From growing pressure in the media, to public protests on the streets in London, it seems every day we’re faced with news stories on how climate change is devastating the planet. Now more than ever, the government and the private sector are being challenged by the public to act. 

     *André ten Bloemendal is Vice President Commercial Sales Europe at ChargePoint

One of the industries currently going through the most drastic changes is the transportation sector, which accounted for 33% of CO2 emissions in 2018. Industry leaders need to fundamentally re-evaluate transportation as we know it in order to counter climate change, and while some initiatives are already in place, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Environmental Action: The state of play

Earlier this year, the UK government pledged to become the first G7 country to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050, meaning that any emissions produced by the UK after 2050 would be offset by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. The “net zero” target will require wholesale changes to home utilities, diet, and of course, transport.

So what can we do to increase the uptake of EV and move away from traditional gas-guzzling vehicles? One of the transport industry’s biggest steps towards lowering emissions is in the focus on electric vehicles (EV). Buy in from major players such as Nissan and BMW brings promise that EV vehicles are entering into the mainstream market and will ultimately help to lower pollution. 

More recently, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has also announced plans to invest hundreds of millions of pounds to build a range of electric vehicles at its Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham. JLR confirmed that the first new EV to roll off the line will be an all-electric version of its flagship sedan, the XJ. Development of the new car is being handled by the same team that built Jaguar's all-electric I-Pace SUV.

UK Leading the Way in EV Infrastructure 

Availability of charge stations and uncertainty around the stability of the grid are both hurdles that the industry faces when it comes to convincing people to make the switch to an EV - but they needn’t be.

In 2019, the registrations of battery electric vehicles is up over 60% compared to the same period in 2018 - and following the government's pledge to mobilise around £400m of investment in the UK's EV charging infrastructure - it feels like the EV industry has moved into 5th gear.

The UK government recently pledged to introduce legislation which requires the installation of charging stations for electric vehicles in all new housing in England as part of efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This would be a world first, positioning the UK as a leader in the race to reach the zero emissions target. According to a recent study by the European Commission Joint Research Centre, EV charging stations can save 60% in CO2 emissions across Europe - 100% if charging on renewable energy.

Structural considerations will make charging-station demand a more regional conversation, however. For example, compare a city like Cambridge, with many single-family low-rise homes that have parking garages, with London, where high-rise multi-unit apartment dwellings are the norm - these two cities will have extremely different EV charging-infrastructure needs. 

As well as domestic charging stations, employers would need to provide charging facilities at work, so that people can make use of the time their vehicle is stationary. Likewise, retail and entertainment complexes will need to factor charging stations into their parking facilities, so customers can power their vehicle almost any time it is not in use.  

Employers and planners need to get on board with EV charging initiatives not only to help facilitate environmental change, but for the benefit of their own businesses, too. The benefits for installing EV charging infrastructure are twofold; it can help businesses to reach their own green targets and help to boost their public image as a conscientious and responsible company, and it can increase dwell time of customers, ultimately resulting in higher sales. And it seems employees are on board, too - the European Commission Joint Research Centre study found that 60% of workplace drivers surveyed at a Fortune 500 company said they are likely to switch to EVs if workplace charging becomes available.

It’s important to add, however, that these new charging facilities should be smart, connected stations. With domestic installations in particular, there is a risk to downgrade to the cheapest possible option, which would limit the ability to monitor and control the infrastructure and provide smart charging options.

Smart charging will help further reduce the strain on the electrical grid and the carbon it produces by allowing people to set their charging to outside peak hours, since peak hours use more gas and coal production to meet demand. There is also an argument that the more data people have on their charging habits and how much it costs them, the more likely they are to alter them to be more sustainable. Down the line, smart charging will also be used to allow the grid to store power in EV batteries, for use as and when it is needed. 

While it may look different from region to region, embracing EV infrastructure from the ground up is the only way for EV to fully take off. Governments are starting to put their money where their mouth is, both to build the necessary infrastructure and to incentivise customer adoption, but more is needed, from them and from the country as a whole. There is a huge amount of economical and environmental gain to be made from the adoption of EV, and more companies need to be trailblazers when it comes to implementing the EV revolution. Those that adopt early will be the ones to reap the rewards.

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