Nick Sacke, Head of IoT Solutions at Comms365, believes data can unlock valuable insights that will help overcome some of the challenges associated with the explosive demand for EV chargers.
As part of the ‘Road to Zero’ strategy, the pressure is on for the UK Government to meet its EV targets. Reports suggest that chargepoints must now be fitted five times faster than the current rate in order to cope with the demand brought about by the expedited ban on selling petrol, diesel or hybrid cars, which was moved from 2040 to 2030.
However, in order to achieve optimum efficiency and maximise the use of EV chargepoints, operational challenges that come as a result of the huge increase in demand must be taken into consideration. These challenges can be mitigated through the efficient and effective use, collection and analysis of data, however.
EV chargepoint network infrastructure undeniably faces a number of operational challenges, with regards to both the number of chargepoints available and how they are used by the public. Two recurring issues that require prioritised consideration are ‘ICEing’ and ‘hogging’.
‘ICEing’ defines an internal combustion vehicle parking within an EV bay, preventing the space from being used correctly by EV users. Hogging is where EV vehicle drivers are found using an EV bay, however they continue to occupy the space for longer than necessary, surpassing the duration of a full charge and preventing other drivers from utilising the resource. Solutions to operational behaviours are becoming increasingly focused on the two aforementioned behaviours, as they heavily interfere with the effective use of EV infrastructure.
Comms365 recently carried out vital research which suggests that the general public feel less worried about the impacts of ‘ICEing’ and hogging than local councils. It is possible that this is because the general public are yet to face challenges that seem inevitable as a result of this continued behaviour, such as having no chargers available to use. Such scenarios will undeniably become increasingly common, as the demand for electric vehicles increases between now and 2030.
Therefore it is vital that as the use of EVs continues to be encouraged, an effective charging model is put in place, with improved infrastructure that can keep up with the increasing demand.
Local authorities and governments must meticulously analyse the existing EV infrastructure, in order to put an effective plan in place to overcome these challenges. Monitoring the percentage of utilisation and the time of the day it occurs is vital, in order to understand the changes that must happen to avoid greater issues further down the line. Existing research highlights some data points, indicating that there is currently a low utilisation of EV points in the UK. Despite evidence suggesting that we are yet to reach peak EV demand, this may also highlight that the general public are not aware of existing chargepoint locations.
The functionality of EV chargers is improving, however this is not as much as a priority compared to users being able to easily locate them. Being able to swiftly locate a chargepoint was deemed as ‘essential’ by 81% of both EV drivers and non-EV drivers in recent studies carried out by Comms365 and Cenex.
Cultural mirroring must be considered for the use of EVs – there must be a matching of consumer experience between EV and ICE vehicles to encourage adoption. This is supported by research which found that 23% of non-EV drivers don’t want their refueling experience to change when switching to an EV. Solutions such as facilities in car parks that inform visitors of the number of EV chargers, which of those are currently in use, and the estimated time until a charge will be available, would greatly improve the existing model. This would help to meet the goal to ultimately create a similar environment to that of a petrol station, with a manageable queue of drivers waiting for an available station.
The Scottish Government is already attempting to deal with bay ‘hogging’ through issuing fines for those who remained parking in an EV bay beyond their charge session. Whilst this can be effective in managing misuse, some enforcement models are proving to be problematic in rural areas, where there is limited capacity to implement regulations. There is ultimately a clear cultural challenge as authorities work to implement a fair system. A rapid charging facility that enables EV drivers to quickly ‘top up’ their vehicle with enough power to complete the rest of their journey may be a realistic option to achieve cultural mirroring, utilising the vast technology and deployments we have available today.
Data collection, analysis and sharing is crucial in ensuring the effective rollout and expansion of EV charging infrastructure. In order for ‘islands’ of chargers to be managed well, data must be shared with stakeholders.
At present, data rests in silos, and is controlled by the chargepoint network operator. With pressure from Central and Local Government building, they must ensure that chargepoint datasets are available to be freely shared through industry standard protocols (OCPP and OCPI), in order to grow new operational policies and enable the network to operate more effectively. The collecting, sharing and analysis of such data, paired with IoT and additional data sources, will crucially identify trends and challenges and help to further streamline processes and ensure efficient data use.
It is possible that EV infrastructure may not work entirely, unless stakeholders collect, analyse and share essential data effectively, contributing to a far wider collaboration with integrated information, such as traffic counts, signals and highway network operation. Whilst we can be sure that issues and problems will appear, it is clear that with access to the right information, data will help to provide the solution.
Meeting public needs
Other than the ability to easily access EV chargers, what other needs will users have? Will the needs of disabled drivers be considered and effectively planned for? There have been recent initiatives using ANPR at chargepoints, as having accessible information about each driver could potentially help to develop a network of designated EV bays that disabled drivers can be clearly directed to. The bays designed for disabled drivers would of course need to be easily identifiable, with a different design, and more space to maneuver wheelchairs.
Electric vehicles can be incentivised further with dynamic charging plans, with varying prices that align with electricity grid load and managing peak times. Those who charge at quieter times may pay less, which would help to create a sustainable system with a lower risk of being overwhelmed by the increasing demand. The opportunities are endless, but can only be fully explored with the right data collected to provide meaningful insight.
A streamlined, user friendly and efficient electric vehicle charging experience is of course in all stakeholders’ interests. If users are not confident that they will be able to access and use chargepoints, they are unlikely to adopt electric vehicles as encouraged by the UK Government.
A simple, readily available charging model is crucial, in order to motivate and support the general public as we move towards the petrol, diesel and hybrid ban in 2030. By deploying IoT EV bay monitoring and further technology solutions with extensive, accumulated data flow at the core of the infrastructure, everyone can gain from an improved user experience and effective transport networks, as we prepare for the inevitable changes and increased demand that the future holds.