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Motorists ‘back smart charging markets’

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 09:17
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The majority of motorists would be happy to charge their electric vehicle outside of peak times in return for lower bills, new research commissioned by UK Power Networks has found.

UK Power Networks

The findings came after engagement with more than 800 motorists undertaken by research consultancy Delta-EE into attitudes towards smart charging including among Electric Vehicle (EV) drivers and people considering buying one. The survey was undertaken as part of UK Power Networks’ Innovation project Shift, which is developing market-led smart charging propositions that can be rolled out nationally by providers like charge point operators, aggregators and energy suppliers.

Customers made it clear they wanted ‘peace of mind’ when it comes to mobility. UK Power Networks is now working with different companies to create products that put customers in control with the freedom to opt out of smart charging if they wish.

In the next stage of Shift, UK Power Networks is now collaborating with energy suppliers, intelligent energy platform Kaluza and smart charging technology platform ev.energy. More than 1,000 EV drivers are now joining the large-scale trial of customer incentives for smart charging.

There are 89,000 EVs connected to UK Power Networks’ electricity networks in London, the South East and East of England, a figure that is projected to rise to 4.1 million by the end of the decade. With a typical EV connected to a fast charger using roughly as much electricity on average as a three-bedroom house, a rapid increase in EVs could have a significant impact on the local electricity network if they all charged at peak times, in the morning and evening.

Customers in the study strongly preferred a market-led approach to managing these spikes in demand, with two thirds saying that they would be willing to charge outside of peak times for a reduction in their monthly electricity bill.

UK Power Networks commissioned the three-part study to understand their changing customer needs and attitudes to smart charging as it develops its own smart charging strategy. The research involved three focus groups with EV non-EV drivers, a workshop with motorists and an online customer survey of 750 drivers.

Ian Cameron, head of innovation and customer services at UK Power Networks, said: “Electric vehicles are coming and we have a key role in making sure our customers can benefit from new technologies. That’s why we’ve been listening to stakeholders involved in the market from energy suppliers to customers to develop new incentives that deliver benefits. Smart charging is a key part of the solution we can use ahead of building new infrastructure to create capacity for the additional demand.”

Audrey Gallacher, interim chief executive, Energy UK said: “Electric vehicles represent a fantastic opportunity for both consumers and the energy system – as well as a major requirement to reach net-zero – and smart charging will be key to unlocking their full benefits.

“UK Power Networks’ research underlines the findings of the recently released EV Energy Taskforce report – that for smart charging to be a success it must give drivers choice, control and reward. This means having control over when you charge your vehicle but also knowing that being flexible will save money.”

Delta EE’s research was made of three parts:

  • Three focus groups with current and prospective EV drivers in May 2019. This consisted of two in-person focus groups of 10 prospective EV drivers each and one online focus group of 20 EV drivers.
  • One co-creation workshop of five prospective EV drivers and five current EV drivers in June 2019
  • An online survey of 30 questions for a total of 750 current and prospective EV drivers in September 2019

The key findings were:

  • A market-led smart charging approach is the customer’s preferred option to manage the increased load due to the EV uptake – this is in line with UKPN’s approach on smart charging.
  • The customer drivers for market-led smart charging approach were: having choice and flexibility on when to charge their EV, the potential financial benefits and environmental benefits.
  • Smart charging propositions need to provide customers with ‘peace of mind’ when it comes to their mobility. This can be achieved by giving customers a certain level of control over the smart charging process and is best done by providing customers with the ability to override the smart charging process.
  • Customers are willing to allow a third party to manage their EV charging for a reward of up to £4 per month, provided that their EV will have sufficient range for their next journey.

The full findings of the research will be published online on the UK Power Networks Innovation microsite here.