EV Summit sees charging sites as major block to global uptake

BV’s electric vehicle specialist RICHARD THOMAS reports from the first day of the EV Summit 2021, being held at the Said Business School of Oxford University

SPEAKERS at the EV Summit 2021 are united on one point: the transition from ICE (combustion engines) to EV needs more investment in charging infrastructure.

There are other hurdles to overcome, but infrastructure was the word on everyone’s mask-covered lips.

The race is more about decarbonisation than cars, driven by the threat of climate crisis. The industry would like to have some good news to report at the COP26 meeting to be held in Glasgow later this year.

Oxford City Council’s deputy leader, Tom Hayes, spoke about an ongoing transition by the council to all-electric buses, the installation of kerbside pop-up chargers, the world’s largest charging hub and Project Leo, a study of localised small scale power generation options from solar, wind and hydro.

Jeremy Parkes, global business lead for EV at DNV, shared the modelling his company is doing on the future of the industry as we approach 2050. Energy demand will plateau in the 2030s, he predicts, as overall energy efficiency improves.

Transport accounts for around a quarter of all CO2 emissions, and an EV will emit half the emissions of gas-guzzlers — and a more efficient power grid will improve that. Battery energy density and cost are both improving, and by 2030 the average EV should have a range of over 400 miles.

Demand for electricity will double by 2050, and 50 percent of that will be met by renewable sources. Vehicle-to-grid (VTG) will balance demand and make up for the variability of green power sources. But it’s not happening quickly enough to meet climate change targets.

Amy Stokes, head of e-mobility at Volvo Trucks UK and Ireland, revealed that 45 percent of all goods carried by road travel less than 300km. That puts them in the range of single-charged trucks already in use by companies such as DHL. Barriers to change include the higher investment required, but electric trucks will enable night deliveries to cities, with no noise problem to overcome.

Volvo has signed an agreement with Scania to build a network of truck chargers across Europe starting next year. An EV truck will emit six times less CO2 over its lifetime compared to its diesel equivalent, leading to a push for government and industry to work together to overcome the price barrier. Across Europe there is higher uptake in countries with government incentives and grants.

Vauxhall MD Paul Willcox spoke of light commercial vehicles (ECLVs) in the UK. The company is on-track to becoming fully electric by 2030. Vauxhall offers battery EVs (BEVs) across its entire LCV range, with a range of some 200 miles; half of all van journeys are within a 15-mile radius. There is a need to mandate charging points in new buildings, Willcox believes, and excise duty must be simplified. A national policy is needed.

In Norway, 400,000 EVs have been sold in the past five years, making up 20 percent of all vehicles — and 83 percent of all sales in the first half of 2021. On absolute numbers Germany has done even better. In Norway there is no purchase tax and no VAT; EVs have free access to toll roads, ferries and bus lanes. Average CO2 emissions per km dropped from 135g in 2011 to 60g in 2018, in line with EU targets for 2030.

The UK is stopping the sale of ICE cars in 2030; 11.5m BEVs will have been sold by that date, but that will still leave 20 million on the road. One third of all new car sales are vehicles that cost £24,000 or less — and there are no EVs in that price range.

Tax incentives have improved uptake, but they need to be available to the private sector as well. Confidence in public charging will affect customer choice. Consumers are sharing tips and tricks and everyone finds their own best way to manage charging.

All EV manufacturers share the same key challenges, and public charging infrastructure is one of these. The UK trails the Nordic countries and Germany. Having set the timetable for ending ICE sales in 2030, the government has to set the tone and be consistent with subsidies.

It needs to avoid situations such as the sudden cut in the plug-in grant last year.

Manufacturer Polestar aims to be carbon-neutral in all its operations by 2030. The industry has to follow suit and publish data so their car’s carbon footprints can be compared.

Other speakers on Day One included Anders Thingbo, CEO of Zaptec, Ashley Andrew, of Hyundai, VW Group UK MD Alex Smith, Erik Fairburn, CEO of charging point provider Pod Point, and Pinar Mavituna, general manager at Shell. Mavituna said that the oil giant is focusing now on charging infrastructure, with home, on-the-go, and destination solutions.

Shell hopes to roll out 50,000 new charging points on lampposts across the UK by 2025 through its subsidiary Ubitricity, which it acquired earlier this year. It will be topping up the 25 percent of cost not covered by government subsidy, which means no financial cost to local authorities.

Neil Isaacson, CEO of Liberty Charge, spoke about public on-street charging. His company is working local authorities to find suitable places on the street or in carparks. People want to be able plug in close to home and charge while they sleep. Isaacson feels that the current system of consultation surrounding charging point installation is counter-productive.

Residents are consulted at length — but most don’t know where chargers are needed… because they don’t yet drive EVs. Local authorities need help to cut through the bureaucracy. Government doesn’t know what the roadmap should look like, and needs industry to tell it.

That’s exactly what is happening at EV Summit 2021. More news to follow soon.