What can eCars learn from Biogas?


Posted on: April 17, 2012 by Henrik Hodam

Almost everywhere in the press we can find articles about the introduction of electric vehicles in every part of the world. In many countries the first pilots have been started and the car manufacturers have brought the first EV models at the market. But all the existing activities are still looking for the right business case which will be mainly influences by the user acceptance. For the user acceptance the industry has to solve some technical problems like the range extension and a next generation of batteries.

Beside the technical challenges there is still the question about the ergonomics of the new type of mobility. How users have to adopt their daily behavior has always been a major driver for the final acceptance of new things. To make things worse the nowadays users already have their experiences and procedures regarding mobility. We all are used to drive a petrol car and know all necessary steps to make it running. In the past we have seen some other activities to introduce alternatives to the traditional petrol car like the usage of biogas.

But analyzing today these activities have not been very successful because their market share is still negligibly small. But we could have a look at their experiences about user acceptance and adopt them for eCars.

The first challenge is the rebuild of the car. To have the advantage of both worlds and to be more independent from the new infrastructure there have been almost only hybrid cars (petro and biogas). So as long as the charging infrastructure for eCars is not sufficient hybrid cars will have a better change to be accepted.

The second challenge of biogas and EV is the refill process. Here the car driver has to find dedicated stations to refill the energy storage in the car. For user convenience the network of such stations has to be very dense and the driver needs tools (map or App) to find the station.

The third aspect also belongs to the changing process. Clearly for petrol and gas the refill takes only few minutes but we see even there that people do not plan their refilling. They just facing the situation that the petrol tank is empty and they expect that there is a petrol station close by. Here we can learn to have a sufficient net of available charging spots. There is a strong demand to have an easy way to find and to do some reservations. As an alternative the possibility to exchange the battery has to be taken into consideration as well.

Furthermore the refill process is currently very simple. No registration of the car or the driver is necessary. This has to remain. In my opinion here we have the biggest problems with the establishing of the eCar infrastructure. There are plans that the car and the driver have to be identified by the changing station? Even if there are technical advantages the user will request anonymity and if the process is complex it would be faulty what reduces the user acceptance.

If  it comes to the impact on IT we could see mainly the following consequences. First there is the need for added services for the drivers to find the charging spots and to plan the charging process (e.g. reservations). Secondly the underlying processes to enable the charging processhave to be as simple as possible and interoperability is a key success factor. The new infrastructure that has to be established there must be robust, easy to use and (due to the tough business case) cost effective. Some basic acceptance requirements like privacy and security have to be taken into account.

So the question remains, how can we make the introduction of the EVs a success. The key is the user acceptance which will be driven by simplicity. Why not learning from the past and using the experiences similar businesses have made ?

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About Henrik Hodam

Portfolio Manager and member of the Scientific Community
Henrik is head of Portfolio Management for the Public, Transport and Utility industries at Worldline in Germany - the European leader in the payment and transactional services industry. He is member of the Atos Scientific Community and the global track leader for Electromobility. As portfolio manager he is responsible for the definition and the development of Worldline offerings within these markets. This function includes the transformation of innovative ideas into products and business implementations.

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