Thursday, June 17, 2021

A Look at the Potential Pitfalls of Charging Electric Vehicles in the Future

These are Salad Days for EV Drivers - But Not for Long Perhaps
Shipping News Feature

UK – Whilst there is undoubted enthusiasm to make the switch from internal combustions engines to electrically powered vehicles most are aware of some of the problems associated with the technology. Battery life and range of travel spring straight to mind. However there are other factors to consider.

As with any new technology however the problems can be manifold, with the danger lying in areas unforeseen as the new devices are rolled out. After all in the heyday of the car who envisaged any pollution problems which might arise? Wasn’t the principal reason for their fast adoption environmental after all, coming as they did when the city streets were clogged with the droppings of thousands of horses.

One group however has been looking at the potential difficulties of making a swift and easy transition to the new technology, and there certainly seem to be pitfalls ahead. Nick Sacke is Head of IoT Solutions at Comms365, an organisation which deals with a vast range of industry sectors looking to help companies overcome such unforeseen challenges.

This month Nick has been considering EVs and his conclusions in part are worthy of consideration. Take for example charging points for the new breed of vehicle. As a result of bringing forward the ban of selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars from 2040 to 2030, as part of the Government’s ‘Road to Zero Strategy,’ the pressure is on for the UK Government to meet its Electric Vehicle (EV) targets. However recent reports have found that in order to achieve such targets, electric vehicle charge points must be fitted five times faster than the current rate.

The problems as a result can be imagined but human nature and behaviour may well lead to more issues as the way the charge points are utilised will decide their efficiency, and there are two stand out areas of concern, ‘ICEing’ and ‘hogging’.

ICEing is where an internal combustion (IC) vehicle is parked within an EV bay, therefore, preventing it from being available for genuine EV users. Conversely hogging is when an EV vehicle is being used and charged in the bay, but the space is kept occupied for longer than it should, far surpassing the duration of the charging session and preventing other EV drivers from using the resource.

Recent surveys conducted by Comms365 suggest the general public is less concerned about ICEing and hogging than local councils. That may well change as these become actual, rather than possible situations. People and parking have a chequered history.

Currently take up of EV charge points is low but that is likely to change dramatically in the next few years and there is no recognised ‘EV charge etiquette’ at the moment. While we may not have yet reached peak EV demand, this may potentially mean that people aren’t aware of charge point locations, or they simply don’t know how to use them effectively.

Drivers will demand a situation where topping up an EV is similar in format to using a petrol or diesel powered vehicle, long delays produce frustrations. While the functionality of EV chargers is increasing, arguably this is not as important as helping users to easily locate and use them. Users must be able to quickly navigate to their nearest charge point , and also identify whether any chargers are available, which is deemed as ‘essential’ by 81% of both EV-drivers and non-EV drivers in recent research by Comms365 and Cenex.

For example, there could be a sign outside a car park which states that all four chargers are busy, but one unit will be available in five minutes. This reflects the goal to create a similar environment to that of a petrol station, where drivers don’t mind sitting in a queue if they can see the pump ahead will shortly become free. Cultural mirroring must be considered for the use of EV, especially compared to what users of diesel and petrol vehicles are used to, there must be a matching of consumer experience between EV and IC vehicles to boost adoption.

In Scotland for example, the government is already attempting to deal with bay ‘hogging’ through implementing overstay charging fees, a form of enforcement that works by issuing fines if users stay too long by going beyond their charge session. However, some of these enforcement models are problematic in rural environments where there is less capacity for enforcement. In summary, there’s a significant cultural challenge of how to implement a fair system that people will not abuse.

So how do you try to achieve the ‘filling station effect’ with public resources? One answer may lie in the adoption of that behavioural etiquette, the equivalent of a splash and dash, with drivers becoming used to simply taking enough from the grid to make it home where they can charge up at leisure. Cost of the service, even a sliding scale of rates for long delays, could potentially assist this change in behaviour.

There is additionally the possibility of incentivising EV use further with dynamic charging plans where prices reflect electricity grid load and are dependent on the time of the day. If you’re charging at night on a public charger, should you pay less? And if it’s a peak period or location, should you pay more? (Look at motorway service station petrol prices). The opportunities are endless, but only with the right data collected to provide meaningful insight.

And Comms365 believes wholeheartedly the answer lies in the data and its collection, analysis and sharing. It’s all well and good putting up ‘islands’ of chargers, but these cannot be managed properly without access to data that is shared with multiple stakeholders, including councils and users. Currently, data rests in silos, meaning the data is controlled by the charge point network operator (CPNO).

There is now growing pressure from Central and Local Government to make charge point datasets available to be shared through industry standard protocols (OCPP and OCPI) to provide a fertile ground in which to grow new operational policies and allow the charge point network to operate more effectively. The gathering, sharing and analysis of this charge point data, together with IoT and other data sources, will identify trends, behaviours and challenges, streamline processes and make the most efficient use of information.

In fact Comms365 believe that EV infrastructure may be damaged and perhaps even not work if stakeholders don’t collect, analyse and share their data effectively, contributing to a wider collaboration by integrating all the information together, such as traffic counts, signals and highways network operation. Pinch points and problems will appear, but with access to the right information, the data can help create answers to the problems. Once stakeholders and local councils collaborate and share their data with one another, a more holistic and clearer picture to users can be created.

Beyond access to EV charge points, what other needs will users have? What about the disabled driver? Recently, there have been new initiatives using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) at EV charge points. Having access to the information about who the driver is opens up possibilities for implementing a network of disabled EV bays to direct the individual to. Note that the design of a disabled EV bay is not going to be the same as an ordinary EV bay; the charger will have a different design, and the individual will have certain needs to be met such as space around the charger to manoeuver wheelchairs.

In conclusion Nick Sacke believes it is in all stakeholders’ interests to make EV infrastructure and the charging experience as streamlined, user friendly and efficient as possible. If it appears too difficult or challenging, then charge points will not be perceived to be available, and if users don’t know where charge points are, then people may not adopt EV en masse. However, by deploying technology solutions including IoT EV bay monitoring to help make these processes more efficient, with real-time data flow and sharing at the core of the proposition, then those involved can benefit from improved transport networks ahead and prepare for the inevitable increased demand that will occur.

Photo: image courtesy of Comms365.