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Fuelling the Future of Electric Vehicles

Julian Boneham

By Julian Boneham, Technology Practice Director – Data, at Node4

Following the biggest year of UK electric vehicle (EV) consumer market sales and the COP26 climate conference, 2022 is set to be a defining year for EVs.

Backed by the UK government’s ambitious emission-free measures, and a £1,500 plug-in-car grant for new EV car purchases, the EV market is booming in the UK. Last year saw EV car sales increase by 76% and, according to the UK automotive trade body The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), electric cars are projected to outsell diesel models by the end of 2022.

As the UK prepares itself for the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel vehicle sales, followed by a further proposed ban on the sale of new hybrid vehicles by 2035, investment in the UK’s charging infrastructure is ramping up fast to cope with the anticipated demand that will go way beyond the estimated 400,000 EVs and more than 750,000 plug-in hybrids on the road today.

In the coming years, the public charging network will need to be upscaled radically to ensure an appropriate level of infrastructure is in place to support current and future EV car owners.

A sizeable business opportunity

With just over 20,000 charge points in the UK at the end of 2021, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) estimates that, by 2030, 325,000 public charging points will be required to support the needs of EV drivers.

Alongside providing fast charge options at petrol and service stations to meet the requirements of those on long-distance journeys, the CCC has identified a growing need for public ‘top-up’ charging facilities in public parking spaces. Plus, a growing number of drivers that are unable to charge their vehicles at home, for example, if they live in flats, will need certainty that they can easily access a public charging network.

All of which creates new opportunities for supermarkets, shopping centres and other businesses for whom the provision of public chargers would help attract customers and demonstrate a businesses’ green credentials. Similarly, local authorities may also want to install chargers in the car parks they operate and in residential streets with available parking.

With demand set to grow exponentially, improvement in the EV support infrastructure is becoming a critical focus area and providers are jostling for position. EV charging service providers that make it possible for EV drivers to plug and charge their vehicles from different charging networks are growing, as are schemes featuring subscription services, apps and membership cards.

This means that the infrastructure that is put in place will need to support drivers, regardless of which scheme they are – or are not – a member of, to ensure that drivers can use any and all types of charger. But that’s just the start.

The top 3 critical criteria for EV charging infrastructures

The EV industry has a way to go to reassure prospective vehicle owners that they can effectively charge a vehicle in a single stop. With a variety of charging choices on offer, the supporting technology for app and charging services must fulfil three vital criteria. Today’s consumers will expect to encounter public charging services that are seamless, reliable and secure.

1. Service availability – trust is a key element for EV drivers, many of whom are making their first venture into this new territory. Drivers will not tolerate apps that aren’t seamless or always available, so any charging technology that is deployed will need to be highly available 24/7/365 days a year. To ensure this, service providers must host core IT in highly available environments that can provide at least 99.99% uptime and 24×7 support to ensure they can remedy any customer issues and maintain brand reputations.

2. Technology performance – speed of charging represents a key competitive differentiator but EV infrastructure providers often experience service performance lags whenever they outgrow their initial IT set-up. These slow charging times, combined with problematic apps, can lead to customer and market share losses. To deliver better service outcomes, infrastructure providers should look to tech partners that are able to undertake a consultative audit that will ensure their core IT infrastructure is able to meet current and future needs. Recommendations are likely to include improved data integration and analytics, overhauling connectivity, or hosting apps in the cloud to ensure services are fit for purpose and scalable.

3. Resiliene – EV infrastructure supporting technology needs to be adaptable enough to cope with evolving market demands. To ensure this, the technology roadmap needs to feature data analytics that will deliver intelligence on key customer behaviours and preferences. For example, harvesting data from the customer app to understand how often and where they charge their EV. Keeping pace with these changes will ensure the right decisions relating to future technology investments can be made.

Finding the right digital transformation partner

Navigating the complexity of new technologies and developments means working with an experienced technology partner that has in-depth knowledge of digital transformation.

The rapid scaling and operational evolution of the EV market means that it is vital to ensure that technology partners have experience working with similar organisations and proven capabilities when it comes to knitting a number of different technologies together to build solutions that can cope with demand peaks and troughs.

The supporting technology for your infrastructure must be highly resilient with optimised connectivity and exceptional support and managed services built-in. Look out for technical accreditations, such as Microsoft Expert MSP Azure accreditations for a hybrid cloud environment and the best possible levels of vendor support escalation and alignment.

Ensuring your transformation partner is ahead of the game in terms of the technology landscape will also be critical. For example, partners that are specialists in areas such as data and automation will be more likely to deliver an infrastructure that is optimised for future workloads. Ultimately, a partner that can provide real-world expertise to help determine the optimal location for applications – private infrastructure or public cloud – is just part of the puzzle. Today’s providers will have to contend with ever-increasing volumes of data which creates an opportunity for modern data platforms that enable more advanced analytics.

Working with a partner that has experience in secure hybrid and public cloud platforms and advanced data management services will ensure you’re able to make the most of your modernisation technology investments.

Security accreditations aligned to your risks

The charging ecosystem is a complex one that includes interfaces between vehicles, charge station service providers, banks and payment platforms. This makes them attractive to malicious actors looking to steal personal information and skim payment information. Indeed, all these ‘customer’ touchpoints represent potential vulnerabilities that make EV market suppliers key ransomware targets.

To ensure security is built into all IT services, your tech partner’s security credentials will need to be top-notch. To minimise risk, ensure that your partner has a mature Security Operations Centre (SOC) in place, with accreditations for data protection, regulatory compliance, payment processing, cyber threat prevention and disaster recovery.

Driving towards an optimised and forward-looking future

In the coming months and years, the EV infrastructure will expand at pace. Providers working in this arena will need a specialised, dependable and forward-thinking infrastructure that will successfully navigate change, remain secure and grow.

Those providers that are able to form strong technology partnerships will be best positioned to robustly enable and support the forecourt charging technologies and customer applications that will underpin operational and commercial success in a sustainable and highly secure manner. As business models continue to evolve, and more dynamic systems come into play, those that can adapt fast and offer seamless customer experiences will be best placed to win the day.

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