Green number plates for electric vehicles. Zero Emissions Zone trials. Grants for any employer installing EV charge points. Ideas and initiatives for boosting the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) have accelerated recently, in an effort to make electric vehicles the norm rather than the exception on UK roads.
In September, Theresa May announced further support for the industry at the very first Zero Emission Vehicle Summit, outlining a plan to ensure Britain “leads from the front” in the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, committing £106m in funding for research and development into EV technology. She also elaborated on the 2040 target to make all manufactured cars emission-free, saying that this should be reflected in all cars on the road just ten years later.
This government’s commitment to electric vehicles is being matched by an increase in interest from drivers, as the perceived hurdles – including the initial cost of switching to an electric car, and the mile range compared to traditional petrol and diesel cars – are being cleared. Last month EVs accounted for one in every 12 new cars purchased in the UK. That’s been attributed to a number of factors, including the availability of a range of cars that do at least 150miles on a single charge, EV drivers are reducing their fuel spend by 90%, and with an increase in the number and visibility of charge points and a decrease in the cost of the electric vehicles themselves.
There’s also been better proof of the environmental impact of EVs, such as a recent European Climate Foundation-commissioned report which found that EVs emit half the CO2 emissions of a petrol or diesel car through the course of their lifetime, and the overall effect has now been shown to be positive.
A new breed of EV
One company is on a mission to help drive the adoption of electric vehicles. Octopus Electric Vehicles is pioneering an ‘EV bundle’ which will give drivers everything they need to make the switch, for one monthly price. The innovation has come from energy supplier Octopus Energy, which is driven by a mission ‘to make buying energy as easy as buying cornflakes’. Similarly, the team at Octopus EV wants to help to make the switch to EV as easy as possible, for as many people as possible.
CEO of Octopus Electric Vehicles, Fiona Howarth says: “For us, the EV journey begins long before we start talking about leasing options and charge point installation. There’s a big education job to do – many people still believe that they’ll need to stop every few miles to recharge and that the range of models is limited. Our Drive Day roadshow has proved enormously popular, touring the country and letting people come and see the cars for themselves, as well as question EV experts about exactly how it all works”
These events have not only demonstrated the massive leap forward that the industry has taken in the past few years, but also provided people with a chance to test drive the latest models. From the sporty BMW i3 to the family friendly Nissan LEAF, the cars have been carefully selected as the best EVs on the market, with each offering at least 150 miles of driving per charge.
Continues Howarth: “We’ve found that people are often surprised at what an electric car can do. I think there’s a general misconception that the technology and the pricing has stayed largely the same since EVs came to market a few years ago, whereas in fact today’s electric car is almost unrecognisable from its older incarnation, and a hell of a lot cheaper. Battery costs came down 80% in six years – unlocking a better range of electric vehicles at a fraction of the cost.”
All-in-one EV solution
After education, the challenge has been how to best help customers with the changes needed to go electric. Here, Octopus Electric Vehicles is pioneering adoption with their ‘EV bundle’. “We’re offering the electric vehicle equivalent of Sweden’s famous baby box, giving the driver everything they need to make the switch” says Howarth “and unlike babies, our vehicles come with instructions!”
As well as the monthly lease of an electric vehicle, Octopus EV organises the installation of a home charge point and smart meter. The monthly lease cost can also include insurance, service and maintenance, as well as help and support for the duration of the contract.
There’s even a bespoke electricity tariff, designed specifically with EV drivers in mind. Dubbed Octopus Go, it offers renewable electricity at just 5p/kWh between the hours of 12.30am and 4.30am, allowing people to charge their cars for just a fraction of the daytime cost for 70% less than a standard variable tariff from a Big 6 supplier.
Octopus EV has also partnered with myenergi, to offer the innovative Zappi charge point, which automates charging to take advantage of these prices.
Octopus can arrange the installation of the Zappi via trusted installers that can help unlock the £500 home charge point grant from the government.
This world-first tariff is possible thanks to Octopus EV’s relationship with Octopus Energy. The supplier is already taking advantage of the potential of smart meters with the Agile Octopus tariff, which lets customers see the fluctuations in wholesale energy prices and adjust their usage accordingly. It’s just the beginning of how the company intends to use smart meter technology, which allows them to measure and record electricity usage in real-time and offer cheaper electricity when demand on the grid is low.
Fiona Howarth believes this will be a landmark year for electric vehicle adoption in the UK. “Tesla has revolutionised the market and now all other vehicle manufacturers are rapidly bringing their EVs to the market. Think of the switch from analogue phones to smart phones – we’re in a similar transitory phase. If the Government can deliver on their EV plans, and we think they can, the carpark of tomorrow is going to look very different to the gas-guzzling lot of today.”
About the Author
Fiona Howarth, CEO of Octopus Electric Vehicles,
Fiona leads the Octopus Electric Vehicle business – a start-up from Octopus Energy. With a passion for renewable energy, fantastic cars and using tech to create great customer experiences, this is absolutely Fiona’s dream job!
Having studied Engineering at Oxford University, she spent her early career at Dyson and BMW – developing efficient motors and hydrogen powered cars. She then went on to work with major energy companies and government while at Bain & Company, before joining British Connected Homes start up AlertMe. A move to British Gas, saw her take Hive, by British Gas, from a tech pilot to a household name that today has more than one million customers.
“Octopus EV is offering the electric vehicle equivalent of Sweden’s famous baby box,” says Octopus Electric Vehicles CEO Fiona Howarth.
How Vehicle-to-Grid is changing the game
Electric vehicles have been criticised for placing more demand on an already overloaded grid. But a consortium of industry experts is hoping that electric vehicles could be the solution to the grid’s capacity issues, rather than a problem. Led by Octopus EV and Octopus Energy, the consortium has won over £3m of funding from Innovate UK (backed by government departments DfT and BEIS) to test the viability of vehicle-to-grid charging on UK roads. The Powerloop project offers EV drivers the chance to help balance demand by supplying the grid with power from their car batteries during the peak hours of 4-7pm, before recharging in the early hours of the morning while demand is lowest. In return for plugging in their cars 12 times a month to supply charge during the evening, Powerloop drivers will get money off their monthly leasing cost.
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