E.ON: Smart approach to EV charging is critical


E.ON will switch its fleet to EVs by 2030. Its experience should drive smarter results for businesses, says Hannah Collishaw, director of E.ON Drive.

Whether rolling out a handful of EVs or hundreds, the golden rule is to put yourself in the driving seat – quite literally, says Collishaw.

“Our focus has been to follow the driver and fully understand their behaviour and needs. If you understand what they experience, you develop better solutions,” says Collishaw.  “We consider everything from the driver’s perspective.”

That maxim applies both to domestic drivers and business users. For the latter, particularly fleets, Collishaw believes a “virtual test drive” is the best place to start.

“Understand the nature of the journeys, where and when people will be charging,” she advises. “That helps to select the right vehicles and charging infrastructure – and the best places to put it.”

Think ahead

A roadmap that considers EVs’ future impact on energy consumption is also essential, given distribution network constraints.

“If you have a lot of vehicles, chargepoints can utilise a lot of power. A site’s capacity – how much electricity it is allowed to draw from the distribution network – can be quite a big consideration,” says Collishaw. “So it’s important to think about how you implement EVs as part of a broader energy strategy.”

Anecdotally, Collishaw says capacity is constrained at around one in three sites. Where reinforcement is required, “costs can be significant, upwards of £100,000, but that is rare”, she says. “They are typically much lower, perhaps £15,000.”

Smart charging

Smart charging can negate the need for network upgrades. This can take two forms; dynamic load management, where the available capacity is intelligently shared between a number of vehicles, and load shifting.

“Load shifting ensures best fit with the site’s energy usage; matching the ebb and flow of energy use throughout the day to optimise how and when the chargers are used,” says Collishaw. She believes smart charging will be “massively important” as the UK continues to decarbonise, and more drivers switch to EVs.

For example, on sunny, windy days there may be too much power on the system at midday. Charging during that period could benefit both for the power system and EV owners, especially when time-of-use tariffs become mainstream, says Collishaw. As such, it is “critical to incorporate a smart approach to charging”.

Onsite generation

There’s debate around public acceptance of controlled charging, but Collishaw says businesses are “highly engaged and very open to the conversation.”

Larger organisations may also have onsite generation, which can be integrated with charging. Or they may consider investing in generation as part of an overall solution, “particularly businesses with their own fleet, or those with a sustainability agenda”, adds Collishaw. “And when people are engaged it becomes a point of interest to build around.”

Future proof

E.ON typically installs 22kW ‘fast’ chargers at business sites, which are capable of fully charging vehicles in a couple of hours.

At present, the most common EV, Nissan’s Leaf, charges at 6.6kW (unless connected through a 50kW rapid charger). It will therefore charge at the same rate on a 22kW charger as a 7kW charger (six hours). However, Collishaw says that by installing 22kW chargepoints, businesses are future-proofing: They can charge more vehicles today using less infrastructure, while preparing for broader uptake and range of vehicles that can take higher rates of charge.

“A 7kW charger may be cheaper, but may not be the best overall solution,” she says. “Our aim is always to strike that balance between current and future needs.”

Accelerating the rate of change

The shift to EVs is inevitable – as evidenced by car manufacturers pivoting their businesses. But Collishaw thinks government could speed the transition and help ensure more vehicles are shipped to the UK than elsewhere.

Bringing forward government’s 2040 target to ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles nearer to 2030 would be a good start, suggests Collishaw.

Benefit-in-kind changes coming into force next year will make EVs more financially attractive and should boost uptake, though Collishaw urges government not to ditch current fiscal incentives.

“Anything that helps organisations to digest upfront costs has a direct effect on the car manufacturers,” she says. “At the moment, supply and demand is definitely a challenge – and we see that in our own EV rollout. You don’t really want to wait 11 months for vehicles to arrive if you want to change your fleet today.”

This article was published in The Energyst’s 2019 EV Report.

The report includes a survey of more than 100 businesses and details their EV and charging plans as well as attitudes to smart charging and vehicle-to-grid services.

It also contains interviews with other businesses switching fleets to EVs, charging point companies, distribution network operators, consultants, carmakers, technology firms and energy suppliers.

Download the report, free of charge, here.

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