Finding the fast lane on the Road to Zero

Lifting the barriers to EV uptake requires close co-operation between the automotive and energy sectors

Written by Gareth Morrell, Head of Insights & Intelligence

Delivering the UK Government’s targets for emission reduction and electric vehicle (EV) uptake depends on addressing three key challenges, according to a panel of EV experts convened by Madano.

Huge steps have been taken in the decarbonisation and electrification of the UK fleet, but there is much more to be done to (1) stimulate the demand side, (2) secure clearer and longer-term policy from Government and (3) increase automotive and energy cross-sector alignment to deliver the grid flexibility, capacity and reliability to enable large-scale EV adoption.

The Prime Minister’s announcement this week of new funds will help in some part with the first barrier and go some way to putting the cheque book behind the Road to Zero strategy. But encouragement is also needed for the industry to work together and provide consistency and certainty for consumers. Here we look at this final challenge and then the question of whether the Government targets are achievable.

Connecting up: automotive and energy working together

Improving consumer confidence needs action at interface between the automotive and the energy sectors. Primarily, this is about demonstrating consumer value, creating demand for domestic and public recharging as well as providing reassurance over future energy pricing.

  • Providing reassurance on long term electricity supply is required to address concerns that the grid will not be able to cope. While the National Grid Energy Scenarios have shone some light on the potential solution, there isn’t a consensus view on where reliable and affordable supply will come from and how peaks and troughs will be balanced if there is widespread EV uptake.
  • Provision of off-peak charging, linked through smart meters to reliable off-peak tariffs, is required to develop confidence in the practicality and affordability of home charging. This adds to the case the EVs add value for consumer and don’t just reduce emissions.
  • Consistent communication from the automotive and energy sectors on charge-point accessibility and interchangeability, energy supply and electricity pricing is required to build confidence in the private and public recharging networks.

Achievable targets?

The challenges of aligning the automotive and energy sectors, together with stimulating the demand side and clarifying Government policy, begs the question: are the UK Government’s 2040 and 2050 targets achievable?

Madano’s panel was inclined (with one exception) to say yes, but there are three stages (as illustrated in Madano’s technology adoption S-curve) which each present their own complex challenges:

  • In the early phase, the groundwork has to be prepared, in terms of reliable long-term policy, consistent messaging, and reliable accessible infrastructure, to build confidence in and beyond early adoption.
  • In the middle phase of rapid growth, both demand-side stimulus and vehicle and infrastructure supply will also need acceleration. Almost certainly, in the panel’s view, it will be necessary to have a transition period between petrol/diesel and EVs. There will remain a long-term role for clean diesels, for both practical engineering reasons as well as to help transition tax revenue streams.
  • In the final stage, the drive towards 100% uptake will require an exhaustive push into the further reaches of UK geography and behaviour. The final 5% of this 100% may be unobtainable and the Government may have to decide 95% is close enough.

Madano set out with this series of articles and panel discussion to explore the barriers to EV uptake and the role of communication. The discussion has highlighted a number of key barriers, ranging public policy through engineering practicality to consumer perception. While the Prime Minister’s announcement of new funding is welcome, in overcoming each challenge sophisticated communication is key. Electric mobility requires whole system change, and this requires much more significant investment but most importantly joined up thinking and consistent messaging.

This blog is part 3 of a series of 3.

Part 1 - stimulating the demand side

Part 2 - securing clearer and long-term policy

Our expert panel

Madano is grateful to the expert panel who came together for this discussion and agreed to its write-up:

Angie Boakes, General Manager Electric Mobility, Royal Dutch Shell

Professor Paul Maropoulos, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise Knowledge Exchange, Aston University

Evie Martell, Marketing Manager, Chargemaster

Huw Owen, Head of Digital, Tata Motors

Jay Parmar, Policy Director, BVRLA

Valerie Shawcross CBE, Transport for London Board Member, and Former Deputy Mayor of London for Transport (attending in a personal capacity)

Akshai Srinivasan, Electric Mobility Manager, BP

Peter Stephens, Head of External Affairs and Government Relations, Nissan