It’s all about power, and which kind the world really needs…

The EV Summit 2020 is in progress; BV specialist RICHARD THOMAS reports with a summary of day one

THE EV SUMMIT 2020 comes theoretically from Oxford but, like so much else this year, it has morphed into a virtual event.

This is the latest in a series featuring speakers from power companies such as EDF, E.On and SSEN (Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks) as well as infrastructure suppliers and car makers Citröen, Mini and Hyundai UK.

Panels discuss the role of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), electric buses, the development of the UK’s charging infrastructure, sustainability and — most interestingly, from a business point of view — investment. All agreed that the biggest bang-per-buck will come from charging points — shared between companies, venture capitalists, private equity investors and governments.

The representative of SSEN sees this infrastructure as a public service obligation. There has been some misinformation on the subject of EVs — and the industry must respond, in SSEN’s view, with facts such as the real cost-per-mile of electric cars. Is it 2p per mile, or the ICE figure of 16p per mile?

There is a need for 325,000 public charging points; the figure currently stands at 18,000. If 65 percent of UK homes have private parking or driveways — which of course means that more than 30 percent don’t — private charging points can take advantage of flexible off-peak tariffs. Intelligent chargers from companies such as Ohme optimise this. Other possible solutions include kerbside charging, installed by local authorities, and the charging station networks being built by, for example, Shell. Another development: supermarkets that offer free charging while you do your weekly shop.

Charging networks need to be more widespread, and more reliable. And rather than having a different RFID card for each company, there is a call for one card to cover them all. After all, with an ICE car you can fill up anywhere and pay with same debit or credit card; why shouldn’t it be the same for EVs?

The sustainability discussion was led by the French energy company EDF. Renewable energy should be backed-up by a power source that can supply a reliable base-load, it advises. The only zero-carbon source that fits the bill is nuclear, and EDF is involved in the construction of new British nuclear stations, at Hinckley Point in the south-west and Sizewell in Suffolk. There appears to be a generational difference in attitudes to EVs. Millennials like the concept but can’t afford the initial outlay. The older generation can afford them but are emotionally attached to internal combustion powerplants.

Henrik Andersen is CEO of Vestas, the world’s biggest wind turbine company and sponsor of Formula E. Vestas produces 100GW of wind power across 79 countries, and those turbines go carbon-negative after three to four months of operation. That includes all manufacturing and general company-wide emissions. From January, all new company vehicles will be electric (battery or hybrid).

Julia Poliscanova, Emobility director of the Brussels-based NGO Transport and Environment, admitted that battery powered vehicles may not be the best solution, “but it’s the best we have today”. Her aim: 100 percent of new vehicle sales electric, by 2030. “Oil is extracted and burned, gone forever,” she said. “Lithium, cobalt etc, once mined and used in batteries can be recycled.”

A common refrain across the panels was that once they have tried electric vehicles very few people want to go back to ICE power.