Powering e-mobility forward: critical opportunities for energy and utility companies

Key to society’s vision of a decarbonized world is the mass shift to e-mobility, supported by governments’ targets to take fossil fuel-engine cars off the road in the coming decades. This is creating a new market for energy & utility companies, who have a unique role to play in the evolving e-mobility ecosystem.

Car manufacturers have advanced e-technologies significantly: today’s e-vehicles offer consumers real advantages as pollution-free, economical, high-performing options; clearly those advances must continue.

Yet one of the biggest barriers to mass adoption is the lack of sufficient charging infrastructure. With around 140 million e-vehicles expected on the roads by 2030,[1] on the assumption that one publicly accessible outlet is required for every 10 cars, 12 million public charging points will be needed by then. At the end of 2020, there were around 870,000 public charge points worldwide – so public charging stations will have to multiply by a factor of 15 within a decade.

Clearly there is now huge demand for an expanded charging infrastructure, with a significant push to make the required investments, estimated to be around 20 billion euros, an average of 1.8 billion per year in the EU alone.[2]

Composition of charging infrastructures

So how does this evolving charging infrastructure work and where are the openings for energy & utility companies to accelerate progress to net-zero, encourage customers to reduce their own carbon footprints, and open up vital new revenue streams?

Charging infrastructures comprise three types of charging points. Firstly, private charging points: equipping homes must be a priority if consumers are to be encouraged to buy electric. Secondly, semi-private charging points: employers, businesses, hotels, retailers, transport hubs and so on, all want to provide charging services for their employees and customers. And thirdly, public charging points: cities, local authorities or public-private initiatives will require political determination and investment based on better citizen services and achievement of environmental targets.

Potential for energy & utility companies

We’ve seen a huge increase in activity in this domain by energy & utility companies in the last year. As service providers at the heart of people’s homes, they have been in a race to exploit the synergies between private and public charging.

These companies are in the unique position of having millions of customers ready to service with charging options. Customers will primarily want to charge their car at home, but when they need to do so elsewhere (say around 15% of the time), having the same customer service, user interface, payment and billing structure will be convenient. To capitalize on this, innovative energy & utility companies are devising business models and partnerships as the new e-mobility ecosystem starts to take shape.

With technologies and niche providers maturing, there’s a real impetus for energy & utility companies to drive their e-vehicle business models forward.

An e-mobility charging ecosystem is emerging

Distribution system operators (DSOs) and transmission system operators (TSOs) are developing new grid control systems. These incorporate charging point management and charging points, connected to the smart grid, for managing the load and considering e-vehicles as a source of generation.

Oil and gas companies are also responding in a major way, diversifying into the electricity business while leveraging the scale and convenience of their large service station infrastructures to deploy charging points.

Charge Point Operators are emerging, whose business is managing and optimizing networks of public and private charging assets. And E-mobility Service Providers take responsibility for customer service operations from contracts and billing to sales and booking.

Digital expands the possibilities

Crucially, mature ‘white label’ digital platforms, built with scalable open-source technologies, are available to support these new collaborations to be able to offer integrated services to business and domestic customers.

When you can provide a truly end-to-end package, the opportunities for all e-mobility players are significant: a web portal and apps for customers to find and book charging points and other services; roaming capabilities for E-mobility Service Providers to offer customer services; e-commerce components for billing and payments; data-driven real-time management of the charging infrastructure; and even energy load management and balancing at different times of the day as part of self-optimizing smart grids.

Generating new value and business opportunities

With technologies and niche providers maturing, there’s a real impetus for energy & utility companies to drive their e-vehicle business models forward. Together with an e-mobility digital platform, they can leverage existing infrastructures such as call centers and billing.

Early indications prove that major revenue potential is there. Evidence from a recent rollout with one of Italy’s largest multi-utility companies was compelling: we saw that after one month, the service had driven a 39% increase in new e-mobility customers, a 33% increase in flat-rate contracts and a 44% increase in pay-per-use.

With the shifting energy landscape, this is a powerful way for companies to build affinity with their brand. Beyond being providers selling a commodity at the lowest rates, energy & utility companies can become progressive stakeholders in tomorrow’s clean and connected living. Accelerating early wins will be key to success in this competitive space, helping to usher in a new era of sustainable travel.

[1] International Energy Agency (IEA) – Global EV Outlook 2020

[2] Transport & Environment (T&E), 2020

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About Jorge Gonzalez Hernando
Jorge heads up the specialist 15-strong Atos team of utilities fraud specialists. The team’s primary focus on electricity has recently been extended to address the emerging problem of consumer fraud in gas. By coordinating industry expertise with statistical modelling and data analytics, the team has established a strong position in this specialist field.