Formally Engenie, Osprey Charging is providing rapid and renewable charging points that are compatible with every Electric vehicle on the market today and are operated by nothing more complicated than a contactless bank card.
As EV ownership skyrockets during the UK’s post-Covid green recovery, Auto Futures speaks with CEO Ian Johnston.
What are your views on the UK bringing forward its ban on petrol, diesel and hybrid cars to 2030?
Bringing the ban forward to 2030 sends a clear message to industry and the British public that we must all take action now to transition to cleaner forms of transport. Transport is one of the most significant contributors to the UK’s carbon emissions, accounting for almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. If the UK is serious about reaching net zero emissions by 2050, moving away from fossil fuel powered vehicles must be a priority.
What must then follow is meaningful action, particularly around public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. The private sector has invested millions already into rapid charging infrastructure, creating one of the most comprehensive public charging networks in Europe. However, in return, the government must commit to supporting infrastructure in areas where private investment models are not able to, and to continuing to incentivise the import and purchase of EVs. By doing so, we can not only meet this target, but surpass it.
As we approach the final months of 2020, do you think it is possible to phase out the internal combustion engine in under a decade?
A ban on the sale of all new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles by 2030 is ambitious, yet with the right policies and focus it is more than achievable in the next ten years. We have seen how effective incentives such as the scrappage scheme (for diesel), removal of the Benefit in Kind tax for EVs and the £3,000 Plug-in Grant have been in encouraging vehicle change. If we look at Norway as an example, which has led the way in pro-EV policies in recent years, EVs now make up almost 60% of the new car market. There is no reason the UK can’t do the same over the next decade.
Hybrid vehicles have split opinions; you have grouped them alongside petrol and diesel. Do you think these hybrids are not a long-term solution and only good for automakers who want to stretch out their currently more profitable vehicle line-up?
Hybrid vehicles have been an important stepping-stone to electrification, enabling drivers to become comfortable with driving electric, and realise the many benefits – lower fuels costs, low maintenance, enhanced driving experience, low mileage easily covered by the battery on a day to day basis.
However, the truth is, despite the benefits of plug-in hybrids, in a real life setting these benefits are diminished. It was recently found that many drivers don’t plug their hybrids in regularly. This means that the majority of their power still comes from fossil fuels. What’s more, due to the weight of the battery in hybrids, fuel consumption can increase substantially as the engines have more engine ‘kit’ to carry. A recent report found that in reality, emissions from plug-in hybrids are as much as two-and-a-half times higher than official tests. So-called traditional fuel-powered hybrids, which don’t have a plug, derive all their energy from fossil fuels, and are not an effective low carbon alternative.
We’re facing a climate emergency and must achieve net zero by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Only by taking bold and ambitious steps to clean up transport fully can we achieve this. For this reason, it is important that all types of hybrid are included in the ban and that we switch to zero emission battery-powered EVs as soon as we can.
Being the CEO of Osprey Charging, how can the private sector support EV adoption?
EV driving will grow exponentially over the next few years as we near the ban on petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles, and it is crucial that charging infrastructure keeps up. Huge private investment has been made into deployment of charging infrastructure across the UK to meet the growing demand and give the public confidence to make the switch to electric. This must be sustained, and accelerated, as EVs become the norm.
Crucially, the private sector must also be at the forefront of innovation in EV charging to meet the needs of the everyday consumer. Behavioural change in something so fundamental as driving is hard. So for mass adoption of EVs to become a reality, consumers not technology must be at the heart of the transition. Until now, early adopters – those most passionate about EVs – have been willing to tolerate varying and often unreliable customer experience. The mass market, however, will simply not accept issues such as faulty charge points or the requirement to register before being able to use a public rapid charger. Charging networks must lead the way in delivering top-class charging infrastructure that is easy to use, fully accessible and conveniently located. From day one, this has been at the core of Osprey Charging’s vision – focussing on simple to use charging infrastructure that can be operated with nothing more complicated than the tap of a contactless bank card.
What is the government’s role in all of this?
The key role of the government will be to facilitate the transition to EVs through investing in infrastructure, incentive schemes to encourage EV adoption, and education.
Private companies will continue to deploy infrastructure in areas where it is commercially viable, namely in cites, high footfall retail and leisure areas, and busy road networks. Government funding for EV infrastructure should therefore be targeted in more remote areas, where private investment models are not viable. When broadband was initially rolled out, we saw huge delays in deployment in rural areas, the effects of which we’re still experiencing today. We can’t let that happen with EV infrastructure.
The government must also focus on providing attractive incentives to encourage drivers to switch to EVs. The £3,000 Plug-in Grant and 0% Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) tax have been successful at driving EV uptake in the UK by individuals, businesses and fleets. Further incentives such as the proposed £6,000 diesel scrappage scheme would help get some of the most polluting cars off the road quickly and make the switch to electric a compelling financial decision for drivers. This will drive the growth of the EV industry and make the UK an attractive trading environment for global EV manufacturers to base manufacturing in the UK, further ensuring supply can adequately meet demand.
Education on the benefits of EVs is also vital. A number of EV myths continue to hamper efforts to clean up transport in the UK, including availability and speed of public chargers, and range of the vehicles. For EVs to become mainstream, the government must ensure that the public is reliably informed on the many benefits of driving electric so that they have the confidence to make the switch.
Finally, cities such as London will be able to achieve this – but will rural areas be able to cope?
As mentioned above, it is crucial that rural areas are not overlooked like they were with the roll out of broadband infrastructure. This is where the government can have a really meaningful impact on the future of electric transport in the UK. It must focus on investing and developing infrastructure in areas that aren’t commercially feasible for private companies. In return, the private sector will continue its work to build one of the most comprehensive public EV charging networks in Europe.