In the UK sales of battery electric vehicles (EVs) are continuing to rise with demand in 2020 increasing by around 186%, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
With more EVs on the road, demand for EV charging points and stations has never been more acute. However, analysis released in late 2020 by energy consultancy Cornwall Insight suggests that EV uptake is outpacing the rollout of chargers in public areas.
This has the potential of putting providers of EV charging points and stations under pressure to ensure that their procedures are fully optimised when it comes to installing and maintaining this type of critical infrastructure underpinning vehicle and transport electrification in the UK.
The EV charger market
As of early February 2021 there were nearly 22,000 public chargers installed in the UK in 13,861 locations (Zap Map), with around 10 players accounting for over 75% of the installed base.
The UK EV charging infrastructure market is young and fragmented, and companies from different sectors are entering now to ensure they are able to earn revenues when EV adoption starts to reach critical mass by the mid-2020s, when around 5% of cars in circulation are expected to be electric, according to an analysis by Deloitte.
Finding good sites for public chargers will be important drivers of utilisation, and ultimately profitability, with first movers able to establish networks that incorporate prime locations. Hence market entrants tend to be players from more established sectors that have a strategic interest in EV charging.
Charging infrastructure providers tend to fall into one of the following key groups:
Energy suppliers and utilities
Oil and gas companies
Forecasting EV charger demand in the UK to 2030
To meet the UK Government’s ambitious EV goals, which will translate into 5.2 to 6.7 million cumulative EVs by 2030, will require a comprehensive charging network comprised of 341,000 to 430,000 workplace, public, and fast chargers, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) forecasts. The ICCT estimates an approximate 30% annual growth rate in the UK’s charging infrastructure will be needed to keep pace with the UK’s 2030 EV goals.
Energy market research consultancy Delta-EE forecasts the UK EV charger market to grow 29% year-on-year growth in charge point sales through 2030. While charger installations are forecast to continue to grow across all segments, backed by government funding, share of workplace charging is expected to increase, to serve demand from the growing base of EV drivers and vehicle owners where home charging is not an option.
The role of software within the EV charger offering
The EV charger infrastructure value chain comprises four main activity areas to deliver an end-to-end service, highlights Deloitte: electricity generation and distribution, charge point manufacture, installation and maintenance, as well as software.
Commercial EV chargers are packed with software to enable management of the EV charger network management and customer services. Software functionality can span back office functions, including billing. It can also comprise smart charging enabling technology, which uses information about energy networks to encourage drivers to charge their vehicles at times of low demand. Apps are another key type of software, for example for interfacing with drivers so they can find nearest available charging points or to promote services for brand differentiation, such as incentive schemes or cross promotions of related services.
Within a market that’s still very much nascent, where entrants are positioning themselves for growth that remains a few years into the future, now has never been a better time to invest in advanced field service management (FSM) software to support the delivery of a successful, market-leading EV charging infrastructure business and strong branding.
Here’s how EV charger companies can benefit:
Use artificial intelligence to optimise field operations, from installation to servicing
EV charger infrastructure ranges from simple single point slow chargers to more complex systems for delivering rapid charging. Advanced FSM software is technology agnostic and is designed to ensure that providers of all makes and models of EV chargers can install and maintain this equipment in the most efficient way possible.
FSM software can organise schedules, daily or weekly, of teams – large and small – of multiple engineers ensuring that they are able to carry out their installation, commissioning or maintenance jobs effectively and time-efficiently.
Managers and backroom operations teams overseeing teams of engineers in the field can use Advanced FSM software to coordinate schedules, whether over 24 hours or several days or weeks in advance, to generate optimal service schedules and travel routes for each engineer within seconds.
Advanced FSM software uses powerful navigational tools, from processing maps and traffic information, to optimise routes for each engineer between sites, minimising time spent travelling to jobs and saving on vehicle fuel or batteries.
As well as manage schedules, the technology can ensure that jobs are assigned to the most suitably qualified engineers in the team and arm them with all the information and electronic documentation and files they need to complete each job.
Leverage data analytics to enable predictive maintenance and minimise EV charger downtime
Commercial EV charging stations earn revenues by recharging vehicles and in future this infrastructure may also be aggregated to provide grid services. So it is critical that any opportunities for faults are minimised and that whenever faults or issues do occur they can be fixed as quickly as possible.
Only advanced FSM software can enable providers of EV chargers to leverage the full advantages of predictive maintenance, though accessing accumulated historical data to quickly identify any previous troubleshooting issues and faults with each charger, making it easy to address any problems.
This type of software solution can also schedule inspections automatically, based on frequency of previous visits, age of the infrastructure and manufacturer’s warranties that may also specify frequency of visits and checks required as part of preventative maintenance plans.
Boost backroom operations
Advanced FSM software can digitise all aspects of paper-based administrative tasks, reducing time to process post-work orders, for example.
Once a work order, such as a visit to repair an EV charging station, is completed, the engineer validates it using the mobile app, which is then communicated in real time to the client. All the relevant data about the completed job, supported with photos and electronic signatures for remote validation, can be immediately processed.
By reducing the processing of paperwork, which would usually take hours, or even a day, to a matter of minutes means providers can invoice for work orders on the same day.
Advanced FSM software solutions can interface with existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) and accounting software, such as Sage, SAP and Oracle.
Enhance the customer experience
The quality of service provided by any EV charger operator rests on these assets running reliably and smoothly 24/7, seven days a week.
Advanced FSM software ensures that EV charger providers can provide the best service in a number of ways. For example, customers can be informed which engineer is assigned to their job, they can automatically receive a text or email when technicians change their status in their mobile app, so that customers know when technicians are on their way, as well as be informed of the status of jobs and updated with service reports when jobs are completed.