Without significant and rapid improvement, poor customer experience could risk delays in EV adoption and hinder global efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
eMobility’s evolution is dependent on an ecosystem working in harmony to achieve scalability that helps meet net zero objectives.
Cross-industry collaboration is critical, no single company or industry has the scale, technological expertise or customer base to succeed alone.
We see strong convergence of the oil and gas, utilities and automotive value chains, focused on a seamless charging experience.
This convergence at the EV charging point relies on cross-industry IT infrastructure that is similarly seamless.
Companies will be better able to navigate the needed convergence by continuously changing the game and their industries, driving a new imperative. Embracing what we call “Total Enterprise Reinvention”.
For many organizations, total reinvention is a route to create a foundation that vastly improves the customer experience. Total Enterprise Reinvention – defined as a deliberate strategy aiming to set the art of the possible – is characterized by the ability of organizations to rapidly react to changing customer needs, where change becomes a foundational state. Reinvention should be boundaryless. Organizations need to break down internal and external silos, enabling collaboration across entire value chains and between industries.
It provides organizations with the means to create a new performance frontier in eMobility, where innovation can go beyond benchmarks, generate new value pools, and accelerate EV adoption.
Creating a seamless customer experience through value chain convergence.
As the race to net zero intensifies, eMobility is emerging as a vital building block. Road transport accounts for 28% of global carbon emissions1, making electrification vital if the world is to meet its net zero commitments. Currently, batteries are the only viable alternative to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. The significant momentum behind electric vehicles (EVs) is propelling them into mass-market adoption - eMobility is inevitably becoming big business. Last year, EVs accounted for over 20% of passenger vehicle sales in Europe 1 year-on-year while the global sales surged by 60%, reaching nearly 15% of sales 2 . This was despite supply chain obstacles and rising inflation, well in advance of other low-carbon alternatives such as hydrogen or biofuels.
Moreover, the massive electrification of transport is not just about decarbonization. The benefits are plenty. Battery powered electric vehicles are more energy efficient and can travel three to four times further than ICE vehicles using the same amount of energy3. Their low emissions can help improve air quality. EVs also help strengthen the energy security of countries that rely on hydrocarbon imports, by shifting reliance away from fossil fuels toward locally generated and renewable power. And because EVs are essentially batteries on wheels, they will play an important role in balancing power networks, providing much-needed flexibility to the power system.
Global EV sales 2022 increased + 60% despite energy crisis – while EV drivers remain disappointed with public charging
However, the industry has faced some huge barriers – some of which remain. Affordability has been an issue facing early adopters, while a new generation of smaller, cheaper models and government incentives are likely to bring costs down soon. “Range anxiety” is decreasing as the battery performance is improving rapidly4. Awareness of eMobility offerings is another issue5. However, by far the biggest barrier facing EVs is the unreliable, complex and fragmented charging experience with both US and European EV drivers expressing dissatisfaction especially on malfunctioning stations and payments6.
EV charging is much harder than ICE refueling
Refueling an ICE vehicle is easy. A driver pulls up at a pump, fills their tank and pays for the fuel – all within a couple of minutes. We may take that for granted today, but remember that this seamless ICE vehicle customer experience was built over many decades. The industry is a finely-honed machine supported by a mature ecosystem, making the customer experience generally consistent regardless of location.
Given the pace of the transition to EVs, the eMobility industry needs to replicate this seamless customer experience in just a few years. However, the industry has not yet delivered. Why has the transition been so difficult? EVs effectively remap the customer journey. The transition to EVs is not just an exercise in exchanging a vehicle’s fuel cap for a charging point. There are fundamental differences between refueling ICE vehicles and charging EVs that demand a transformation in driver behavior.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the eMobility industry to make these behavioral changes as seamless as possible. It is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to redefine customer experience in mobility. The good news is that, theoretically, the infrastructure that supports the EV customer journey is less complicated than that for ICE vehicle drivers. The petroleum industry needs to manage a complex set of activities – such as wet stock management, deliveries, and tank leakages. eMobility needs to overcome less complex barriers to create a seamless charging experience.
