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In discussions about decarbonising heat, we often hear people lament that heating just isn't "sexy" enough. A few months ago I was at an event where one of the UK environmental NGOs complained to a room of heating industry professionals that heat pumps are "bl**dy ugly", and don't really offer anything over gas boilers in terms of delivering comfort. Why can't we learn from the likes of Tesla or Apple, they asked, and make a product that offers a superior user experience and looks alright outside our homes?
This got me thinking about how comparable heat pumps are to electric vehicles, and to Teslas in particular. So I looked into the stats, asked the HVAC manufacturers what they thought, and debated the topic with my colleagues. There are certainly some lessons I think we can take from EVs, but there are also fundamental differences between heating and vehicles that we shouldn’t forget. In my view, all this talk of “making heat sexy” is a generally unhelpful distraction from the challenges we really need to address. Here’s why.
There is little doubt that COVID-19 has been a difficult time for chargepoint operators (CPOs) - the majority of which are already making a loss. This is primarily due to the significant reduction in the utilisation rates of public chargepoints. In fact, according to Zap-Map, in the UK, there has been a 60% reduction of EV drivers using public chargepoints. The story will be similar across Europe with some expecting the industry to be in recovery mode until 2025. This paints a picture of doom and gloom for players involved in public charging.
But have us analysts been too quick to jump to negative conclusions? Is there actually light at the end of the tunnel for CPOs? Europe’s response to the COVID-19 crisis provides some reason for optimism and may result in the answer to these questions being ‘Yes’. By focusing first on a national level and then on an international level, I’ll explain why.
As we have previously mentioned, smart charging has become a common part of everyday vocabulary if you are in any way interested in the future of the energy industry. As EV uptake rates continue to grow and the associated impact on the electricity grid becomes clearer, the conversation around smart charging has evolved from asking if smart charging is required to the more nuanced questions of how should smart charging be delivered to the customer and who should deliver it.
How should smart charging be delivered to the customer?
The Czech Republic is similar to many European EV markets: neighbour to some markets that are truly taking off, yet domestic adoption is more limited. After attending Elektromobilita 2019 in Prague last month, here are my thoughts on whether we are reaching a tipping point.
A small but ambitious market?
E-mobility and EVs. Smart charging and Vehicle-to-Grid. ACES*... I think it's fair to say that over the last 2-3 years, these terms have - to a greater or lesser extent - become a common part of everyday vocabulary if you are in any way interested in the future of the energy industry.
And for good reason. At the end of 2013, there were around 123,000 plug-in electric vehicles on Europe's roads. Today, that number is more than 1.5 million, rising all the time, and they all need charging up occasionally**.
A recent study from Imperial College London, in partnership with UK energy company Drax Group, investigated the green credentials of different types of vehicles, to put to bed the question “are EVs genuinely better for the environment?”
It concluded that, yes, going electric is definitely a win for reducing emissions. However, the premium electric models coming to market today have a considerably greater carbon footprint than the electric models of the past. I want to explore this market development further; could it be that customer desire for range will actually drive up carbon emissions?
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