With EV demand starting to grow exponentially, workplaces should start planning now – and think beyond the car park, says EDF EV solutions director, Vincent de Rul
Interest in EVs and charging infrastructure had picked up markedly even before changes to Benefit in Kind tax rates came into effect in April, says EDF EV solutions director, Vincent de Rul.
So far it seems not even Covid-19 disruption can halt the shift now underway: June EV sales increased 262 per cent year on year, according to industry data. With generous tax breaks spurring demand, de Rul advises businesses planning to integrate EVs into company car fleets to begin mapping their journey now to secure full value from incentives and benefits.
“Start researching the technology options and support available, and which parts of your fleet are best suited to electrification to create a clear plan,” says de Rul.
“Starting slowly is not a problem. But do start, so that you can test and learn with a handful of chargepoints and vehicles to ensure a successful wider rollout.”
Stakeholder engagement should not be underestimated, he adds. “It affects all areas of the business. Ensure everybody is included so that it is a positive transition for all stakeholders.”
Crucially, he advises firms to strike partnerships.
“The EV ecosystem is developing quickly and there are many moving parts. It’s not something any business can successfully do on its own. Having strong partnerships in place across that ecosystem is the way forward.”
Mapping and overlaying requirements onto vehicle leasing or procurement cycles will inform charging infrastructure strategies, says de Rul, with both workplace and home charging factoring into the required number of chargers, charging speeds and also shaping energy contracts and capacity aspects.
Understanding on-site charging requirements informs whether or not businesses have sufficient electrical capacity or may need to consider workarounds. While some parts of the grid may require reinforcement, de Rul says there are lots of ways for businesses to minimise additional infrastructure investment.
While smart charging is a key consideration in managing grid capacity, he says firms should first look at maximising energy efficiency opportunities across their facilities – not just in the car park.
“Optimising energy consumption is the first thing to do. If you can generate renewable energy locally to support your own needs as well as the grid, you should do that,” says de Rul. “Then of course, load manage and prioritise your systems and processes smartly – not just across EV chargers, but across your entire estate.”
Car parks as virtual power plants?
De Rul says smart charging “is an absolutely critical step to get to net zero” without overloading the grid.
Smart charging can also provide a significant opportunity for businesses in terms of minimising energy costs and reducing carbon footprints – while turning car parks into a potential source of revenue.
Even when cars are parked in different locations, there are ways that company fleets can become virtual power plants if aggregated and smartly controlled to charge only when it benefits the local or national grid, says de Rul.
He points to the challenges faced by National Grid ESO this summer in managing exceptionally low demand on the transmission system due to lockdowns – which resulted in it offering to pay large energy users to consume more power.
“To me, smart charging is the most exciting aspect of the electrification of transport, because it combines all elements – the energy market, customer behaviour and the constraints of the network and the asset itself,” says de Rul. “If we can understand and manage those aspects in the right way, we can deliver smart solutions for the customer – and for the decarbonised economy.”
While smart charging can unlock revenue opportunities for businesses, he says bi- directional charging, which enables vehicle-to- grid services, should also be on the radar for businesses with large fleets as “the final stage of optimisation.”
In the meantime, de Rul says business that bring together onsite generation and/or storage assets with EV charging solutions “can unlock a very strong proposition” across cost, revenue, constraint and carbon management.
Putting the pieces together
This year EDF acquired charging network Pod Point, which counts companies such
as Tesco, Lidl, John Lewis and Mitie as customers. It also acquired Pivot Power, which
is developing a network of transmission-connected 50MW batteries in a bid to form a superfast EV charging network adjacent to main arterial routes. EDF has set out plans to be a European leader in electric vehicle charging. It believes a new nuclear fleet, storage and smart charging will be required to enable a net zero economy underpinned by electrification of heat, transport and industry.
Free download: The 2020 EV report
This article is one of a number of in-depth interviews conducted for The Energyst’s new 2020 EV report. It contains expert insight across a range of sectors, plus a survey of more than 300 firms around EV charging infrastructure plans.
Sponsored by Arup, EDF, Good Energy, New Motion and Total Gas & Power, the report also includes views from: Arval, Cenex, DPD, Dreev, Engenie, ev.energy, Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, Mitie, National Grid, Nottingham City Council, the John Lewis Partnership, TLT, UK Power Networks, UPS and Western Power Distribution.
Download the report here.