Julian Boneham, Data Practice Director at Node4, navigates us through the whole new world of electric vehicles and all the supporting technologies.
Following the biggest year of UK electric vehicle consumer market sales and the COP26 climate conference, 2022 will be a defining year for EVs to prove themselves.
Fully electric vehicles outsold diesels for several months in 2021, with 2022 projected to be the first full year that trend holds. A total of 260,000 electric cars (not including hybrids) are expected to outsell a projected 221,000 diesel models, according to the UK automotive trade body The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
With the UK planning to phase out internal combustion engine cars by 2035, improvement in EV support infrastructure is a critical focus area, and providers are jostling for position.
Foundations for EV charging infrastructure
Finding the right technical skills and expertise to partner with is vital to navigate the continually evolving EV charging infrastructure market landscape. There’s no time to waste under-delivering on technology when increasingly tech-savvy customers demand a service that’s rapid, relevant, seamless and future-proof.
A boom in charging points to support vehicle sales is also expected. Between the end of 2016 and 2020, there was an increase of 220% in the number of public chargers, which according to Zap-Map stands at 28,804 in the UK in January 2022.
The EV industry has a way to go to reassure prospective vehicle owners of the quality of service in their greener choices and that they can effectively charge a vehicle in a single stop. With a variety of charging choices on offer, the supporting technology for app and charging services must fulfil three vital criteria:
- Service availability
Trust is a key element for drivers of EVs, as many are making their first foray into this new territory. Drivers lack patience for apps and services which aren’t seamless and always available, meaning charging technology must be highly available 24/7, 365 days a year.
Service providers need a guaranteed charging service by hosting core IT in a highly available environment of their choice. At least >99.99% uptime and 24/7 support is vital to remedy any customer issues and maintain brand reputation.
- Technology performance
The biggest key differentiator between charging services is the speed of charging. Sometimes EV infrastructure providers experience their service performance lagging once they outgrow their initial IT setup. Both slow charging times and problematic apps can lead to customer loss.
Enhancing integrations, overhauling connectivity, or moving to host your apps on the cloud can make a huge difference, to ensure a service that’s fit for purpose and scalable. A tech partner offering a consultative audit will assess the provider’s current and future needs to ensure core IT infrastructure meets the needs to remain competitive and deliver better service outcomes.
- Change resiliency
EV infrastructure supporting technology must be adaptable and scalable to market demands. A technology roadmap needs to be in place to account for utilising the provider’s data (analysing customer preferences for how often and where they want to charge their EV). Only through gaining a full understanding of a provider’s customer behaviour through the app can you enable the right choices for technology investment.
Partnering with the right tech provider for digital expertise
An experienced technology partner with knowledge of a digital transformation framework for the EV charging infrastructure market will best support a provider which needs to navigate the complexity of new technologies and developments. Key objectives should be building resiliency into the core IT infrastructure, reducing complexity, and forming a totally connected, high visibility ecosystem, to deliver better service outcomes.
Here are some key traits and skills to help find a serious contender:
- Experience with similar customers
With a unique set of demands and a propensity for rapid scaling and operational evolvement, a tech partner should understand digital transformation in this specific market. Proven experience of working with similar organisations will build the right solutions, to avoid being their guinea pig for navigating challenges.
- A good cultural fit
You want the absolute most value from your digital transformation partner, without spending so much time and bandwidth that your strategic work suffers. A cultural fit comes down to not just your project lead and account manager, but the strategic vision and company ethos for getting things done. You’ll want a partner with agility, who is strategic and shares your environmental, social, and governance values to make change happen.
- A deeper level of account management
Solutions must perform technically while also being aligned to strategic objectives. A strategic partner with a vision and roadmap will be invested in delivering the end goal. Collaboratively working to make improvements in tech performance, longevity and cost-efficiency is a requirement. Ask about their account management process and customer references. Putting clear and measurable service-level agreements in place will hold them accountable for delivery.
- Future-proof solutions
A partner that shows an interest in new emerging solutions is important, especially in areas of data science and automation, to design a tech ecosystem that can flex and grow. A high calibre partner will invest in Azure, data analytics and transition to hybrid cloud platforms. As data volumes increase, having a data strategy is vital to use advanced analytics to generate business insight.
- Solid technical accreditations, especially in hybrid platforms
As a critical service, EV charging points, apps and other infrastructure must be highly available and performing 24/7. The supporting technology for your infrastructure must be highly resilient with optimised connectivity and exceptional support and managed services built-in. Look out for technical accreditations, such as Azure accreditations for a hybrid cloud environment and the best possible levels of vendor support escalation and alignment.
- Security accreditations that align with your risks
Security should be built into all IT services which means your tech partner’s security credentials are vital. EV market suppliers are likely to be key ransomware targets, and with many customer touchpoints comes increased vulnerability. Ensure that your partner has a mature Security Operations Centre (SOC) in place, with accreditations for data protection, regulatory compliance, payment processing, cyber threat prevention and disaster recovery.
- Demonstrable, sound financial backing
The financial profile of your partner is important when delivering a robust digital transformation plan. Checking their financial health includes where their investment comes from and about key stakeholders. Strong financial credentials are a key indicator of long-term partner potential.
- A proactive onboarding process
How a partner conducts their onboarding process is reflective of their general performance. It’s worth asking about this process, focusing on implementation periods, phased approaches, project management and deliverables. A set of first steps should be available from day one of working together, to avoid lags and set a new energy for the business.
Being in ‘charge’ of your technology destiny means sharing goals and responsibilities with an expert technology provider who shares your culture for change. With 2022 set to see an uptick in momentum for more mainstream EV adoption, providers who form strong technology partnerships, with high standards in place across the board, will be the winners.