Rich Hampshire, VP Digital Utilities, CGI UK, describes how IoT can help us smooth the path to having many more electric vehicles on our roads and all the benefits that brings.

Electric vehicles in their various forms are becoming increasingly popular with the public. And why wouldn’t they? They look the same as their internal combustion engine-powered equivalents, but with better acceleration and without the noisy exhaust beloved by petrol heads.

Electric vehicles are increasingly an economic choice, as well as giving owners the feel-good factor of doing their bit towards achieving the 1.5°C climate objective. Jaguar has seen global sales in entirely electric vehicle rise from 0.8% to 14.7% between June and November this year.

The ban on vehicles that run exclusively on petrol and diesel by 2040, plus rising taxes and congestion charges being applied to fossil-fuelled vehicles in city centres is driving the second-hand values of those vehicles down. This is important to the many people who have vehicles on a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) scheme are finding that monthly payments are climbing on a like-for-like basis when they come to look at a new vehicle. At the same time, those of us on PCP do not get a refund for returning the vehicle with under the contracted mileage.

All this is making an EV the smart choice.

We need greater range

The range of fully charged electric vehicles is still some way off that of a combustion engine vehicle with a full tank. Even on a fast charger, drivers might need to hang around for a while longer than the six minute ‘splash and dash’ you might experience from filling up a petrol vehicle.

But, when it comes to addressing the anxiety about range, at least there are more charging points. The question is whether they will this keep pace with the number of people choosing the electric option? It’s too easy to say the answer is ensuring that the charging infrastructure us smart — what does that really mean?

Smart charging points doesn’t just mean measuring the amount of charge being taken by a vehicle and communicating that to your chosen electricity supplier. It’s about being able to respond to signals about when to charge, whether they concern price from an energy supplier, or relate to the needs of the electricity network to which your vehicle is connected.

The longer you can leave your vehicle connected to a charging point, the more flexibility you will be able to give to your charging provider. In turn, charging your vehicle will become more cost effective. This can be achieved either by taking advantage of low wholesale energy prices when supply exceeds demand, or by aligning charging with available network capacity and being compensated by the electricity network providers.

Connected vehicles are key

Rich Hampshire

Of course, as Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more widespread, the vehicles themselves are becoming increasingly connected. It’s feasible that by making the relevant data generated by your electric vehicle available to your energy supplier, the electricity network operator or the charging point provider, we can avoid duplicating functionality.

That will mean access to the required data which, in turn, demands appropriate device and data security along with addressing our concerns about privacy and how data is made available, to whom and our trust secured. As with all IoT innovations, device connectivity and reliable communications networks will be vital because people need to have confidence in all these elements for it to be achieved .

This opens up the opportunity for new business models around what you pay for your charge and who you pay. The more flexible you can be, the more options there are for your preferred supplier to take advantage of low energy costs to charge your car. But who will your supplier be? Your energy supplier at home? Will you pay as you go? Could your car manufacturer roll charging into the service contract? And what might this mean for filling stations?

All of this shows that electric vehicles will greatly impact the number of connected ‘things’ in the constant process of collecting data. As we move into this new generation of transport, energy providers will need to think critically about how to effectively manage data to ensure flexible and cost-efficient charging. In the world of electric vehicles, data really is the new oil.

The author of this blog is Rich Hampshire, VP Digital Utilities, CGI UK

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