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March 2020

Charging ahead on the road to zero emissions

Transport accounts for 23% of the UK's CO2 emissions – more than any other sector – so it's no surprise that encouraging more people to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is at the heart of the government's efforts to tackle climate change.

EV sales were up 70% last year – leading to suggestions that we have reached a tipping point. But it's not as simple as that. EVs still made up only about 1.1% of new car sales last year. So there's a long way to go.

In a 2016 survey by management consultants McKinsey, consumers ranked not having enough access to efficient charging stations as the third most serious barrier to EV purchase, behind price and driving range. With EV prices declining and ranges now expanding, it means access to efficient charging could soon become the major roadblock to EV uptake.

But how do you decide where to install charging stations, which type to choose and how many charge points to invest in?

Highways England is aiming to ensure 95% of motorways and major A roads are within 20 miles of a charge point. But choosing the best sites is complex due to competing factors such as local grid constraints and EV ownership density. Unlike traditional refilling at petrol stations, it’s not a one-size-fits-all system – the type of charge point best suited to each location will depend on the profile of each area and the driving habits of EV users within it.

There are three main types of EV charging – rapid, fast and slow. These represent the power outputs, and therefore charging speeds, available to charge an EV. A rapid charger at a motorway service station can charge your car to full in about 30 minutes. Fast chargers at a workplace typically take 3-4 hours. And slow units for overnight charging at home usually take 6-12 hours. The wide range of charging speeds, and potentially long recharge times, means EV charging infrastructure needs to fit alongside existing driving behaviours and activities.

Taking into account all the different variables makes it a delicate balancing act to decide what drivers visiting any given out-of-town supermarket or city centre car park will need now – and in the future.

That's where GeoSpock's state-of-the-art spatial big data platform can help – highlighting unique patterns of use in specific areas and shedding light on the best route to take when it comes to EV infrastructure investment.

Charge points are data goldmines. Operational data on charging – such as time of day, charge duration, the amount of power delivered and what type of connector was used – is collected in conjunction with commercial data related to payment methods and transaction amounts. In addition, modern EVs are far more digitally enabled than traditional vehicles – recording high volumes of spatial data during day-to-day use.

Once you have a clear picture of charging use and behaviour in a particular location, you can remove a lot of the guesswork from charging infrastructure decisions. If the majority of EV drivers in a town prefer to charge up their vehicles while they do the weekly shop on Saturdays at the out-of-town superstore, for example, that gives a valuable focus for where to best spend the money on charge points. It's also another milestone on the road to zero emissions.

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