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Electrification of transportation: the moment of truth

07 June 2011
Electrification of transportation: the moment of truth

By Robin Haycock, Head of Transport, The Climate Group. 

Ernst & Young – Electrification of Transportation
European Cleantech Ignition Session 2011 – June 7 2011 Bonn, Germany

Are you fed up with being talked at during conferences about stuff you knew two years ago?  If the answer to this is yes, then the Ernst & Young Cleantech Ignition Session's ‘non-conference format’ I experienced yesterday is certainly the answer.

The event saw 40 plus clever, well-connected people with powerful brands and companies behind them put into a room, with a top line facilitator to get them to talk (not hard), debate and discuss Electrification of Transport.

The event offered me an electrifying moment in time and I came away refreshed with new and exciting ideas to use in our EV20 programme.

A great surprise for me was the conversations revolving around business. Last year it was all about government intervention, public finance and incentives. Clearly this is still needed to push the market, but the feeling that the market and business are really starting to pull now was definitely palpable.

Lorna Pimlott from Manchester’s Plugged in Places project is pioneering infrastructure and business models that are driven by investors and companies rather than the public purse.

It’s incredible that only one year on from the launch of this government initiative, we can see these promising developments.

I had a fantastic session with Hanna Hellman from BP Alternative Energy and Scott Sarazen from Ernst & Young, wherein we surfed ideas for ‘bundled’ packages of mobility that meet customer issues. We started by discussing the Cool Car and bundle concept (with the ubiquitous quoted i-Car linked to BYD and a service provider) and moved through to the trusted provider option (combining Eurocar, BP and BMW). We then moved onto concepts for a finance bundle where you choose the car (Deutsche Bank, Vodaphone and SwissRE).  I look forward to working with Hanna soon on this and more.

Can you imagine how few cars and vans would be sold if it weren’t for lease and finance deals?  If you can, then we need to see these types of packages happen sooner rather than later, to de-risk as well as delight customers and fleet managers.

Next then, how about a genuinely clever analysis and monitoring package for batteries that will provide an insurer, car reseller or utility company with a real value to the large format used battery that they have in front of them? Well Jan-Olaf Willums – a long time friend and supporter of The Climate Group is developing just that. Consider how the battery finance market would change when we have a real value for a battery, and can decide whether it moves onto its next life at the optimum moment? This has to beat the guess work of today and makes for exciting times if this is achieved.

There was a big buzz around how fleets could be the link between early adopters and mass market, so The Climate Group work is on the button; and of course I will keep everyone informed of progress.

So what did I conclude? That the market is still going strong, and given the level of positive communications out there and the continued level of press engagement, as well as the businesses interested in making money, the enthusiasm, and the level of intellect surrounding me yesterday, I think we're still on course for a Clean Revolution in transport.

The possibilities of more product was a clear issue, so the drive from governments bought on by push from OEMs actually needs to be pushed back at the OEMs, who are now lagging behind the demand curve.

OLEV’s UK incentives are running slowly and not to plan according to Rosie Snashall who manages the scheme, but that is not because of demand or government interest,  it is down to supply of vehicles!

Overall, this was a fabulous ‘non-conference’. I recommend it as an alternative to the usual 'dash for coffee' at every break in the relentless PowerPoint-heavy conferences we often attend.

So well done, Ernst & Young, good luck with the rest of the series, and I look forward to the insightful thought leadership document that will follow.

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