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Q&A: Steve Silverwood of ECA Business Energy on EVs and energy

By / 1 month ago / Interview / No Comments

To mark the publication of its second quarterly EV Readiness report, automotive industry research firm Trend Tracker spoke to Steve Silverwood, managing director at ECA Business Energy, about the evolving energy sector, choosing the correct charge point for your business and the importance of considering the long-term benefits of EV ownership.

Steve Silverwood, managing director at ECA Business Energy

In ECA’s 35 years in business, what would you say have been the major changes impacting the energy industry, and how do these compare in terms of impact compared to the (mass) adoption of electric vehicles?

The energy industry has changed dramatically since ECA’s inception in 1986. There has been a huge shift in where our energy comes from. We have moved from a nation with a reliance on coal, to one with a diverse energy mix. This is due to the integration of wind, solar and bio energy, driven by the need to decarbonise electricity generation.

The energy industry is a continually evolving sector. Suppliers, consultants, and users have to stay on top of legislative changes as well as technological advances. The mass adoption of EV’s is another challenge on the road to net zero that stakeholders in the industry must navigate.

We should take the positives from what we have achieved so far on the net zero journey. For instance, we have managed to reduce the carbon intensity of our electricity from 535g C02e/kWh in 2008 to 212g C02e/kWh at present. However, adopting EV’s will have a direct impact on how the consumer uses energy. It is a new challenge for the industry to engage with end users on how they might need to change their behaviour to adopt EVs.

In the EV Readiness report, you talk about one of the major concerns around electrifying the transport sector being the capability of the grid to cope with increased loads, and the need for the UK to develop “a more flexible” electricity system. What conversations are you having with your customers about managing energy usage (and costs) when it comes to EVs. And what would a “more flexible” electricity system look like?

Conversations with clients have focused around selecting the right charge point for your operation. High wattage charge points are faster, so they can add more vehicle range in less time. Fast or rapid charge points are appealing for this reason – however they aren’t necessarily the right solution for everyone.

Choosing your charge point and managing your load is dependent on the relationship between the length of your vehicle downtime and the frequency of downtime in a day. If your fleet has a high average length of vehicle downtime (over 2 hours), and a higher frequency of vehicle downtime, a lower wattage charge point would be a suitable solution. Lower wattage charge points are also cheaper than fast and rapid options.

Fleet managers should consider investing in a load management system. These help ensure that multiple chare points can be used without exceeding the maximum power capacity of the site, helping to avoid capacity charges. They can also help ensure that vehicles are charged at the fastest speed permitted by both the charge point and the vehicle. Furthermore, load management systems can set vehicles to charge at maximum speed during shifts, and slow charge at night when electricity is cheapest.

The idea of a ‘flexible’ energy system is that we can adapt the energy system to utilise intermittent renewable energy resources – using electricity when it’s available and storing it for times when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. In practice, we need to install more decentralised energy generation combined with storage capacity. This could mean installing a solar panel on your roof, charging a battery during the day, and then utilising this stored energy to charge your EV at night. The grid are also investing in large scale battery storage facilities, so at a national level the grid and suppliers will also take responsibility for storage capacity. 

It’s widely reported that drivers see the upfront cost associated with purchasing an EV as an obstacle to EV ownership. What advice would you give to someone considering buying an EV – either for personal use or as a fleet investment for their business?

It’s important to focus on the long term benefits of purchasing an EV. The running costs for an EV are typically lower than running a petrol or diesel vehicle over time. Fuelling an EV is far cheaper, costing around 3.7p/mile, compared to 14.2p/mile for a petrol vehicles. If you’re a frequent driver you can certainly make savings.

There are also lower maintenance costs for running an EV. Electric and Plug in Hybrid vehicles have fewer moving parts that ICE vehicles; you can expect to spend less than half as much on the maintenance of EV. This can add up to thousands of pounds in savings over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Anyone interested in purchasing an EV and charge point should also explore the government grants that are available to reduce the investment cost.

 How important are electric vehicles in the carbon neutral ‘journey’, including for those businesses you are working with on with PAS 2060?

It depends on how integral transport is to the operation of your business. A logistics or delivery company would need to focus its efforts on decarbonising its fleet to make a make a meaningful reduction in their emissions. Whereas a manufacturing company with little transport might be best focussing on energy efficiency or alternative fuels.

With regards to the bodyshops, from our analysis of our client’s data we have found that transport emissions make up 37% of their direct emissions (scope 1 and 2). Clearly this is a large percentage of the carbon footprint. It is vital that the bodyshops start to invest in EV’s and charge points if they are serious about their carbon neutral journey.

I also think including EV’s in hire/courtesy car fleets is a great way to introduce people to the EV experience. It’s also important to highlight that EV’s can play a crucial role in improving air quality in our towns and cities – so there’s a community benefit too.

 

Launched to coincide with World EV Day, Trend Tracker’s ‘EV Readiness’ report features a wide-ranging industry study, expert insight and analysis of the latest EV market trends. The report is free to subscribers of Trend Tracker and available to purchase for £395+VAT.

A report on Supply Chain Sustainability will follow in the autumn.

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.