We were delighted to host our fifth regional forum, covering Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, Lancashire and Cumbria on Tuesday 7th January. With the theme of “Driving electric vehicle uptake and EV infrastructure”, this forum allowed for industry experts to share their insights, alongside Electric Blue specialists leading informative workshops and discussions.

After presentations from our Managing Director, Alex Calnan, plus three key speakers, delegates participated in four workshop discussions, each exploring areas of EV industry with the opportunity for in-depth discussion and sharing. The four workshops covered the topics of barriers to EV uptake, future innovations, EVolve telematics, and EV strategy.

Are we at a tipping point?

In our opinion at Electric Blue, we are now at a crucial time in the EV industry. Whilst we are seeing positive change, it is by no means the moment to take our foot from the accelerator, so to speak. In December 2019 we saw 5,000 pure electric vehicles registered, which equals 3.3% of new vehicles entering the market. This is a jump up from summer 2019, where numbers measured 2.5-3%, including plug-in hybrids. If we count plug-in hybrids with the December figures, then the numbers rise even further to 6.3% of all new vehicles.

Considering the Law of Diffusion Innovation, we are now in the early adopter stage, whereby supporters of the EV movement are quick to support an idea or product if it adds value for them. Likewise, they are quick to pass on recommendations and referrals. In this stage, is it essential to continue to incentivise people, to encourage the ongoing uptake of low emission vehicles. By accepting the growing popularity, and therefore demand, for EVs and EV infrastructure, we must not become complacent in ensuring their future success. Instead, we must continue to question what needs to be done to further break down barriers – such as ensuring there are sufficient, accessible charge points; that they are functional on arrival; that they don’t require memberships, or that one RFID, or mobile App which you haven’t got yet.

Some interesting points raised when considering the above question, were the importance and impact of such actions as senior management buy-in, using EV demo vehicles, seeing EVs out on the road, or knowing people who drive them. Valid and varied points to take into account – within local authorities where uptake has, up until now, been lower – for encouraging awareness and resolving negative perceptions.

We were once again joined by some fantastic speakers and would like to thank them all for their knowledgeable and informative presentations.

Tom Cowen from Leeds City Council talked us through Clean Air Leeds – the council plan to improve air quality in the city, which will include the introduction of a Clean Air Zone, council fleet electrification, public charging infrastructure, plus electric vehicle trials.

Sukky Choongh-Campbell, from SMMT, joined us once again and delivered an insightful presentation exploring motor industry trends. Although the automotive industry saw another year of declining sales overall, falling by 2.4% over the last 12 months, EVs did well with a total of 37,850 EVs joining the UK’s roads last year, up from 15,510 in 2018.

An indicative trend is that the areas of highest numbers of home chargers are the same areas with the highest numbers of EVs. This might sound logical, but it is an interesting statistic to highlight, and to use this information to create strategies which target those areas with lower EV numbers. This suggests the elementary strategy for building awareness of available grants for home chargers, to encourage greater EV uptake. The only exception to this rule is London – which has a lower number of home chargers compared to EV uptake, but, the public charger network is greater, as/and people have reduced access to off-street charging (and parking). Thereby, identifying another focus area: in areas where EV uptake is lowandthere is reduced possibility for installing home chargers, we need to look at increasing and improving public charging options, or on-street charging.

Another challenge which Sukky pointed out was the lack of options available for vans, which is particularly a challenge in city centres. With an increase of self-employed drivers, the number of vans on the road is growing, which means rising emissions. However, despite the popularity of this vehicle, there remains the fewest number of available options on the EV market.

Sebastien Lechanoine, from OLEV, presented the Road to Zero – UK Government’s 2018 initiative with the aim of all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emissions by 2040. The key drivers for change are highlighted as the environment: bringing improvements in air quality, reducing greenhouse gases, and creating cleaner and quieter streets; and opportunity: increasing jobs and investment and improving energy security. Whilst OLEV undoubtedly offer various measures to support the uptake of EVs, their presence at our forum offered an opportunity to engage, listen, and understand where else the government needs to start focusing their priorities.

Welcome from Alex Calnan - Managing Director, Electric Blue

Questions to keep in mind

Our Q&A session offered delegates the chance to delve further into areas of the EV world, and quiz the industry experts in attendance for answers. With this forum, we had some questions raised which weren’t, and aren’t, answerable within the timeframe of a single day. Rather, they are points to contemplate, and which we use to shape our pilot explorations into innovative studies.

To encourage uptake, currently the government offers various incentives, such as zero road tax for electric vehicles. In the long term, is this sustainable? Central government stands to lose a substantial amount of tax income – will that be replaced with income from another source, and if so, what?

Whilst councils have been embracing EVs into their own fleets, we have forgotten about the number of larger goods vehicles, such as waste vehicles: when will alternatives be coming to market? What will the cost and performance differentials be? With a distinct lack of information regarding future options, this point highlighted a part of our focus in research and engagement with communities, and identified areas that still need more investigation.

If you would be interested in attending one of our future forums, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, where we will post future events, or signup to receive our quarterly newsletter. If you have any questions about the topics discussed in the forum, or want to discover how Electric Blue can help you design and realise your EV strategy, get in touch with our team today.

Date: 03/02/2020