2020 is going to be a momentous year in the growth of electric mobility in Europe. There’s news every day, but what are the truly important trends to watch?
We received insights from a leading group of professionals from across the industry to answer this question for you in a 2-part Trends 2020 miniseries of the Electric Avenue Podcast. This article is a condensed version of that podcast, the full version of which you can find on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or wherever you find podcasts.
Thanks to contributions from:
- Thomas Daiber — former CEO of Hubject and now of Cosmic Cat Group
- Julia Poliscanova — Clean Vehicles Director at Transport & Environment
- Ryan Fisher — Advanced Transport Team at Bloomberg New Energy Finance
- Petar Georgiev — Policy Advisor, Climate & E-mobility at Eurolectric
- Lyubov Artemenko — COO at Go To U
- Rok Kobal — Head of Business Development, Nordics at Etrel
- Rafał Czyżewski — CEO of GreenWay Polska
- Peter Badik — Managing Partner at GreenWay
- Aaron Fishbone — Communications Director at GreenWay
Trend 1: Awareness & Consensus
It may seem so obvious, but the first major trend to watch in 2020 is awareness — how aware does the wider public become of vehicle electrification? Do they see it as something realistic for them or does it remain a niche product, in the realm of science fiction or only for rich people? Awareness is a basic underlying fundamental of the switch to electric — first people need to know, then accept, and then themselves become users. How broadly electric vehicles (EVs) become seen as mainstream vehicles and a mass market transportation option is a key trend to monitor.
This is also very important among decision-makers — from policymakers to the automotive and energy sectors. Is there growing consensus that vehicle electrification is the next wave of automotive progress?
European Union (EU) level policymaking and investment announcements by major automotive manufacturers (OEMs) and energy utilities show that this is already happening, but the trend continuing — and deepening — is one to watch.
One way that awareness is generated, especially among the broader public, is through the availability of consumer products and the marketing campaigns around those consumer products — especially new electric vehicles. Which brings us to trend #2….
Trend #2: Availability of EVs on the Market
“2020 has been dubbed by some media now as the year of the electric car. And we certainly hope so as the European CO2 standards already have kicked in on 1st of January this year.” —Julia Poliscanova, Director Clean Vehicles, Transport & Environment.
In 2020, the global EV fleet is projected to grow to 10 million, with 800,000 units sold in Europe, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. There are many commitments by auto OEMs to bring EVs to market, and there is clear demand on the market. For example, Slovakia recently offered an incentive program for consumers, capped at €6 million overall, for vehicles up to €50,000 in price. It sold out in 3 minutes and 41 seconds.
But from OEM press releases to customers having keys and sitting happily behind the wheel of their EV, a few more steps are involved. Customer experience at the auto dealership, time from order to delivery, and production volumes keeping up with demand are some of the key trends to watch this year.
And with all of these new EVs on the road, one might wonder about the available charging options….
Trend 3: Infrastructure, Placement, & Policy
“In the field of EV charging, we can see a sharp shift in focus from public charging to business and private sites.” —Rok Kobal, Etrel
There is a shift taking place right now, from public charging stations at highways and bigger public locations to destination charging at workplaces, hotels, restaurants, gyms, shopping malls, etc. — more low-power chargers being installed at places people go to otherwise spend their time. For communities and countries where people live in apartment blocks and don’t have their own designated parking places, and therefore no private place to charge an EV, this could be a game-changer in terms of their willingness to consider buying an EV.
Another trend, especially in Eastern Europe, will be the development of charging hubs – places where there are multiple chargers, multiple designated parking places, and different types of chargers for different users who are prepared to be there for different periods of time or want to pay more or less per kilowatt-hour. These hubs will have amenities and could be in multimodal transit locations. This connects very much to the topic of vehicles on the market because if there are more and different vehicles, there are going to be more people looking for places to charge and needing more types of charging solutions for their specific situations, and if people have to wait in long queues, it’s a deterrent.
Connected to this idea of hubs (and high-powered or ultrafast charging), or really wherever you will have potential peak energy demand greater than the maximum reserved or available capacity at that grid connection, you engage the topic of energy management and energy storage – which we’ll discuss more below – and also regulation.
