The transition to electric vehicles will begin in earnest this year after 2019 saw a number of events, including the following, that marked the mainstream arrival of EVs in Europe:
- The Ionity network hit critical mass, with the world's largest and fastest EV charging network set for completion in 2020 when the last of the planned 400 sites is expected to be operational.
- The Porsche Taycan was launched and with it the capability to add about 300 km (186 miles) of range within 10 minutes of charging.
- Tesla re-imagined the pickup truck of the future to great fanfare.
- Automakers continued to declare their intention to phase out internal combustion engines, with Daimler the latest to say it had no plans to develop a next-generation combustion engine, following rivals including Volkswagen Group.
Along with these events came the acceptance of EVs as the next, logical step for people considering purchasing a new vehicle.
Germany, for instance, recently overtook Norway as the leading nation for new EV sales, with a reported 9.1 percent increase in sales to 57,533 last year through November.
For fleets, this transition will begin in earnest in 2020 thanks to various schemes in place across the continent, from Portugal to Romania, as well as an increase in incentives tied to climate change initiatives such as Germany's "environment bonus" for battery-powered vehicles.
But incentives only tell part of the story. The coming year holds a lot more in the way of innovation with regards to the vehicles themselves and the infrastructure needed to charge them -- and fleets across the continent stand to benefit.
Fleets to lead the way on EV uptake
Research indicates that 88 percent of the UK's largest fleets, to cite one example, expect to order an electric car within the next 12 months. And as more of the mid-priced electric vehicles with more than a 320-km (199-mile) range become available, and as operators look at a vehicle refresh, we believe the EV fleet will really take off in 2020.
There are significant drivers for this. The rise of low-emissions zones across Europe including those in the UK, Italy and Spain, to name just three, will drive significant fleet interest as no operator wants to pay the costs of operating a combustion-engine fleet within a low-emissions zone.
Additionally, EVs require less servicing, with fewer complex aspects to the motor -- this lowers the overall annual operational expenditure for the entire fleet as well as the total cost of ownership for each vehicle.
And with an increase in publicly available charging infrastructure, the average EV driver will be able to realistically switch to an EV from a combustion-engine vehicle without any trade-off to convenience.
Dealerships to take charge
Within the year you will see a noticeable uptick in DC chargers made available within car dealerships, with an increase in easy-to-use and reliable chargers in-store.
Why? Dealerships are always looking at ways to bring in additional sales beyond the initial vehicle purchase, and while it is estimated that foot traffic in-store is up, sales have reduced.
A charger in a dealership is a way to increase that traffic and drive peripheral sales from the wave of EV drivers in need of a quick charge, and the installation and availability of 50-KW fast chargers will add about 100 km of range in 20 minutes for visitors.
This 20-minute charge window is the ideal "sweet spot" as it is short enough to attract the driver with low wait times and to add enough range for their needs, and long enough for a salesperson to engage them meaningfully. During this time, salespeople can discuss everything from software and firmware upgrades to newer models.
This will allow salespeople to build relationships with their customers that extend beyond the original sale of the vehicle -- and with the threat of the online marketplace, this is a unique opportunity to attract loyal customers, including fleet operators and drivers.
Plug and charge to enable frictionless payments
Contactless payments have revolutionized the point of sale experience for retailers across the globe, making sales and banking for retailers efficient and the customer experience seamless.
There is something similar on the horizon for EV charging, known as Plug and Charge. Currently, the charging experience is based on membership programs, cross-network roaming, and RFID cards. But in 2020 this may become a thing of the past if, as we predict, plug and charge technology will begin to be rolled out across Europe and it will enable customer identification, authentication, and billing -- all via the charging cable.
No more bank cards, no more RFID tags, simply a seamless experience.
Think of the benefits for fleets? This will allow for easily manageable payments, simplifying the charging experience for fleet drivers by both streamlining and simplifying their interactions with the charging equipment.
You will begin to see the first wave of this technology rolling out in 2020, and from there it will only be a matter of time before it takes off in the same way as contactless card payments for retailers. Watch this space.
In 2020, spotting an electric vehicle on our roads will be a more commonplace occurrence and it's simply a matter of time before EVs dominate the roads and bring with them a new era of zero-emissions driving.