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The role of IoT in fuelling the EV charging revolution


Securing net carbon emissions by 2030

With COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, taking place in Glasgow in November, the spotlight is on the UK government to accelerate work already underway towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Primarily, the goal of COP26 is to secure global net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century and keep the target of restricting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees within reach. To achieve this goal, the government is actively working with other countries, as well as joining forces with civil society, companies, and people on the frontline of climate change to inspire climate action.

One of the most important actions to achieve the UK’s net-zero target is the move from petrol to electric vehicles (EV). By 2032 at the latest, the Climate Change Committee has called for all new vehicles sold to be fully battery-electric vehicles. To reach net-zero, all vehicles – including heavy-goods vehicles (HGVs) – must be fossil fuel free by 2050. For passenger vehicles and vans, this will mean accelerating the uptake of EVs from around 400,000 today to 23.2 million by 2032, which represents 55% of all vehicles, and up to 49 million by 2050, which represents 100% of all vehicles.

Accelerating home and on-street charging plans

To move closer to this goal, the UK government has drawn up plans to mandate a charger for every new home or office from next year meaning all newly built residential properties and offices must have electric car chargers installed to comply. 

Furthermore, in September 2021 Shell and Ubitricity announced plans to install 50,000 on-street EV charging stations in the UK by the end of 2025, greatly improving access to charging for drivers in urban areas. Shell-owned Ubitricity has designed charging hardware that can fit into streetlight posts, providing charging access to cars parked on-street, without taking up additional space. This is important because more than 60% of households in cities and urban areas don’t have access to off-street parking, which makes home charging virtually impossible. Shell plans to grow its EV charging network from more than 60,000 charging stations today to more than 500,000 by 2025. 

This charging network will serve an electric vehicle market that is anticipated to grow exponentially. According to Deloitte’s 2020 outlook report, EV sales are set to rocket from 2 million units in 2018 to 12 million in 2025 before growing to 21 million in 2030. And this is where IoT connectivity is powering the EV charging revolution, because with higher demand for electric vehicles there is a greater need for more widely deployed EV charging stations.

At the same time, there is a shift in consumer behaviour, with a marked and growing inclination towards the adoption of EVs. Furthermore, ongoing technological advancements and focused research and development activities in charging infrastructure are projected to improve the industry dynamics. However, EV charging networks need a reliable, ubiquitous connection to successfully process transactions and provide telemetry data on charging activity; cellular networks meet that need by providing connectivity in some of the most remote and challenging locations.

However, challenges still exist and as outlined above, there is demand for both better private and public charging infrastructure to facilitate EV uptake – consumers need accessible, easy-to-use, conveniently located EV charging stations. At the same time, there also needs to be better consumer education around lifestyle changes required for EV, especially in this transitional phase. Right now, consumers can’t just turn up to the nearest refuelling station and put 300 miles of range into their electric vehicle in five minutes. EV buyers need a clear idea of where their main charging will take place and how long this will take.

Why connectivity is fundamental to EV charging 

EV charging projects are often multi-regional, deployed in large numbers and designed to work for 10 to 15 years in the field. Robust global connectivity is crucial. This is why 91% of EV charging provider respondents in Eseye’s 2021 State of IoT Adoption Report agreed with the statement: “I think the evolution of intelligent connectivity is going to be critical to continue to fuel adoption of IoT”. Connectivity is a critical foundation to the EV charge point operation and how successful it is. This is where off-the-shelf IoT connectivity products are not designed with EV charge points in mind and will at best only deliver a basic solution. Effective monitoring and management of the charging point is also critical to optimise energy consumption. Today, society is accustomed to instant gratification and delays in charge will inevitably lead to discontent, with every minute of downtime meaning lost business. Likewise, as demand for EVs increases, EV providers will be faced with real-time data management challenges to understand consumer behaviour better and meet changing demands.

Additionally, overcoming these challenges is also dependent on a reliable connection between the EV charge point and network. Poor or even average connectivity reduces utilisation, not to mention the loss of revenue when payments fail to go through. If there is no connection to process transactions, then under The Electric Vehicles Smart Charge Points Government Regulation, electricity must be given free to the consumer. Likewise, if it takes a minute to establish connectivity when a user drives up, this represents a lot of downtime and lost revenue over a year. In fact, in just one-year poor connectivity could amount to lost revenue of more than $10 million. Every extra minute also causes cumulative delays. And as queues mount, potential customers may drive on past. Poor connectivity also impacts on the brand and if a charge point has a reputation of being temperamental and slow, consumers will switch to a competitor. 

Governments are accelerating the EV revolution

The good news is that IoT is a high priority for EV charging respondents in Eseye’s State of IoT Adoption survey, with 93% saying that it is a priority in the next two to three years and more than four out of ten saying that not only is it a priority, but they are planning additional initiatives. Additionally, EV charging respondents are also planning big budget increases with 99% saying this and 60% expecting to increase their budget by between 51 and 100%. 

Now, governments around the globe are accelerating the EV revolution by banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles and here in the UK we have started to witness this with the move to E10 petrol over the summer. Therefore, we are in the middle of the biggest revolution in motoring since Henry Ford’s first production line started rolling back in 1913. Many industry observers believe we have already passed the tipping point where sales of EVs will very rapidly overwhelm petrol and diesel cars and IoT is fuelling that growth. 

(Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash)

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