• Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Driving forward: how the world must adapt for the electric vehicle transition – Financial Times

As anyone who works in a tech-based business will confirm, new products and innovations tend to follow a bell curve of adoption. The process shows the first group to use a new product, called “innovators”, followed by “early adopters”, then “early majority, late majority, laggards”. It’s a theory proposed by sociologist Everett Rogers in his 1962 book Diffusion of Innovations. Despite tweaks by other experts over the years, it has remained a popular model for adoption planning.

Arguably the most recent high-profile example of this is the electric vehicle (EV) market. As consumer interest surges and affordability improves, a 2023 report from Bloomberg Green claims that EVs have now passed the tipping point of 5 per cent of new car sales in 19 countries. While this keeps adoption globally in the innovator stage of the curve, it shows that those 19 markets have moved into early adopter territory (in which 2.5 per cent to 16 per cent of new cars are electric). As Russell Hensley of the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility in the Americas says: “The 2020s will be the decade of the EV.”

Good connections

While many of the initial barriers to entry – such as faster charging times and cars offering longer range – are being addressed, there remains a pressing need for a robust and comprehensive charging infrastructure. By 2040, the world will require hundreds of millions of charging connectors. How can costs be managed effectively while incorporating this new – and sustainable – infrastructure into urban planning?

The answer lies in strategic placement, with charging stations seamlessly integrated into our cities, making them convenient for homeowners and consumers alike. This approach will not only expedite the transition to electric mobility but also pave the way for smart and decentralised energy systems. It’s a system that must mirror the changing habits of car owners: EV drivers charge whenever they stop, rather than stopping to fuel. This means that when they are at work, at the shops, visiting a restaurant or staying at a hotel, there should be somewhere for them to plug in. It’s estimated that in-transit charging will only account for 5 per cent of charging sessions.

This shift presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. For instance, a 2021 study in the journal Advances in Applied Energy found that electric vehicle charging stations could increase the monthly peak power demand of a large grocery store by over 250 per cent, highlighting the need for strategic planning.

To navigate these challenges effectively, innovative solutions and a comprehensive roadmap are needed. The International Energy Agency suggests that building codes may need to be adapted to include mandatory charging points in new constructions and substantial remodels. Indeed, in a 2022 report, Schneider Electric, a global company that specialises in digital transformation of energy management and automation, analysed cost-benefit scenarios around EV-focused infrastructure, underscoring the potential of “smart charging” at the building level. It is an approach that not only benefits consumers but also system operators.

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