By Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO
For most of us, the start of 2022 represents a new year like no other, and the transport industry is no different.
Just as the vaccination programme looked set to put Covid-19 firmly in the UK’s rear-view mirror, the Omicron variant arrived on our shores with a bang, triggering further uncertainty for people and businesses across the nation.
The semi-conductor shortage and Brexit also continue to place our industry under strain. In the climate change battle, COP26 has been and gone with some progress made, such as the 2040 zero emissions transport pledge, although this was tinged by the failure of some major carmakers and superpower nations to sign the declaration.
Despite these challenges, I’ve entered 2022 with more hope and optimism than ever before. Here is why.
Here at Connected Kerb we are determined to play our role in helping to push the green recovery in the right direction. For us, that means trying to tackle the inequality in access to charging infrastructure that many observers and research reports highlighted pre-Covid.
By ensuring lower-income areas don’t get left behind in the EV transition, reaching out to educate communities on EV with our engagement programmes and deploying charge points that can support IoT (such as air quality and parking sensors) and other digital technologies, we hope to deliver an accessible-to-all EV network that will protect the UK’s net zero aspirations.
If ‘levelling up’ is what the government wants to achieve, then turning up the volume on our quiet, nationwide ‘EVolution’ will help ensure that electric vehicles can be enjoyed by everyone.
Lambeth is one of our key projects in making EV accessible to all. Pictured: Lambeth EV resident Ajai Ahluwahlia (left)
Connected Kerb faces the same pandemic challenges as many businesses. These include budget and resourcing pressures on our friends at local councils, who are now tasked with the challenge of deploying charging infrastructure fit for residents and businesses today and for the long term - a challenge that we’re delighted to say we’re now helping many to overcome.
In 2021 we agreed successful long term contracts with councils in Kent, Milton Keynes, West Sussex, Lambeth, Northumberland, Warrington, Coventry, Cambridge and many more, all of whom are pursuing policies of greener, sustainable transport – and by the end of Q1 this year we expect to add more to this list.
So it is true to say that Covid has dominated council priorities for the past 2 years, and rightly so, but the appetite and ambition for EV is certainly growing.
Meanwhile, our residential developer clients have risen to the challenge presented by Covid imposed delays to their construction and sales activities and are now looking to prepare for new legislation to provide a minimum level of EV provision in new build properties.
The pandemic has reshaped our daily lives from the way we work to the places we go. A significant trend during the pandemic has been an increase in interest from home-buyers for properties in more rural areas. As a result our developer clients are expanding their portfolios in out-of-city locations which in turn will see increased demand for charging infrastructure outside city and urban areas.
As the pandemic has pushed trade out of city centres to edge-of-city retail parks and shopping centres, demand for EV provision from commercial landlords has also increased.
The case for this is clear - according to RetailCo Solutions Inc. customers charging an electric vehicle spend up to 50 per cent longer at a retail site, which in turn translates into average increased spending of up to £80.
As landlords look ahead to 2050 and plan for the needs of future tenants, they are increasingly focused on Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) issues and achieving net zero - with the provision of long life electric vehicle charging infrastructure a key factor within those plans.
The transition of fleets (large and small) to EV is key to the mass adoption of EVs across society. In a recent survey by Fleet World, more than one in four respondents (27%) cited coronavirus as one of the biggest challenges the industry faces. What did they say was THE biggest challenge? Electrification - particularly for fleet vehicles parked away from centralised depot locations. But their challenge is our collective opportunity to bring a full EV transition to every corner of the UK. That’s why we are in deep conversations with major fleet managers across the country.
Connected Kerb provides a full installation, maintenance and consultation service for small van and car fleets.
Looking at the bigger picture, I am also optimistic. EV sales have increased in 2021 with more battery electric cars registered last year than 2016-2020 combined. Attitudes have started to slowly shift in a favourable direction and I am confident that fears over range anxiety and the cost of an EV will wane as technology continues to improve and manufacturing scale grows. Episodes such as October’s fuel crisis have played a small part in whetting the public’s appetite for electric, although education efforts need to be increased and the reliability of charging networks improved.
Pictured: The Gecko
With millions of home workers spending more time in their local areas and exploring the pleasures of cleaner air and lower pollution levels, the pandemic has crystallised attitudes toward the environment.
Landlords and tenants alike are more conscious of the environment — 78% of potential non-combustion car buyers say that COVID-19 has heightened their level of environmental awareness — and crucially, that awareness is now reflected in intentions to purchase more sustainable vehicles. We will shortly be releasing our major research report which will provide a full picture of what users need and want from their EV and what needs to be done to facilitate uptake.
I have spoken about the need for EV charging to be accessible to all. Aside from the need to facilitate cheaper charging – which we are doing through projects such as Agile Streets, an on-street smart charging trial, bringing agile public charging tariffs to the UK for the first time – we need to make sure charging points cater for the more than a million blue badge holders in the UK with accessibility needs. That’s why we continue to work with disability charities to increase the accessibility of our network as greater accessibility is good for all of us. The Covid recovery needs to be green, but to deliver on our long term carbon goals, it must also be inclusive.
And I know that championing equality means keeping our own house in order. Our workforce of just over 60 boasts talent from across the globe from Brazil to South Africa and New Zealand to France.
Of course, we want to do more and certainly the EV industry as a whole needs to do more to recruit more women, particularly into senior positions. I believe it is such diversity which adds a wonderful personality and depth of experience to our business that translates into a personal service for our customers, from our technicians and installers to our account managers and customer service agents.
Of course, there will be challenges and bumps along the way like in any business but I am determined, as we grow and expand internationally, not to lose that intimate yet innovative culture which set us on our way, back in 2017. My endeavour for 2022 is to continue to recruit the best talent from every background to make sure we treat every customer like it is our first. Only by doing this and striving to make EV accessible for all, can we turn the dream of a full electric vehicle transition into a reality.