Thursday 01 September 2022

The EV future is fast approaching

EV ChargingElectric vehicles (EV) continue to see high demand and increasing investment, reshaping the automotive industry, as well as national infrastructure. EV’s certainly seem to be the future but how far are we from that future becoming mainstream?

Well maybe it is getting that bit closer, with the UK government unveiling a £20m plan to upgrade the UK’s electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, that will see 1,000 charge points installed accross nine locations across the UK including Dorset, Durham, North Yorkshire, Nottingham and Suffolk.

It comes as part of the £20m Local EV Infrastructure (LEVI) pilot scheme, through which local authorities and industry will work together to create new, commercial EV charging infrastructure for residents, from faster on-street chargepoints to larger petrol station-style charging hubs. The fund builds on the success of the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS) which has seen nearly 2,900 chargepoints installed so far, with funding provided for around 10,000 additional chargepoints in the future. £20m was already available through ORCS for FY 2020-21 with the scheme extended as far as 2022/23. It allows local authorities to apply for 75% of the capital costs of installation. The remaining 25% can be funded by councils, or through match-funding by Charge Point Operators (CPO).

According to Zap map at the end of July 2022, there were 33.3k charging points in the UK (not including homes and workplaces), across 20k charging locations, a 35% yoy increase, with over 30% of charging stations in Greater London. As a comparison the UK has around 33m registered vehicles and around 8.4k petrol stations.

The LEVI pilot supports the UK government’s drive to encourage more motorists to go electric ahead of the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales. The aim is to help residents without private driveways to have better access to EV chargers, as well as grow the charging network across the country, enabling more people to drive and charge without fear of being caught short, no matter where they are. Getting robust and widespread charging infrastructure in place is going to be critical to sustaining the growth of EV adoption.

There are more EV cars on the road than ever before…

There certainly seem to be a lot more electric cars on the roads today than even a few years ago, and the data support this. According to Zap map, as of the end of July 2022 there were more than 520k battery-electric cars registered in 2022, this is already 31% higher than all EV registrations in 2021 (which itself saw growth of 92% vs 2020). Currently electric vehicles account for around 11% of all new car registrations. There were also around 406k plug-in hybrid vehicles registered in 2022 so far, up around 16% yoy.

Clearly demand is growing but there are still challenges, namely that while electric cars have been around for 10 years or so, the more modern models that have longer ranges, and ability to charge at higher voltages, are still relatively new, and therefore quite expensive. In a time of rising inflation, especially for energy, and already high used car prices, it may not be easy for the majority of people to buy EVs in the near future. That said, running costs can often be cheaper, especially with the current price of fuel. According to Autotrader, a small hatchback Renault Zoe is going for around £18-20k, while a 5-year-old Tesla Model S will set you back about £33k and something like a 3-year-old Audi E-tron will cost around £45k. It will of course take some time for the used car market to catch up, and even then, the technology will have moved on and older models will be lagging behind.

But what about the mileage…

One of the main obstacles for EV adoption, and the main concern for most consumers, is charging time and mileage distance. Filling-up a petrol or diesel car takes a matter of minutes and for your average hatchback can take you 400-500 miles, but even top end electric cars have ranges of half that and charging currently takes much longer. But this is unlikely to be a huge barrier to adoption as the majority of people rarely drive more than a few hundred miles before stopping. So really it all comes down to charging time and availability of infrastructure.

Charging speeds widely differ depending on battery capacity and acceptable voltage, as a rough guide a 3kW slow charger can add 10 miles of range after an hour. Step up to a fast charger with a delivery of 7kW, which is the rate most domestic wallboxes charge at, and after 60 minutes you’ll have added up to 30 miles. A typical electric car (60kWh battery) takes just under 8 hours to charge from empty-to-full with a 7kW charging point. By contrast, a 50kW rapid charger can add around 100 miles in about 35 minutes. Tesla now also offers its Level 3 Superchargers which are able to take a Tesla from 0-170 miles range in just 30 minutes and 80% full in 40 mins, but these are only available for the latest Tesla models.

Most driver’s also top-up charge rather than waiting for their battery to recharge from empty-to-full, in fact most manufacturers advise to only charge an EV to 80% to preserve battery health. While most people will find home charging or at a place of work to be more than sufficient for their needs, there will still be those that require convenient charging for long distance trips and in rural locations, where finding charging hubs can still be very challenging.

The LEVI scheme, along with ORCS, will help in improving charging infrastructure and bring about the EV future many of us are expecting, but we will still need further investment from both government and private organisations if the pace of adoption of electric vehicles is to be maintained.

The impact of EV’s extends far beyond cars sales

While the growth in electric vehicles represents changing demand for automobile manufacturers, and opportunities for new entrants like Tesla, the potential impact extends well beyond car sales. Tech companies like Nvidia are already benefitting from the demand for fast chips for onboard systems and cloud platforms to test AI models. While numerous Lidar* companies like Luminar are benefitting from partnerships with auto manufacturers.

* Lidar is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed lasers to measure distance ranges and a common technology to enable advanced driver assistance systems.

Retail and leisure destinations are also expected to be beneficiaries of increased EV adoption. With the average EV charging likely to be around 30-40 mins, this is plenty of time for consumers to do some additional shopping, even grab a quick meal. According to a report by CACI, retailers can expect increased footfall if they implement electric vehicle (EV) charging points. The research reveals that 66% of people who intend to own an EV will visit retailers and businesses more frequently if they provide the right charging facilities. In addition, 48% of existing EV owners have engaged with charging infrastructure at a public car park and 33% have charged their EV at a supermarket. Retailers can also look to build stronger customer connections by developing loyalty programs that cater to EV drivers.

Autonomous vehicles will be the true disrupter

The topics of EV’s and Autonomous vehicles are often intertwined, but while the future for electric vehicles is pretty clear, we are much further off the more ambitious target of autonomous driving. The technology itself is already very advanced, but the regulatory and cultural changes required are much bigger hurdles. But that has not stopped numerous companies investing in the technology and the UK government announcing it is planning to introduce self-driving vehicles from next year, with full implementation planned for 2025.

Autonomous vehicles will truly disrupt road and network infrastructure, insurance and ownership, and the entire transportation and logistics market. They will also offer numerous opportunities around the usage of data and in-car services, driving forward the demand for 5G, IoT and other technologies like Lidar.

But that is a much broader topic and one for another day. For now, the focus is on the shift to EV’s, it is much more achievable with less hurdles to overcome, though as shown in this article it also has its challenges.

So, what do you think, can the growth in EV’s be sustained? Do you own an Electric vehicle and if so, have you found charging infrastructure to be sufficient? What other pitfalls do you see to wider adoption? Feel free to drop me an email at with your thoughts.

Posted by Simon Baxter at '15:04' - Tagged: autonomousvehicles   EV