Poor customer experience is felt across the customer journey
So, what makes early adopters’ experience consistently poor, across the customer journey? And what causes that? First-time EV owners have no experience of charging, either at home or when on the move, and need guidance on how to do it. Yet the industry has been slow to educate new consumers on the transition to EVs.
After buying an EV, many first-time owners can be left waiting months for a charge point to be installed. But the problems do not end once an installation appointment has been booked. In some locations, private charge point installations are not successful on the first visit.7 In all other cases, to complete the installation, the installer has to return to the customer’s premise at least once more. Why is this? Often, it is because the installer had the wrong information regarding the location’s suitability for a charge point installation.
Today, most charging happens at home or at the workplace8. But that will change. The industry will soon need to confront new challenges for EV drivers who rent, live in multi-unit dwellings, or do not have a dedicated parking space. These customers will be forced to use public or semi-public charging infrastructure, where the user experience is currently not optimal.
There are too few public charge points, they are not fast enough, they are often out of service, and they use a range of payment systems that are incompatible. On the move, drivers cannot easily access real-time data on where public charge points are, their capacity, their availability, or the cost to charge their vehicles. There is a profusion of different eMobility apps, creating confusion and frustration among drivers. And a lack of data sharing means there is no single source of information on the complete charging network. For example, some charge points may appear available on an eMobility app, but when a driver arrives, they are either in use or are out of order.
One out of five drivers were unable to charge their EV in a public US station – after a long wait for both vehicle and a home station9
The owners and operators of charge point infrastructure are not entirely to blame for this lack of public infrastructure. Many want to install more points but are often forced to wait months for permit approvals, for suppliers to deliver the charging hardware, and for distribution operators to connect them to the grid.
It is essential the industry improves customer confidence in eMobility, from corporate fleets to private owners. As a matter of urgency, the eMobility ecosystem should seek to tackle the issues around device and vehicle interoperability, accessing and using charge point infrastructure, EV management, and understanding energy use and demand. The industry needs to make it easy for customers to select the right vehicle that aligns with their needs, install a charger at home, and access and pay for charging in public. Pricing transparency – particularly at public charge points – needs improvement.
Customers also require trust in the EV technology, from ensuring that an EV’s battery range can support daily routines to the availability of charging infrastructure. As part of efforts to make EVs cheaper, automakers need to offer a wider range of cheaper models. New renting, leasing and on-demand models will allow customers to drive an EV without having to purchase one outright. Using EV batteries in flexibility programs will reduce the need for grid reinforcement and take advantage of green energy at the cheapest price, bringing down electricity costs.
Both public and private charge point installation need to be timely and efficient. Charge points have to be delivered on time, installers need availability to fit the equipment, and distribution network operators have to ensure that grid connections are timely and that the whole process is as quick as possible. Corporate fleets and public charging need large numbers of high-capacity charge points. These sites may not be supported by existing grid infrastructure, which may require significant upgrades. It is therefore important that distribution operators also perform any required grid upgrades fast and efficiently. It is only through vastly improved collaboration that more customers will experience a “perfect start” and the industry can rapidly achieve scale.
We also need to remember that the charging infrastructure is being deployed as part of much broader urban infrastructure upgrades – including integrated transportation systems, fiber broadband, intelligent street lighting and surveillance equipment. It is important that the industry works with city planners to ensure that charging infrastructure is deployed where it is needed most and in a way that is least disruptive to citizens.
Drivers need much more help finding the charge point that best serves their needs in terms of charging speed and cost. The functionality of eMobility apps needs strong improvement. They must provide clearer, more complete, and real-time information on public charging infrastructure, including availability. This requires not just a focus on user experience, but also on vastly improved data sharing across the industry.
 “Global EV sales hit record 10.5-million units in 2022”, TimesLIVE, 9 Feb 2023, via Factiva.com.