The UK is lagging behind targets to reduce transport emissions. The electrification of vehicles is essential to meet the UK’s climate change targets, but with up to 36 million electric vehicles (EVs) predicted to be on UK roads by 2040 and a recommendation from the Committee on Climate Change to bring forward the ban on diesel and petrol cars from 2040 to 2030, this has implications for energy: the CCC anticipated that demand for energy could double by 2050 if transport and heat electrification is successfully achieved.
Tanya Sinclair, UK & Ireland policy director at ChargePoint, explained in a Q&A with AMP how they expect the EV revolution to unfold, from timing and tipping points to the expected impact on the energy system.
‘Our urban landscape is changing and the market is responding’
Our urban landscape is changing, from smart buildings to electric vehicles, and our energy system is already evolving to accommodate this transformation. EVs are no more onerous on energy demand than any other urban operation.
EVs have significantly progressed since first generation cars that needed charging after each journey: now even mid-range cars have 250+ mile range and a lot of charging can be done during low demand periods, from bus and freight depots to cars on driveways.
However, the market will respond to changing demand patterns, such as smart energy solutions that are already being developed such as remotely controlling the time or rate of charge, or smart tariffs.
Flexible plants or battery storage close to charging hubs are another way to manage demand: there are trial projects up and running by organisations operating fleets of electric taxis in cities with capacity constraints.
‘Upgrading our EV infrastructure is vital’
The UK’s current infrastructure is a patchwork of networks, technology and operators. Creating a network of smart charging solutions that meet each location’s needs will be vital to provide the confidence in infrastructure required to convince commercial and domestic users to make the switch – such as charging hubs offering a combination of rapid charge for vehicles passing through the area to slower charge for those with more time such as residents charging overnight.
‘Policy will drive the change and commercial use will be the catalyst to achieving it’
Public opinion is evolving, as environmental consciousness grows and more consumers and businesses accept the need for electric vehicles. However, ChargePoint strongly believe that national and local policy will be the key driver to meet EV targets. The creation of low- or zero emission zones in urban areas necessitate a conversion to EVs, but they also impact all road users and not just cars.
Commercial vehicles are on the road every day, moving goods around cities and across the country – the incentivise to switch and invest in electrification is far greater. Whilst policy will necessitate the change, shifting mindsets will help to achieve it in the most efficient and cost-effective manner, such as a fleet analysing its current and future needs to create a portfolio of HGVs, vans, cars and cargo bikes rather than simply a like-for-like upgrade which could be cost-prohibitive.
‘The market needs freedom to innovate’
Business and technology hold the key to the EV revolution, which is why the reduction in government funding and incentives is likely to make way for innovation and the creation of sustainable commercial models. From charging infrastructure and new EV models to a shift in public opinion, the next two years will really be the tipping point when activity ramps up in the rollout.
 National Grid Future Energy Scenarios (2018)