Cross-sector collaboration: Addressing the EV charging infrastructure case

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Will collaboration between automakers and energy companies help accelerate the installation of electric vehicles (EV) charging infrastructure?

A new report Market Data: EV Consumer Profiles, released by research firm Guidehouse Insights, has identified the lack of adequate EV charging stations as a key factor hindering the penetration of EVs.

Utilities and automakers are responding to the growing calls for an increase in charging stations through collaborations targeting the deployment of innovative charging technologies at large-scale.

Cross-sector collaboration, the example of Iberdrola, Enel and Volkswagen

In mid-March, European-based utility giants Iberdrola and Enel, in partnership with British multinational energy firm bp, announced their cooperation with automaker Volkswagen to promote e-mobility through the installation of charging infrastructure across Europe.

Volkswagen plans to leverage the alliance to meet its 2020-2030 EV technology roadmap. The automaker aims to operate about 18,000 public fast-charging points in Europe by 2025, of which 8,000 fast charging units will be installed at some 4,000 bp and Aral service stations in the UK and Germany.

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Spanish utility Iberdrola will provide renewable energy to ensure the stations are green whilst Enel, through its energy services subsidiary Enel X, will supply charging solutions, as part of the deal.

Francesco Starace, the CEO of Enel Group, said: “Corporation between industries – in particular between the automotive industry and the electricity industry – is fundamental in order to drive growth in this new way of mobility based on electricity.

“This corporation needs to go deep into all technical aspects of the charging infrastructure and systems of cars. Through this, we would be able to fully decarbonise a very important segment of the transportation industry so we are very focused on cooperating with the automotive manufacturers around the world.”

EDF and Volkswagen intensify EV charging network

The announcement followed Volkswagen partnering with French energy company EDF to expand the country’s portfolio of charging stations and ensure they are powered by renewables.

Volkswagen Group expects the deal with EDF to accelerate its carbon emissions strategy for 2050 in which the firm plans to invest €33 billion ($39.9 billion) in e-mobility through 2024 as well as introduce up to 75 new EVs by 2029.

Cross-sector collaboration, the example of ENEL and Porsche

In Italy, Enel signed deals with multiple automakers, including one with Porsche, to expand the number of ultra-fast EV chargers. As part of the deal, some 20 service stations owned by Q8 will be equipped with technology able to charge Porsche’s new Taycan model to 80% capacity in just 20 minutes, by end of 2021. With Jaguar Land Rover, Enel will develop integrated and innovative EV charging solutions for customers interested in purchasing the 100% electric Jaguar I-PACE, Jaguar and Land Rover Plug-in hybrid EVs.

Cross-sector collaboration, the examples of Iberdrola and Lexus

In Spain, automaker Lexus selected Iberdrola as its supplier of EV chargers for its new EV model UX 300e.

Iberdrola will install chargers at homes for free for buyers of Lexus EV models.

Looking at collaborations between the two sectors, one would notice that the majority of these projects are focusing on addressing the unavailability of charging stations and range anxiety.

Installation of charging units along major highways, increasing the number of stations and reducing the time spent to charge an EV, the major areas driving collaboration between the utility and automaker industries, will in turn help promote the use of EVs for long distances

EV penetration vs market barriers

Despite the challenge of lack of charging infrastructure and other factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic which is disrupting the global economy, EV sales continue to grow. According to Wood Mackenzie, the number of EVs sold surged by 38% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Some 2.8 million EVs were sold globally in 2020, taking the total on the road to just under 10 million. By 20230, the number of EVs is expected to increase by 25% to 100 million units on the road.

2021 is also anticipated to be the best year ever in terms of EV sales with 1 in every 20 passenger car sales expected to be electric.

However, as the number of EVs on the road increases, so does challenges for utilities in ensuring grid reliability.

Scott Shepard, senior research analyst with Guidehouse Insights, said: “As utilities determine investment strategies and how to incorporate a step-change in demand, they will need to consider a range of strategies including price signals and vehicle-to-grid integration.

“These tools can help utilities and regulators nudge EV charging behavior to minimize disruptive grid impacts, lower consumer costs, and reduce carbon emissions.”

Utilities seem to be following the recommendation.

In late February, UK utility British Gas joined a V2G customer trial, the Electric Nation V2G project, being implemented by Western Power Distribution across the South West, Midlands and South Wales.

As part of the initiative, some 100 consumers using Nissan EVs will be asked to change their EV charging from times when demand is high to off-peak periods and to discharge/sell energy stored in EVs into the grid during peak periods.

Collaboration between the utility and the automaker industry will drive innovation within the EV charging infrastructure market and open up more opportunities to help both industries to address market barriers.