Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye, a leading IoT solutions provider, discusses how connectivity is foundational to the operation of EV charging points.
With Europe working to achieve the ambitious goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050, attention is turning to the transport industry which represents almost a quarter of the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve the zero-emission targets, electric vehicles (EVs) have a central role to play and as such the European Commission aims to have at least 30 million EVs on the roads by the end of this decade with great progress being made in realising this goal.
The EV market is seeing a steep increase in year-on-year sales, which is evident in reports estimating that in October 2023 there were 920 000 fully electric cars on UK roads while the US recorded sales of 98 832 EVs in October alone, bringing the number of EVs on US roads to over three million.
The automotive industry is gearing up for further uptake in EVs and, as such, it is not surprising that EV charging points are also on the uptick.
More vehicles need more charging points
With more EVs on the road, there is a need to increase the number of charging points available to keep these vehicles running. This is particularly true as EVs generally have shorter ranges than combustion vehicles, which means they need to access high-powered chargers more frequently. At the same time, more companies are introducing EVs into their fleets and will require on-route charging to minimise any impact on efficiency and productivity.
To help overcome this challenge and continue to drive the increase in EV adoption, the US, which already has over 135,000 public EV chargers across the country, is working with the public and private sector to increase this number, while the UK government has set a target to have 300 000 public charging points by 2030. Further, the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) is offering up to £14,000 in grant funding for businesses and organisations looking to install EV infrastructure while the Ministry of Transport announced in February that UK drivers would benefit from an additional £56m in public and industry funding for increasing EV charge points across the country.
Reliable connectivity for charging points
With a major focus being placed on increasing the number of EV charge points, it is equally important to consider how they will be connected.
Connectivity is a critical foundation to the EV charge point operation which allows for payment processing, software updates, scheduling, promotions, and user analytics. This connectivity also enables providers to monitor and remotely manage charge points. Robust, reliable connectivity should be built into the charge point design from the outset.
Connecting the user experience
Good connectivity at EV charge points also makes business sense in terms of customer service. With near-100% connectivity, customers are almost guaranteed a good user experience, as they will be able to charge their vehicles as and when they need to. Additionally, charging providers stand to benefit from reducing reliance on app downloads and customer’s mobile connectivity. This will also reduce the wait time for customers in the queue to charge their vehicles, which soon accumulates.
According to the latest Eseye State of IoT Adoption Report, connectivity downtime poses a real threat to EV charging providers’ business model as every minute the charge fails to connect could result in lost revenue and customer churn. Despite this, 71% admit their IoT devices are failing to connect due to an issue with the hardware. Out of the five industries surveyed, the EV charging respondents experience this problem more than most. To minimise this risk, charge points need to be connected-by-design and as resilient as possible to technical failure. Further findings reveal that 82% of respondents have found that getting the IoT device right is the key to unlocking success.
Investing in future-proof charge points
In future, EVs are set to become a more prominent feature of daily life if they can present a viable and competitive alternative to petrol and diesel vehicles. To meet the needs of current and future EV drivers, charge points need to aspire to run for a decade with minimal human intervention. Further, ultra-reliable connectivity is critical for providing a superior customer experience with the added benefits of monitoring and managing the charge points remotely, from processing payment to reporting errors that allow for timely action to be taken to resolve the issue.
With this in mind, both the EV charging and smart grid industry are investing in their technology. Eseye’s State of IoT Adoption research found that 72% of EV charging and smart grid respondents plan to increase their IoT budgets in the next two years, while this industry plan to treble and up to quadruple their IoT estates 10% more than any other industry.
The Shell Recharge network, for example, is a rapidly growing worldwide network of public fast chargers, enabling drivers to seamlessly recharge their vehicles at convenient places while on the road. With each EV charge station expected to have a lifespan of 5-10 years, Shell believed that it is imperative that its suppliers understood its need to have reliable and future proof solutions. Shell opted for Eseye’s AnyNet+ eUICC compliant SIM card which comes pre-loaded with up to ten IMSI profiles – allowing access to ten different networks – so the EV charge points always have multiple communication options and near-100% connectivity. This works really well for Shell Recharge which has EV chargers deployed across 35 countries. Further, Eseye’s global support team provides highly responsive technical support to ensure continued network uptime and service reliability.
Plugging the skills gap
Getting the device design and connectivity right often involves seeking expert advice from embedded firmware engineers and developers, however, these professionals are hard to find, and this scarcity problem appears to be worse in the United States where 75% of respondents agreed they are in short supply, versus 70% in the UK.
This industry showed a strong demand for end-to-end IoT expertise but 77% of respondents find it challenging to find providers that offer it. Specialist companies can fill this gap and guide the development and deployment of devices to help meet customer demands by providing near-100% connectivity, ongoing management of the device estate, and professional services support. In turn, this strengthens the EV charging provider’s position in the market and prepares them to scale at speed in response to growing customer demand.
Eseye provides near 100% connectivity, ensuring high availability for EV customers so they get a superior, stress-free charging experience every time. This is evident in InstaVoltselecting Eseye as its partner of choice to deliver reliable IoT connectivity to power its network of EV charging stations across the UK. In particular, the company was looking for a partner who would support its quest to build a reputation for fast, hassle-free EV charging every time in a bid to deliver a world-class customer experience.
Poor connectivity is a challenge that can make or break IoT projects. In the face of a skills gap, selecting the right connectivity partner to provide high-quality service and maximum flexibility will aid global EV deployment and help drive a greener future.