Monday Musing: Electric Mobility   

Bristol Airport EV Zone low res

Joey McLaughlan BPA Technology, Innovation & Research Officer gives us some thoughts on EVs.

I’ve recently been reading a book called Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed. In the book, Syed looks at how high performance happens. There are two distinctly different ways to talk about success; the first is talent – ‘success happens if you have talent in a particular area’. This is a predominately western way of looking at success and Matthew argues can it also be viewed as close-minded.

The other thing people talk about is hard work, practice, collaboration and resilience - the attitude that ‘you’ll get out what you put in’. For example, at the beginning of the last century, aviation was one of the riskiest forms of transportation but now is one of the safest. Why is this? The answer is simple: the aviation sector has a culture of sharing mistakes and learning from them to make sure they never happen again.

Aviation safety records didn’t change overnight. It wasn’t because of one major change but lots of small tweaks or marginal gains made by lots of different people resulting in huge benefits. If there’s one lesson, we can learn from this it’s that you don’t make progress by doing nothing.

With this in mind, I would like to turn to the EV debate. EVs are taking off but when will they reach cruising altitude and what effect can the parking sector have on accelerating this?

One thing is certain: electric mobility will continue to develop simply because the benefits outweigh the obstacles. How? Firstly, politics. There is a public expectation that the transport industry should become cleaner. Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion are recent examples of this trend which is impacting on elections and influencing government policy.

While politics and public attitudes are important, on a more practical level the accumulation of knowledge and technology in this area over the last 10 years has made EVs more attractive and practical. This has led to a huge amount of promised investment - up to $300 billion over the next decade - which underlines the level of growth expected. These companies would not be investing if they didn’t expect a return. The recent Frankfurt Motor Show focus on EVs demonstrated this, where the world most iconic brands launched more electric and hybrid models than ever before.

But what of the challenges and what can we as the parking sector do to address them? The most important challenge and the one I want to address is how we can supply enough energy to power our vehicles? If you look at it simply, at present we use diesel and petrol to power our vehicles which are damaging to the environment both locally and globally.  If we use electricity (assuming we are using renewable sources) this is less polluting to both the local and global environment.

So, what do we have and what can we do to help?

The answer is physical ‘space’. We are the gatekeepers to the physical locations where people could charge their cars and where energy providers come together. But we should also ask, are we willing to experiment and work together (landowners, operators, local authorities etc) to explore what works and then share our learning, adding to the marginal gains that will help protect our environment, communities and families. That to me is the best way in which we can help in the future development of EV’s.

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