The European Green Deal will have many points of interest to the EV charging industry, from new investments in public charging to harmonizing roaming to the planned update of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID). Two very important elements are whether it will remain a directive or become a regulation. Secondly, what will this do in terms of mandating new buildings be “EV ready” with proper wiring, and owners being required to allow tenants to install EV charging on the premises. What about regulatory elements connected with the electricity sector? What about creating a new EV tariff? The implications of these policy changes could be very significant, and we will be watching closely to what comes out of Brussels.
Trend 4: User Experience & Roaming
Ultrafast charging felt like the buzzword of 2019, and customer experience (UX) feels like it already is the buzzword of 2020.
UX is about viewing the world through the perspective of the customer (rather than that of the company), and evaluating the product and process from that perspective. There is basic UX — whether the registration process is clear, whether the charger is working when the driver arrives, whether the helpline number works — and then there is exceptional customer experience.
To quote Peter Badik from GreenWay*, “It’s something which you are never done with — user experience has to be a constant thing in your company and you need to improve it all the time. Even small improvements require a lot of work behind, and that’s a constant thing. And it’s a learning process to understand what customers really want. For example, reservations of parking spaces for charging — we thought drivers would want it. Sometimes it is hard to identify what is actually improving the experience for the user.”
At GreenWay, UX is taken so seriously we have a cross departmental UX “SWAT team” that monitors customer-facing touch points across the entire service spectrum.
The competitive landscape in the electric mobility provider business is moving from who has the greatest number of charging stations to which companies provide the best UX. Or, in the words of Lyubov Artemenko from Go To U: “from range anxiety to experience anxiety.”
Closely related to UX is roaming, because one of the largest pain points for EV drivers is the lack of interoperability between charging point operators. When a user cannot just stop at any charging station, but instead needs to find a charging station in their network or from a roaming partner of their electric mobility provider, that’s a large pain point.
For charging service providers, the technical elements related to interoperability, both bilaterally and between roaming platforms, have largely been solved, but implementation is still a challenge and the financial incentives are not yet optimally aligned. At the same time, the European Commission will be looking to harmonize roaming protocols and cross border payment and VAT issues. How this all evolves will be important to watch in 2020.
Trend 5: Market Consolidation & Shakeup. The Emergence of New Companies & New Business Models.
What will the business landscape look like in the coming years? On one hand there were/are too many companies in the EV charging market. Mergers and acquisitions will continue to swallow up smaller players (or big EV players by even bigger energy companies). On one hand, this will also help create standards and reliability and bring consistency, professionalism, and resources to the industry.
On the other hand, e-mobility is opening up entirely new business models and industries. There are new data streams available, new services (both backend and frontend, B2B and B2C) to be offered and packaged, and untold new energy applications that can be commercialized thanks to the convergence between EV charging, EVs, energy storage, and the grid.
And the huge, largely untapped potential of that last market brings us to trend 6.
Trend 6: The EV & Energy Convergence
“2020 will probably be the year where you will see first commercial series ready V2G (vehicle to grid) solutions out there. I think that the possibilities of combining electric car batteries to a virtual power plant is really massive and there are many nice things that you can do with it — and, of course, also offering new incentives and services for your customers.” — Tomas Daiber, Cosmic Cat Group
Another key area will be the development of smart charging. The idea here is that a vehicle can charge and receive energy from the grid at a time when the grid has it to offer and (where V2G is permitted) discharge energy to the grid when it needs additional energy.
Another added benefit here is flexibility — there are times when a user charging could be beneficial for the grid and others when it could be a problem. Users who can time their recharging to the beneficial periods should be compensated for this, and if they want to charge during peak times, it could cost more. Flexibility could be a great benefit for the whole energy system, so the development of smart charging will be an important development to watch.
Of all the many things going on in e-mobility in 2020, these are the main trends we’ll be paying the most close attention to.
To hear the full discussion and exclusive contributions from the experts, listen to the podcast here.
*This post was sponsored by Greenway. Images courtesy of the company and used with permission.
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