Interview – Statkraft and the Future of Renewable Energy
Richard Mardon, Head of UK Development at Statkraft, Mer’s parent...
Between 27-29 September 2022, elemental hosted the ‘Integrated EV Solutions’ digital festival. During the festival, a series of webinars focused on topics including the challenges electric vehicle (EV) charging presents to the built environment, and around energy supply and integration.
Alex Hinchcliffe, Director of Public Charging at Mer UK, took part in an EV charging webinar titled ‘Installing EV Charging Points At Your Building’. Hosted by Jim McClelland and sponsored by Mer, the webinar also featured Dr Darren Handley, Head of Infrastructure Grants at OZEV, Department for Transport, Shamala Evans-Gadgil, Senior Programme/Project Manager at Coventry City Council, and Melanie Shufflebotham, Co-founder and COO of Zap-Map.
Here are some of the conversations from the webinar, which covered the state of the UK charging market, challenges faced during installation projects, and advice for local authorities looking to install EV charging.
Darren Handley began the webinar by setting the scene on the Government’s standpoint on EV charging. ‘As Government, we set out our perspective in March in EV infrastructure strategy. There’s lots and lots of figures quoted for what may be needed for 2030. We’ve gone for a figure of about 300,000 public charge points, but I think the main thing to take home is we think the vast majority of charging events actually will be done at home. It’s the most easy place, and it would be revolutionary for petrol drivers to not have to go to a forecourt to fill up their car.’
Darren also expressed the value of workplace charging: ‘Being able to charge at work helps, either for people who are commuting a long distance, or those people who find it difficult to charge at home.’
Shamala Evans-Gadgil drew attention to how over 46% of properties lack off-street parking facilities in Coventry, which makes it ‘quite challenging for them to have that confidence in purchasing electric vehicles.’ Coventry City Council has ‘tapped into the government funding that is made available to install on-street chargers’ where off-street parking is not available; so far, they have provided just over 500 charge points.
Melanie Shufflebotham offered a breakdown of the current situation of EV charging infrastructure in the UK, noting that there are almost 35,000 devices (charge point ‘units’) across around 22,000 locations in the UK. ‘In terms of the breakdown of the charge points that we have at the moment, around 6,000 of those 36,000 are these on-route, rapid or ultra-rapid chargers. Around 6,000 also are these on-street chargers, so maybe on lampposts, to support those who don’t have off-street parking. And then there’s around 20,000 broadly destination chargers at supermarkets, car parks etc. It’s an interesting landscape at the moment.’
Melanie went on to state, ‘I know that charge point networks want to find properties to install charge points because the number of EV drivers is growing very fast and the charge points are also growing fast, and it needs to continue to do so to get towards that 300,000 or so public charge points of all the different flavours that are needed by 2023.’
Later in the webinar, Melanie illuminated on some of the reasons for nerves around EV driving: ‘If you look in the big picture, this is a massive transition. We’re shifting from mobility patterns that people are really familiar with: they have a petrol of diesel car, they go to the local service station, they fill up and they go on their journey, and that’s that. We are shifting to a whole new world of mobility […] It’s a shift in mindset. People need to start thinking about kWh instead of miles per gallon, they need to be thinking about CCS and chAdeMO, and that’s a challenge for people. It is a scary transition. And so, to me, education, research, information, communication; all of that is incredibly important.’
Alex Hinchcliffe spoke of Mer’s offering for commercial landowners: ‘We’re looking for commercial landowners with road-side retail or retail destinations where we can build mostly rapid and ultra-rapid infrastructure, which is what our customers are telling us they want more of. Especially when it comes to new builds or planning conditions or building regulations, expansions, new developments, we can support businesses to meet their legislative requirements from government in terms of fulfilling those criteria. And we can do that through funded solutions or from supporting the customer with a full turnkey solution depending really on what their appetite for investment and ownership is.’
Alex touched on how EV charging is revenue-generating for commercial landowners: ‘Our preference would be to take a lease on their demise and to operate on their behalf as a fully managed service and offer them a truly passive income for really not doing anything other than opening up their land, to facilitate services for EV drivers. […] There’s a cost of living crisis at the moment, there’s issues around retail. If we can drive new footfall into environments where there are amenities [and] retail, and rejuvenate some of that retail spend on the high street [and] retail environments, then not only do we satisfy the tenants on the landlord’s properties, but we also provide a solution and opportunity to drive that footfall in and give them an independent revenue as well.’
Later, Alex talked of some of the difficulties faced when developing an EV charging project. ‘Our publics are demanding high powered, ultra-rapid charging, in abundance as well. We are moving away from range anxiety with the number of charge points now available, and there’s a big shift towards reliability and availability anxiety. There needs to be good quality, working products with little or no queuing when you arrive at these locations. We’re looking to build out multiple-bay hubs of rapid and ultra-rapid charging, and with that comes the requirement for a landowner partner that’s prepared to give up that amount of land, which can be challenging in the first instance.’
Alex continued, ‘But then we need to make sure that there is sufficiently available power in abundance to be able to charge the infrastructure at the right level, to deliver what the consumer would be expecting.’
Shamala gave her advice for local authorities when looking to roll-out an EV charging infrastructure project, and the importance of starting with a strategy and understanding their demography. ‘Yes, you can take the process and scale it up somewhere else, but the way it is done, you won’t be able to lift that model and just put it in another location. You do need to understand the demographics.’
Alex concluded that Mer is ‘always striving to look for the latest and greatest technology advancements, the latest and greatest roaming opportunities to furthering the opportunity for customers to experience the best possible charging experience […] linking with as many charge point operators as we can in the UK to have that seamless experience.’ Alex continued, ‘we are looking to focus on listening to the publics [and] listening to where chargers need to go’, and spoke of our aim to ensure commercial landowners do not deploy too many chargers and ‘get the balance right’.
“We are looking to get the right number of chargers, the right speed of service, but also to popularise locations by bringing the footfall of EV drivers to those locations with the right type of charging infrastructure to promote the flourishment of the environment where the chargers are.”
Alex Hinchcliffe, Director of Public Charging, Mer UK
Mer is bringing EV charging to the UK, working with commercial landowners and public sector bodies to advance the EV transition. Our e-guides cover how organisations can start their EV charging journey.
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