Consumers, Vehicles and Energy Integration

Introduction

The Consumers, Vehicles and Energy Integration (CVEI) project was launched in 2016 to deliver unique and detailed insight on mainstream consumer behaviour when using and charging battery and hybrid electric vehicles, to understand the changes that will be required of existing infrastructure with the growth in low carbon transport.

An innovative and ambitious project commissioned and funded by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and delivered by a cross-industry consortium led by TRL.

Energy Systems Catapult provided technical expertise and assurance to the project and will take forward the data and models to provide future development of the CVEI capability from the ETI legacy.

A final report bringing together the findings of CVEI and complimentary research from across the sector was delivered following the completion of the CVEI project.

The Challenge and Opportunity

There are many challenges and opportunities involved in transitioning to secure and sustainable low-carbon vehicles. Significant benefits include improved air quality, decarbonisation, and potential economic growth. Yet there are barriers to overcome, in regards to consumer uptake and behaviour, integration of vehicles with the energy supply system, energy market structures and UK and European government policy.

Challenges include:

  • Sales of Electric Vehicles are running at 69% year on year growth, while charging infrastructure growth is at 31%1.
  • Current dual fuel households driving all miles on electricity, would nearly double their overall electricity use.
  • Just 30% of motorists currently drive over 60% of miles, so electric vehicles that meet the needs of higher than average mileage drivers are particularly important.
  • Without smart charging the average carbon savings of an electric vehicles might fall from 1.5 tCO2e per vehicle per year to 0.2-0.4 tCO2e per vehicle per year because motorists naturally and predominantly charge in the early evening, when peak electricity demand means higher carbon intensity generation is deployed.

The CVEI project examined the barriers and motivators which influence consumers by providing them with back-to-back experience of using Battery Electric Vehicles or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and an equivalent conventional petrol engine car. Across the trials, in-depth data was gathered from vehicles and chargepoints for 584,000 miles of journeys and 15,700 charge events, covering both home and public locations, while consumer surveys were undertaken to understand attitudes, perceptions and choices.

The opportunity was to understand the required changes to existing infrastructure, as well as consumer response to a wider introduction of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles in the UK.

Our Approach

The two-and-a-half-year CVEI project aimed to deliver unique and detailed insight on mainstream consumer behaviour when using and charging battery and hybrid electric vehicles, to understand the changes that will be required of existing infrastructure with the growth in low carbon transport.

Delivered by a cross-industry consortium led by TRL, with Energy Systems Catapult providing quality assurance through our Transport asset on behalf of the ETI.

TRL are supported by Element Energy, Baringa Partners and Cenex. Other team members include EDF Energy, Route Monkey, EV Connect, Shell and The Behavioural Insights Team.

The project was carried out in two stages. The first stage focussed on detailed analysis and design of market, policy and regulatory frameworks, business models and customer offerings, electricity and liquid fuel infrastructure and technologies throughout the energy system as well as at charging and refuelling points and on-vehicle. This was supported by insights from consumers and fleets into use of plug-in vehicles.

The second stage, commenced in the autumn of 2016, delivered a trial involving approximately 250 mass-market users to validate the impact of solutions identified in stage one and understand consumer and fleet responses to the vehicles and to managed charging schemes.

The objectives of CVEI were:

  • To address challenges and opportunities involved in transitioning to secure and sustainable low-carbon vehicles.
  • Examine integration of vehicles with the energy supply system.
  • Help inform UK and European government policy; and
  • Help shape energy and automotive industry products.

Charging Behaviour Trials

  • To understand how mainstream consumers (i.e. not “early adopters”) responded to tariffs aiming to shift charging away from peak times of demand (between 4-7pm), in order to reduce strain on electricity networks.
  • Consumers were offered one of two types of smart charging – either supplier-managed charging (where suppliers or another third party manage when the charging takes place) or user-managed charging (where consumers choose their own charging time utilising time-of-use tariffs) – as well as a control group without smart charging.
  • 247 consumers were given 2 months with either a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) or Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV).

Vehicle Uptake Trial

  • To understand barriers and motivators influencing mainstream consumer adoption of EVs.
  • 200 consumers were given 4 days with each of 3 vehicles, identical in all but powertrain: BEV, PHEV and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).

The Outcomes

The main findings include:

  • 95% of Battery Electric Vehicles drivers and 85% with Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles chose smart charging over dumb charging, to automatically avoid charging at times of peak grid demand or when electricity is most expensive.
  • Mainstream consumers trialing all three types of car said they were willing to pay more for BEVs or PHEVs over an ICE vehicle, as long as the savings on running costs delivered a payback in fewer than 5 years.

Vehicle Uptake insights

  • People were willing to pay an extra £4.70 in upfront cost (compared to petrol car) per £1/yr saving in running costs – i.e. payback in 4.7 years.
  • 90% of mainstream consumers would consider a Battery Electric Vehicles as a main car if its range was increased to 300 miles or a PHEV with 100 miles of range; while 50% would consider a BEV if the range was 200 miles.
  • Younger men (under 34) most likely to adopt PHEVs, middle-aged (40-60 years old) male or female most likely to adopt BEVs, older women (over 60) least likely to adopt PHEV or EV.

Charging Behaviour insights

  • Mainstream consumers typically charge at peak times for the electricity system (4-7pm) unless there is an incentive not to do so.
  • Both user-managed and supplier-managed charging was able to shift demand to later in the evening.
  • Mainstream consumers prefer smart charging over simply plugging in and charging straightaway, even if the saving from doing so was relatively low (e.g. £12 a year).