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How energy suppliers can help boost electric vehicle uptake

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The public is becoming more aware of the benefits of owning an EV, but there’s still scope for the power industry to do more to drive adoption, ensure better accessibility and mitigate climate threats.

Earlier this year, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps expressed his intention to set a deadline of 2032 for banning the sales of new cars and vans using petrol and diesel, as part of efforts to lower carbon dioxide emissions. The legislative move comes as sustainably powered vehicles are already becoming more and more recognised as a huge benefit to energy evolution, future sustainability and the fight against climate change. Indeed, Brits increasingly appreciate the advantages of owning an electric vehicle – according to research by Deloitte, half of consumers would consider purchasing one in the near future.

It’s clear that EVs are no longer the future; they are the present. However, potential buyers still seem to have concerns regarding insufficient charging infrastructure and expectations about the high price of maintenance that may deter them from making the decision to switch.

Currently, the manufacturing of electric vehicles and the energy used to power them are the major contributing factors to associated emissions. If, as many are currently, all energy suppliers switch to 100 per cent renewable energy supply, the carbon emission associated with EVs will drop dramatically. The major factor here would be ensuring that energy suppliers’ 100 per cent renewable electricity tariffs are truly renewable and not offset, or paying into the Renewables Obligation buy-out fund.

There are currently many constraints to charging EVs. Infrastructure is one of the main issues potential users worry about before the purchase. In many cities, consumers experience problems with either lack of on-street charging, or too many charging suppliers that require multiple subscription-based memberships.

Energy suppliers have the ability to bridge those gaps. For instance, the use of existing energy infrastructure could allow energy suppliers to aggregate consumption to be passed through to consumers on one simple bill, relieving the need for multiple subscriptions and thus streamlining payments and simplifying ownership.

With a transition to a smarter energy network, thanks to the roll-out of SMETS2 smart meters, data is the new currency for energy suppliers. Being able to gather the data from energy-measuring devices to create customer profiles is an important step towards establishing more efficient relationships with users. These profiles could (and should) be used to create new propositions.

For instance, an easily applied proposition for EV owners would be specific tariffs designed to help with ownership. Time of use (ToU) tariffs could be a quick win when coupled with SMETS2 metering, enabling suppliers to decrease individual carbon emissions by helping consumers see how much carbon they are using at certain times.

To ensure the sustainable change is possible, not only do suppliers need to do more for EV owners, but also the vehicle manufacturers themselves must chip in. Energy suppliers could form partnerships with EV manufacturers and offer specifically designed tariffs and customer management for the lifecycle of ownership. This could be done through the mix of discounted charging, innovative upgrades and ability to use multiple charging companies all in one partnership.

We could also see vehicle manufacturers themselves becoming energy suppliers. If done correctly, this model of owning the full lifecycle could benefit greatly from the data provided by the customer ownership of an EV and ultimately have a greater impact on carbon emissions.

Despite being a data-rich industry, intelligent analytics is relatively untapped in the energy industry. Collecting data from the EV, charging units, and suppliers could lead to further adoption of EVs and better aligned propositions. Once the vast amount of data is analysed by an intelligent analytics platform, it could be used to develop policies for siting charging stations, develop smart charging algorithms, solve energy efficiency issues, and evaluate the capacity of power-distribution systems to handle extra charging loads.

This would have a positive impact not just on suppliers and users, but also on the infrastructure of cities and roads, ultimately contributing to overall net-zero carbon targets.

Transition to an electric vehicle is no mean feat for a consumer. Whilst the benefits of owning an EV are becoming increasingly clear, there’s room for improvement within the energy industry in order to drive EV adoption, ensure better accessibility, and mitigate climate threats.

Jon Slade is CEO of ENSEK.

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