs, while minimising cost and impact on the power grid with scheduled charging and integration with utility load control programs. Drivers and utilities make perfect partners in pushing for the future of mobility to be electric and renewable.
The e-mobility revolution is already well underway and promises to change how we get around. As it does that, it will change how we produce and price our energy, too. It’s up to everyone to work together to create a sustainable model, incentivising consumers to move to EVs and charge on renewables. That’s what will give the green light to a better environment on the road.
To ensure a broad view of the Electric Vehicles industry, ChargePoint surveyed 1,040 UK consumers – with a mix of EV considerers (462), sceptics (363) and non-considerers (215) to get an understanding of how consumers view EVs and their propensity to purchase vs. regular vehicles.