Learning from the first-movers

Posted: 02 Dec 2020

Isabelle Bush

Flexibility Analyst

What drives customers to smart charge their electric vehicle?

THE PROLIFERATION OF EVs WILL BRING OPPORTUNITIES

The UK uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) has seemed unstoppable in recent months, despite the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the UK saw sales of battery and plug-in hybrid EVs increase by 126% in 2020 vs. 2019 (from January to September, inclusive). This was against a backdrop of petrol and diesel sales which declined by 45% over the same period.

This growth will continue — by 2030 an estimated 11 million EVs could be on our roads [1]. Hand-in-hand, the UK charger market is growing rapidly too. Over the next ten years chargepoint sales are expected to grow by 29% each year, and by 2030, 71% of charge points are expected to be installed in the home [2].

EVs and home charging will present a paradigm shift in consumer behaviour.  Tanks will no longer be filled en route, with a pit stop at a petrol station every other weekend. Instead, more consumers will be able to charge their cars at home whenever they want. This change will present new challenges to the electricity system — but it will also bring opportunities. 

Opportunities for device manufacturers and the grid

Coupled with intelligence like smart charging, the opportunities could be substantial. For distribution network operators (DNOs), smart charging will create opportunities to move flexible EV load, and hold potential to increase visibility of their low voltage networks. For charger manufacturers, this ‘smart layer’ can bring cost and carbon savings to consumers’ energy usage. This added feature will enhance the competitiveness of their offering and for some, this will differentiate their offering from the increasingly commoditised competition.

Smart charging is a relatively new technology, and much is still being learned about its effectiveness to shift electrical demand away from peak times. For the widespread benefits of smart charging to be realised, the way customers choose to interact with the technology will be crucial.

At Kaluza, we’ve been exploring what relationships customers have with their home smart chargers. We recently conducted a survey over a pool of 122 of our EV drivers to probe their motivations and behaviour

The EV drivers in our survey are all enrolled in Kaluza’s smart charging innovation trial, in collaboration with UK Power Networks — Project Shift.  The Kaluza stream of the Shift project has been running since October 2019, for over 300 smart chargers across London and the South East of the UK. As part of the trial, Kaluza’s intelligent energy platform optimises the charging of these 300 EVs in real time, against half-hourly price signals.  

So what have we learnt from our EV drivers? 

Widening Market reach through smart charging

Infographic 1. Customer insights for home chargepoint manufacturers
Survey conducted Aug - Sep 2020, over 122 Kaluza smart charger customers enrolled in the UK Power Networks Shift trial.
Images: piggy bank by David, environment by Felipe Florez, data insight by Annette Spithoven, strong by Fae Fray, electricity by Stephanie Wauters, learning by Ahmad  from Noun Project

Infographic 1. Customer insights for home chargepoint manufacturers
Survey conducted Aug - Sep 2020, over 122 Kaluza smart charger customers enrolled in the UK Power Networks Shift trial.

Images: piggy bank by David, environment by Felipe Florez, data insight by Annette Spithoven, strong by Fae Fray, electricity by Stephanie Wauters, learning by Ahmad from Noun Project

For chargepoint manufacturers, three key themes emerged:

Cost savings are the primary customer motivation to purchase a smart charger, followed by environmental benefits.

  • Smart-enabled charger manufacturers have an opportunity to highlight these benefits in their marketing and their digital experience
  • Chargepoint manufacturers, that do not yet offer AI-powered smart charging, can partner with intelligent flexibility platforms to provide these smart features and engage a wider customer base.
  • For EV manufacturers exploring direct-to-EV smart charging, creating this advanced customer experience can similarly be unlocked by working with intelligent flexibility platforms.

Customers rely on the convenience of home charging – for many, EVs are their primary mode of transport and charging at home is their main way to refuel.

  • For these customers, charging at home is a necessity not a luxury. They are dependent on their charger, and customer trust is key.
  • In a technically-challenging space, chargepoint manufacturers have an opportunity to fend off competition by building the leading charging experience.

Chargepoint manufacturers should invest in promoting their products both online and through their partners to best capture customers’ attention.

  • Customers seek information about smart chargers primarily online – youtube, forums and special interest groups – meaning a strong online presence is beneficial.
  • When learning about smart charging, the next top spots after online research were learning from energy suppliers and car dealerships. Chargepoint manufacturers can increase their market reach by promoting through their partners.

DNOs should embrace market led smart charging

For DNOs, the three key survey outcomes were:

Customer plug-in behaviours are conducive to providing DNO flexibility services. 

  • Most customers reported plugging in their EV to charge on most days and for extended periods of time.
  • These long availability windows, coupled with the few kWh needed to charge if plugged-in frequently, is conducive to DNOs providing flexibility.
  • Through smart charging of EVs, DNOs have an opportunity to incentivise charging at times that have less impact on the electricity network.

DNOs should support customer choice and continue to monitor changes in consumer smart charging behaviour, as these products continue to evolve.

  • When customers override their smart chargers, this means their EVs charge as soon as they plug-in (i.e. preventing smart charging from diverting load to off-peak times).
  • While many customers override scheduled smart charging if they need their EV charged immediately, our survey showed that 33% of reasons for overriding occur as symptoms of an early-stage product (such as early propositions without financial incentives to smart charge, lack of education, or immature product features).
  • Over time, we expect the number of overrides will fall as intelligent charging features and customer propositions evolve.

Relationships with energy suppliers, flexibility providers, and EV dealerships should be leveraged to promote uptake of smart charging technologies that bring network flexibility.

  • Many customers have an excellent understanding of the impact of their smart charging on the grid, and at what times the grid is at peak load.
  • Despite this high engagement, only 9% sought information from their DNO about smart charging before the point of sale. Instead, customers preferred engaging with their energy suppliers and EV dealerships. DNOs have an opportunity to widen uptake of smart charging and flexible low carbon technologies by engaging with partners who have direct customer relationships. 

Cross-industry innovation projects, such as Project Shift, encourage valuable partnerships between DNOs like UK Power Networks, and innovators like Kaluza. Project Shift has for the past year already been trialling market-led smart charging. It has not only created learnings about consumer attitudes, behaviours and the impact of their smart charging on the grid. It has also engaged consumers in domestic flexibility by leveraging the direct customer relationships from suppliers and flexibility providers. 

Smart charging will play a pivotal role

Smart charging will play a pivotal role in enabling the mass roll out of EVs, whilst reducing costly grid infrastructure reinforcement.

For smart charging to reach its maximum potential as a flexible resource, understanding customer motivations to smart charge, drivers of their behaviour and measuring their experience will be critical to success. 

Kaluza has a strong research team, and our insights are continually evolving. Keep your eyes peeled for more insights and follow us on our journey!

If you have any questions, do reach out to us at media@kaluza.com.

References:

[1] National Grid ESO Future Energy Scenarios, 2019

[2] Delta-EE European EV Chargepoint Forecasts, 2020

About the Author

Isabelle Bush

Flexibility Analyst

Isabelle is a Flexibility Analyst at Kaluza, working closely with energy suppliers and network operators to understand and resolve the challenges currently facing domestic flexibility. Prior to joining Kaluza, Isabelle worked as a Consultant at strategy consultancy Oliver Wyman, where she primarily worked for financial services clients and on merger & acquisition due diligence. Isabelle has a BA, MEng and PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge.

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