Co-hosted by the Forum and the Institute for Government, the event was the second in a series on various aspects of net zero and the role of science and technology in achieving ambitious climate goals. Doctor Aruna Sivakumar, Director of the Urban Systems Laboratory, Imperial College London, talked with Professor David Bailey, Senior Research Fellow, UK in a Changing Europe, Philip New, Chair of the Electric Vehicle Energy Working Taskforce, and Jeremy Yapp, Head of Flexible Energy Systems at British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers’ Association.
Open to panelist comments, Dr. Sivakumar advocating for a just transition said the rapid growth in electric vehicle adoption during the pandemic will continue into 2022, and we are now past the early adoption phase. A quarter of cars sold in the UK this year are plug-ins, and 40% of UK drivers say their next car will be an electric car. However, Dr Sivakumar warns that barriers to adoption remain, mostly related to prices and consumer uncertainty about electricity prices. She stressed that equality in the transition to EVs is key to ensuring Electric Vehicle adoption is not imposed on segments of society that cannot afford them.
Dr Sivakumar stressed that policymakers need to focus not just on early adopters, but to start directing messages to the rest of society. Discussing some of her research, she noted that the experience of driving an Electric Vehicle for a short period of time helps ease consumer concerns from driving to accessibility to charging. Philip New agrees that building accessible, usable and safe public charging infrastructure is critical to equity. He shared the energy system catapult model, which predicts £7bn is needed for public infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Professor Bailey advocating for a just transition predicts that by the mid-to-late 2020s, electric cars could outperform petrol and diesel cars. He also said that China has established an efficient electric vehicle production cycle and has the potential to become the world’s largest exporter of electric vehicles. He stressed that this poses a serious challenge to the UK automotive industry.
Several panelists agreed that public infrastructure and charging, along with existing private uses, are critical to driving adoption. They argue that local authorities currently lack the capacity to engage in the planning required for effective deployment, and agree that they need to be empowered to drive infrastructure change. Dr Sivakumar outlined some previous work with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, including trials with smart lampposts, as a template for other local authorities to learn from.
According to industry figures, there are currently more than 32,000 public charging stations in the UK, but one in 10 is unavailable at any given time. BEAMA’s Jeremy Yapp explained that one barrier to adoption is the lack of dynamic time of use tariffs and the need for greater flexibility in the energy system to allow people to charge and get the best price.
Noting that smart charging is essential for a smooth transition to electric vehicles, Philip New advocating for a just transition said that smart charging is the only way to ensure that the car is integrated into the energy system. He added that this integration will make it less expensive for consumers and the overall system. Professor Philip and Bailey also spoke about the importance of interoperability between charging points to ensure a high quality and effortless consumer experience.
Dr Sivakumar stressed that electric vehicles are part of the puzzle, but the priority is to think more broadly about the decarbonisation of transport and mobility. Dr Sivakumar also noted that the goal should be for public transport usage to significantly exceed pre-pandemic levels, which have recently recovered significantly after declining during the pandemic. She also called for strengthening infrastructure and promoting positive travel opportunities, looking at the transport system in a connected way.
Looking ahead, Dr. Sivakumar studies projects on existing road financing models in the face of declining fuel tax revenues as part of the introduction of electric vehicles. She outlined a recent project, focusing on Birmingham and London, to look at two different models for future road pricing, including a regional system comparable to congestion charging and another system based on per-mile pricing.
All panelists agreed that a more flexible energy system and attractive tariffs are essential for a smooth and just transition. They also point to the importance of science and technology for further progress that will pave the way for adoption and alleviate existing concerns. All spoke optimistically about the potential of battery technology advancements to change acceptance and required infrastructure planning and delivery. In conclusion, they agree that owning and charging an electric car should be as easy as using any other basic utility.
Please give Electric Vehicle News Bitesize Podcast a 5 Star Review.
Subscribe to the Electric Vehicle News Bitesize Podcast for FREE on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Deezer, Breaker, Castbox, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Audible, Gaana, Samsung Podcasts, Google News and the Electric Vehicle News Bitesize Alexa Skill.
For more Articles and Episodes visit Volkswagen could outsell Tesla in electric car sales by 2024.