The electric vehicle (EV) industry is on the road towards maturity, with sustainable and widespread ownership now a realistic destination. At the same time, this road still has plenty of twists, turns, and obstacles for stakeholders to overcome.
From issues with accessibility and standardisation to a lack of convenient and secure payment methods at charging stations, this could delay mainstream acceptance of electric vehicles, leaving the total adoption tantalisingly out of reach for some time.
That’s why, at the start of 2021, CCV joined forces with Mastercard as part of their Sustainable Mobility Programme in Germany. A cross-border initiative, it has been created to support a consumer-friendly infrastructure for electric vehicles and to promote open, flexible, and reliable payment systems at EV charging stations throughout Europe.
Yet, while our partnership will undoubtedly improve the payment experience associated with charging, what about the other challenges facing the EV industry? Where are the bottlenecks to EV adoption? And how is the future shaping up?
To learn more about this, we spoke with Sjors Martens, the Commercial Director of charge point data provider Eco-Movement.
Accessibility & availability – the most common issues facing EV drivers today
There’s a lot to like about owning an electric vehicle. It offers a smooth, modern driving experience, and it’s good for the environment. And for many, the attraction of EV ownership is also financial. For example, a 2020 survey by NewMotion found that 61% of EV drivers were motivated to switch to electric to save money.
However, this motivation is at odds with some of the fractured infrastructure in EV charging.
“The most common issues we see centre around accessibility and availability,” says Sjors. “Charging points that are private or closed are a nuisance. In fact, 36% of charge points we receive have either restricted accessibility or are private. Without intervention from a company like ours, they’d be displayed on a map without any warning. Drivers also want to have both real-time status information of nearby charge points, as well as predicted availability of selected charge points for their trips.”
Without this accurate information — something Eco-Movement’s platform provides — EV drivers can waste what little charge they have left driving to inaccessible or unavailable charge points, offsetting any of the supposed money-saving benefits in the process.
“Imagine you’re driving late at night, and you’re running out of charge,” Sjors says, “the last thing you want is to turn up at a charge point which is gated off, one which is on someone’s driveway, or one that is only open to subscribers of a certain scheme. These are real-life scenarios that have been affecting EV drivers for some time. I can draw from personal experience: a few years ago, my Nissan Leaf had to be towed when failing to find an accessible charge point after a concert at 2am. Unfortunately, such issues still persist.”
And according to Sjors, frustration will only grow if left unchecked, but there has been progress. He says, “with more and more EVs on the road that have the range to go beyond the driver’s immediate surroundings, the relevance of these issues will continue to increase.”
So, what’s stopping standardisation in the world of EV charging?
The obvious answer is to align all charging points on data standards, providing EV drivers with a consistent experience no matter where they are. But as Sjors explains, that’s easier said than done.
“Charge point operators are often too busy focusing on exponential growth to work on data and standards. Furthermore, the type of charging points, definitions, and regulations are vastly different across Europe alone, which makes it difficult to align perspectives.”
As an example, Sjors points out that having a private parking space at your home is the norm in Belgium, while it’s still the exception in the Netherlands. These ever-changing charging landscapes make it hard to pin down a single, uniformed, agreed-upon format.
What about payment at charging stations?
As part of the accessibility and availability issue, according to Sjors, payment is fast becoming the hottest topic in the EV industry. “Governments and consumer organisations are demanding transparency, but industry players have thus far struggled to meet this demand,” he explains.
This is something the team at CCV has seen first-hand, and by partnering with Mastercard, it’s an issue we plan to fix. It’s a natural partnership, because we’re both solving availability issues through increased numbers of chargers, and both committed to open-loop payment systems.
In many locations around Europe, the payment infrastructure for EV charging is highly fragmented and inconsistent. Customers don’t always have the option of paying with conventional payment methods such as contactless cards or mobile devices (e.g. digital wallets like Apple Pay or Google Pay), and will only discover this when they arrive at the charging point.
With CCV’s open-loop payment technology and smart unattended terminals, we’re helping Charge Point Operators accept widely-used payment methods. And by allowing EV drivers to make safe and convenient contactless payments using cards and digital wallets, it provides the consistency and reliability which is currently missing from the charging experience.
A shared vision for the future of EV ownership
The EV industry is now rapidly moving beyond early adopters, but there’s still a gap to be bridged between them and the mainstream.
“One of the main bottlenecks when considering buying an EV is the perception that charging your car is a hassle,” explains Sjors. “People fear that they can’t easily and reliably find a charging station when they need one.”
By enhancing the payment process and improving the data made available to both service providers and EV drivers, this fear will dissipate and perceptions will change. And once word spreads, the benefits of EV ownership will soon outweigh negatives.
“We envision a future where drivers don’t need to think about the management of their car,” says Sjors. “They can use their EV carefree, trusting technology to comfortably manage their battery level.”
CCV shares this vision. We believe our partnership with Mastercard and the work of companies like Eco-Movement will usher in an era where charging an electric vehicle is every bit as easy and convenient as filling a car with petrol.
Thank you to Sjors for his time and insight. You can read more about Eco-Movement here.