Q&A: James O’Neill, UK sales manager at Ensto Chago
Why is it important for businesses to have charging points for their plug-in company cars and vans?
The evolution of ‘smart’ homes and offices means an increase in reporting is available. As cars become smarter, the usable data they are able to provide will enable deeper analysis for companies, homeowners and research companies. For a fleet this will eventually enable automated reporting of mileage, fuelling, driver efficiency and more. The depth of this data will allow for better understanding of cost-savings as fleets strive to be more efficient without impacting performance.
How receptive are UK businesses to installing charging points – and what do they want from them?
In the UK, we are at the point of “do we or don't we?” Having spoken with people across industries relating to charging, many are on the fence, apprehensive about committing, and others jumped ahead in the belief they could lead the way. Both sides will learn lessons, positive and negative.
We have found the majority of customers across Europe do not want one entity who provides product and back-office for all – that is a lot of control taken away from the client. The best scenario is a collaborative approach between fleet or company, manufacturer and back-office provider. Why wouldn't the customer want to have control of how their network is run? We believe in supporting them with the right product, service, and a cloud or back office while the network belongs to the customer.
Why is it so important for charging points to be able to communicate with the cloud?
Connectivity is key, and many back-office platforms fail to communicate with the points installed, making them redundant. Aalto University in Finland researched the lifecycle costs of charging points and it is quite clear that cheaper products will costs thousands more in the long term, through operation and potential replacement costs, due to not meeting requirements, or inability to be upgraded.
It is paramount for the client to have a back office which can provide a full service, whether they are ready to utilise all of that data or not. For example, dynamic load management can add extra infrastructure costs, which are unnecessary as we can now operate these parameters from the cloud. The client can set parameters which meet the fleet and building needs by putting protocols in place which can decrease or increase a charge accordingly.
We also run updates wirelessly in the UK and across Europe allowing our customers to avoid disruption or charge point downtime. The clients need reassurance firstly that the product they are investing in is modular, enabling upgrades of software and hardware.
With a wider vehicle choice on the way, should fleets be concerned about compatibility issues?
Cars are evolving fast – with mass adoption realistic due to leaps in battery technology and potential coverage, the infrastructure needs modular products with software that can be updated wirelessly and hardware that can be adapted over time or easily replaced if the need is there.
In the race to create a network, many are in a situation where the points they have are becoming redundant due to the speed which the motor industry is evolving. We also have seen a number of posts nationally with low supply, or that have no way of being upgraded, and with the most basic connectivity. This means some places in the UK are already outdated, either through the foundations laid or the belief that charging will not change.
The EV market is picking up pace. This means investing in reliable, robust, upgradable products that will grow with your fleet and provide the data and capabilities you need. Make the choice to run your network through a cloud set-up that you can manage with ease but fully control. Decide your parameters and the direction of your fleet to ensure an efficient and functional future.