Electric Vehicles charging infrastructure and Ultra Low Emission Vehicles policy

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6. Background

The time is coming when petrol and diesel vehicles will be consigned to history and we will all be either owners of or a customer needing access to an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle, most likely an Electric Vehicle. In this revolution as customer or owner our individual charging needs will be very different depending on what we want to do and where we want to go.

Fundamentally for the Ultra Low Emission Vehicle revolution to be successful it has to overcome 3 hurdles to convince the customer to buy or use them namely;

Which technology will prevail?

In its recently published “Road to Zero” strategy the Government made a very clear commitment to ULEV technology, stating that by 2040 all new cars sold in UK must be an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle.

However, as was illustrated by the competition between Betamax and VHS in the video revolution, history shows that there is always a choice of technology available to deliver a technological revolution, and only one technology will prevail and dominate the market.

From the technology available it is battery technology and the Electric Vehicle that is currently prevailing for cars and small vans, however there continues to be significant investment by some of the global car manufacturers into hydrogen power research.

This is because there are several manufacturers competing for the Electric Vehicle market and they promote their own plug connection designs, the high end executive Electric Vehicle’s made by Tesla car company being a typical example.

With regards to larger trucks and heavy goods vehicles (HGV) the preferred choice of technology is much less clear. The challenge in this market is that HGV’s have a greater energy demand, and research into hydrogen power may yet prove better suited to lorries trucks vans and HGV than battery power. We are awaiting a clear steer from government in this regard.

Money

New technology is always expensive and will hamper this required revolution until the demand creates an economy of scale that lowers purchase costs, and creates a second hand market to make Electric Vehicle’s accessible to everyone.

Central Government recognises this and has made a range of grant funding available to incentivise several areas of the market to energise and create this economy of scale.

Customer Concerns of Potential Electric Vehicle owners

Although the potential customer base is huge the Electric Vehicle market will need to sustain customer confidence by allaying the potential customer’s anxieties, especially about

  • the maximum range a vehicle has, and
  • the lack of a comprehensive charging infrastructure to support customer needs.

Where is the nearest charging point?

The long-term vision is that Electric Vehicle owners will do the vast majority of charging overnight at home, incentivised by having relatively cheaper home tariffs. However there are destinations that require much longer journeys, such as for work, for recreation, or a holiday etc.

For the customer to have confidence there will need to be a network of the right type of charging points in the right locations. Capacity to expand numbers to meet the exponential growth in demand expected, which current forecasts suggest will be in the mid 2020’s (Regen April 2018).

So customers will need access to different kinds of charging points to support the different journey types, be they the short daily run arounds from home, to the long distance holiday trips to remote locations.

Finally of course there are those occasions when, despite our plans, we are caught short and have to make unplanned top ups of fuel. Lack of available charging creates anxiety and in the extreme could generate reluctance to change to Electric Vehicle.