EV rollouts face challenges – Accenture report

18 Feb 2011

Large-scale rollouts for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) will be hindered, unless investors stimulate demand, lower the cost of public charging infrastructure and manage the impact on the grid, an Accenture report reveals.

Global management consultants Accenture published a study, Changing the Game, Plug-in Electric Vehicle Pilots, that examined a range of EVs’ trials across the globe, focusing on pure electric vehicles (EVs) that rely on charging from the electric grid. It analysed the varying impacts on adoption and implications for service providers.

Pilots reveal a risk that consumers may not use public charging spots at rates needed to recover costs, which range from an estimated US$5,000 per charging station to $50,000 for units capable of fast charging a car in about 30 minutes.

The implications of PEVs

The study reveals there could be major implications in terms of control for PEVs. Pilots show that PEVs meet the driving requirements of average city users who may not plug in their cars daily. This increases the unpredictability of charging and reduces control. Plugging in vehicles when parked will improve grid management, reducing the strain on the grid.

Melissa Stark of Accenture said PEVs “have extensive implications for business models because they require changes in consumer behaviour and can increase strain on the grid.

“It will be critical to improve understanding of consumer preferences and to change consumer behaviour through creative incentives if utilities and service providers are to manage the impact on the grid.”

The report also showed that in terms of scale, problems could occur, as there are only a few electric vehicles in pilot areas, therefore it makes it difficult to test them on a larger scale and test their integration with each other. This shows that grid impact need to be closely monitored as the market develops.

More profitable commercial models are needed for a sustainable PEV market. This includes a need for private charging infrastructure which will include mechanisms, such as premium charging to manage demand and battery swapping services that reduce the strain on the grid. Direct vehicle sales to consumers are being attempted by some manufacturers; however the high cost of the batteries makes this option unaffordable for most consumers. 

The report revealed that renting cars is a more feasible option, spreading the high purchase price over a long period of time. Accenture states that “automotive manufacturers will have to invest in capabilities to manage a new service-based relationship with consumers if they are to adopt this model.”