Energy supply emissions have been steadily reducing in the UK over the last 30 years, while transport has remained one of the country’s largest sources of emissions, despite remaining stable.
This has led to a significant focus on the rollout of more environmentally friendly modes of transport, such as electric vehicles (EV), becoming a prominent aspect of the UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy, aimed at reducing overall emissions.
With a short timeframe to drastically change the transport industry and consumer behaviour, the government’s zero emissions target for 2035 aims for no new petrol or diesel cars and vans to be sold after 2030. Recent numbers have shown this target is not completely out of reach, as consumers are beginning to consider greener options, with one in four intending to buy an EV in the next five years. This has led to manufacturers expanding their offerings and improving their tech capabilities to keep up with the demand. Innovation in the industry has also drastically taken strides in reducing costs, making consumers more likely to make the switch to EVs.
However, there are substantial technological, social and economic barriers that industry and government combined must overcome, if the UK is to be successful in the widespread rollout and adoption of EVs in the timeframes hoped for.
Lack of charging infrastructure inflating range anxiety
One major stumbling block for EVs is the perceived drawback on the range of travel. Range anxiety is a concern for many prospective EV owners, who fear that they will run out of power on a journey and not be able to find a charging point. This is an understandable concern; however, technological innovation has meant that the charge range on EVs has improved drastically, with a 15% increase in the last few years. The current ranges of EVs can reach over 300 miles on some brands, considerably larger than the average daily driving distance of 20 miles a day.
Though these concerns are mostly psychological, there is a lack of charging infrastructure nationwide that legitimises consumers’ concerns, with just one charger currently available for every 15 cars. With the anticipated demand for EVs expected to drastically increase over the next few years, the current number of charging stations or rapid charging stations across the UK, amounting to 32,663 as of June 2022, will vastly underserve the amount of EVs that are expected, even for the current amount on the roads. A significant increase is required to keep up with anticipated demand. Reactively, the Government has committed to raising this number to 300,000 charging stations nationwide by 2030, over an 800% increase. But is that enough and are they in the right places, what steps can practically be put in place to improve the current situation?
The importance of geospatial data for expanding charging infrastructure
Currently, there is a higher density of charging stations around more populated areas, predominantly London. For widespread uptake and to reduce range anxiety, charging stations must be rolled out to less densely populated parts of the country, delivering an equitable infrastructure nationwide. The key to reducing this barrier is accurate and reliable geospatial data to be provided to the software developers that are focused on infrastructure-based projects.
Research shows there is an influx of developers desiring to work on sustainability projects, with 54% saying they would like to be ‘part of the greater good and make a difference’. Software developers and geospatial data specialists are well-placed to help determine the optimum locations for charging facilities across the nations, leading to an increased focus on these skillsets for EV infrastructure projects.
Accurate geospatial data is essential in supporting developers in this endeavour, helping them to understand the physical context of everything, from small land features to national infrastructure. Today data is accessible and open in a number of formats, including through the OS Data Hub. When it comes to siting EV charge points, the relationships between different features — together with the location of roads, electricity supply, homes and commercial sites — all need careful consideration.
Demand for seamless UX
The next barrier to address is user experience. Across industries today, customers demand seamless, personalised experiences. In order to thrive in a competitive market, the EV industry needs to engage consumers in new and exciting ways, particularly where physical and digital experiences converge. Due to this, the demand for apps and digital solutions serving consumers and businesses using EVs is set to accelerate rapidly.
An effort into creating modern, user-friendly information and communication platforms for EV adopters, such as apps informing drivers of charging point status, location, connectivity and local amenities, will help to create the optimum EV experience. Today, there are basic apps that can do some of the above, yet they are not as precise as they need to be. Consumers expect accurate, live information, accessible data that can be provided through companies like Paua.
With accurate geospatial data, software developers can improve user experiences, and even create additional apps and features. Whether it’s mapping on-and-off street charging locations, assisting with route planning, for commercial fleets or consumers, or improving insurance policies through data collection, the opportunities for innovation across the EV ecosystem are great. They will also create a more positive consumer experience around EV use and help with its rollout and adoption.
About the Author
Rollo Home is Head of Product at Ordnance Survey. We help governments make smarter decisions that ensure our safety and security, we show businesses how togain a location data edge and we help everyone experience the benefits of the world outside