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UK Government sets out ambitious plans for EVs - but success relies on IoT

Philip van der Wilt Profile picture for user Philip van der Wilt Samsara June 7, 2022
Philip van der Wilt explains how tech firms are fuelling the transition to electric vehicles (EV) - and it's about much more than charge points and the latest developments in battery technology.

Image of two electric vehicles charging in the sun
(Image by (Joenomias) Menno de Jong from Pixabay )

The UK Government’s commitment to green transport has stepped up a gear after announcing plans to invest £1.6 billion to boost the UK’s electric vehicle (EV) charging network as part of its Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy.

The proposals –announced in March – are designed to support the UK’s ambition to reach 300,000 public electric vehicle (EV) charge points by 2030 – equivalent to almost five times the number of fuel pumps today and a tenfold increase in the number of EV charge points currently available.

The plans are part of the government’s strategy to expand the UK’s charging network, so that it is “robust, fair and covers the entire country”, as well as “improving the consumer experience at all charge points”.

Speaking in March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We’re powering ahead with plans to help British people go electric, with our expanding charging network making journeys easier right across the country.”

The announcement was welcomed by industry group Logistics UK, which said in a statement that it would “help to make transitioning to zero emission fleets a reality for logistics businesses”.

It went on:

The plan, which aims to ensure commercial vehicles have access to public charge points, will mandate that these points have high standards of reliability and will address current barriers – including network capacity, charging costs and access to a sufficiently broad recharging network across the strategic road network – to help the road transport sector decarbonise in confidence.

Harnessing technology for greener transport

For those of us with a stake in an EV future, the news is yet another milestone as the UK continues its transition to Net Zero. But while large scale network infrastructure investment is making the headlines, the transition to commercial EVs isn’t just about charge points and the latest developments in battery technology.

Tech firms in this space are also working alongside transport firms as they begin their journey toward the electrification of their fleet. More than ever, managers need complete fleet oversight - right down to how many miles an individual vehicle has left before its next charge.

This is where cloud-based, connected systems – that are already being used for traditional ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles within the logistics industry - are being developed specifically for EV fleets.

While both EV and ICE fleets share the need for similar fleet-based management tools – such as GPS tracking, route planning, driver safety and operational oversight – EV fleet managers have one priority that they need to address. Charge anxiety.

How much charge does each vehicle have? What’s the range? How far will it go until it has to be recharged? Where’s the next charge point if needed? Where’s the nearest mobile charging recovery vehicle in an emergency?

IoT-sourced data is fuelling the EV transition

By harnessing the Internet of Things (IoT), the tech industry is able to provide the tools to give fleet operators the confidence to go electric. And it can’t come soon enough.

A combination of push and pull factors – most notably the high cost of fuel and the ever-growing availability of commercial EVs and an ever-growing charging network – means that logistics firms are accelerating their transition to EVs.

A straw poll at a recent meeting of UK-based fleet operators – held under Chatham House rules – found that firms were at various stages of vehicle and infrastructure testing.

As one delegate explained:

The EV infrastructure is not quite there yet, but there is a definite pressure on leaders and ESG officers to demonstrate a commitment to the transition to EV in the run-up to 2030.

It was pointed out that having access to IoT-enabled data was important since it helped shape management decisions, especially in areas such as fuel cost savings, measurable reductions in carbon emissions, and overall ROI.

While another pointed out that it wouldn’t be too long before firms started to appoint an ‘EV Transition Manager’ – someone dedicated to taking care of the shift to EV fleets.

Real-world data essential as EV evolution evolves

As individual operators and economies begin the road to wider electrification, it’s clear the tech industry has a role to play in ensuring businesses can manage that change. By collecting and analysing meaningful data, stakeholders will be able to make informed decisions about progress.

For manufacturers of EVs,  access to real-world data once their trucks and lorries have left the production line could prove essential in the further development of their vehicles.

For fleet managers, driving conditions, driver traits, traffic, payloads, charging and maintenance schedules could all feed into real world insights necessary to operate an EV fleet.

The same goes for charge point operators as they build a network to meet the growing number of EVs on the roads.

And with such a political will driving change, having the data will also be an important source of real-world data for the Government as it continues to create a regulatory framework to encourage the switch from diesel and petrol vehicles to cleaner, greener alternatives.

By providing real data — not modelling or survey sampling — the information provided by IoT systems could be used to help shape Government policy. If nothing else, it can be used to keep tabs on progress and highlight those areas that need more investment.

And, ultimately, this connected operations data can be used to ensure the UK maximises the environmental and economic benefits of the switch to EV.

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