A Question of Reassurance
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing EV adoption in the UK?
Fundamentally, the most obvious challenge is the current cost of EVs. Even with the government subsidy which is due to end by mid 2012, EVs are still 10-20% too expensive.
Further challenges include the marked refusal of certain parts of the motoring press to support EVs. There is still very much a “dinosaur” mentality, which unfortunately can have a significant influence on the buying public.
Of course, there is also the slow development of the public charging infrastructure. We are still very much in the midst of a “chicken and egg” situation, as the growth of new charging stations being installed is unlikely to escalate significantly until demand grows. Alternatively the sale of EV’s could be restricted until the infrastructure is in place.
Another obstacle is a perceived public uncertainty about EV battery life. The car manufacturers need to reassure potential EV owners that they are not going to be faced with large bills for replacing batteries at some undetermined point in the future.
What steps should fleet managers take to prepare themselves for the technology?
As the prime potential beneficiaries of EV adoption, fleet managers need to take the lead. They should offer attractive, flexible and cost effective EV packages for employees which cover all practicalities. For example, an EV contract should include access to a conventional car for 2/3 weeks per year for long distance holiday usage.
Conversely, commercial vehicle fleet managers should be looking at the adoption of the new EV vans to replace a proportion of their fleet in urban areas or where shorter daily mileages are made – say up to 100 miles per day.
What has take-up been like for charging points at workplaces?
Understandably, it has been slow to date but there is a distinguishable impetus building. Interestingly, in most cases this pressure seems to coming from within the company, for example where employees have already bought EVs and are requesting charging facilities at their workplaces.
How important is a public charging infrastructure – do you believe most drivers will charge at home?
There is no doubt that most EV owners will charge at home. With the advent of low cost domestic ‘Mode 3’ EV chargers, a full charge can be achieved in just 4-8 hours. In comparison, using the manufacturer supplied ‘Mode 2’ charging cable, the charging rate is limited for safety reasons and can take up to 16 hours.
However, a comprehensive public charging network is still essential for several reasons. Firstly, it is a must for use in areas where it is impossible to charge at home, such as where there is no off-street parking, as well as to enable longer distances to be travelled by charging en route. It is also important to demonstrate government commitment and support to the adoption of EVs.
However, probably the single most important factor in large scale adoption is the reassurance that public access chargers give to the EV drivers; the knowledge that they are never far away from a charger.
What sort of companies are most of the early adopters of EV technology? Do the vehicles fit into their areas of business, or are they seeking environmental/cost benefits?
The market scope for EVs is indefinite, as the cost and environmental saving benefits are relevant for every type of company with a vehicle operation.
Early adopters will be those companies who are willing to invest in the initial outlay in return for medium and long term benefits. This could include compliance with government targets on CO2 reductions, reduced fleet fuel costs and congestion charges, or lower maintenance or insurance costs.
How do you see the market changing over the next five years?
As a nation, we need to have much more of an open mind about the development of the EV. If there is one thing that history has taught us, it is that demand drives the development of technology. In 1943, for example, Tom Watson, the chairman of IBM, famously said, “I think there is a world market for about five computers”, indicative of a time of limited public knowledge about the then highly expensive devices called ‘computers’.
What this clearly demonstrates is that if we can capture the minds of the public then who knows what the demand could be. The consensus is that we might just be on the verge of an EV revolution.
How important is fast charging for EV development?
The reassurance that the existence of fast chargers provides to the EV driver is significant. Trials in Japan showed that when fast chargers were deployed the average daily miles travelled by the EV driver increased significantly. Although interestingly those same drivers did not necessarily use the fast chargers, they just had the assurance that they were there if they needed them.