With the total cost of ownership for electric vehicles (EVs) continuing to decrease, exponential growth is expected in major markets around the world. Two-thirds of future EV owners Accenture Strategy surveyed in the United States say “saving money over the longer term” is one of their top reasons for making the switch. By 2025, the United States will have nearly 4 million EVs on the road. As the market takes shape, utilities are actively exploring their potential roles in the value chain.
Paving the path to adoption
While EV sales are accelerating, EV owners in the United States still face a series of obstacles. For example, EV owners looking to charge their vehicles from their homes will need to ensure their domestic energy systems are up to the task. They will also need to schedule the installation of the home charging infrastructure and determine maintenance requirements. Similarly, owners who opt for public charging must check public charging options and their availability, choose the right tariff/payment options, and map out their charging routines according to their travel needs.
For these reasons, 43 percent of conventional car owners in the United States currently believe they will never buy an electric car. That percentage is likely to come down if companies can help make EV ownership as easy as owning any other type of vehicle. By bending the adoption curve upward, utilities can further accelerate the transition to eMobility.
Utilities charge ahead
Utilities in the United States are uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role in the customer EV journey and stake their claim in the US$700 billion eMobility market. They deeply understand customers as energy consumers. They know how to navigate the energy market, its rules and regulations. And they enjoy strong customer relationships and are perceived as trusted suppliers.
Armed with these advantages, utilities can pursue four distinct opportunities across the eMobility value chain.
- Commodity sales: Selling kilowatt-hours in the EV market represents a potential US$600 billion market in the United States by 2040. However, because such sales generate little margin, utilities should think of electricity sales as one component of a bundled set of services.
- Charging stations: The value potential of home and public charging stations in the United States is estimated to be US$100 billion. Utilities are best equipped to address at-home charging requirements, but as with commodity sales, margins may be limited. Public charging requires substantial investments. In such a heavily contended space―with several oil and gas players exploiting this opportunity as well―data will be key in determining the highest value locations.
- eMobility-related services: A US$70 billion opportunity exists for utilities in the United States that can orchestrate services across the customer journey—from facilitating charging station installation and maintenance services to offering platforms that support the delivery of seamless, more satisfying customer experiences.
- Grid flexibility: Utilities can use EV charging to balance supply and demand—and optimize grid performance—much as they do to accommodate wind or solar energy sources. Alternatively, focusing on creating a more flexible grid for eMobility would enable utilities to better manage network congestion, reduce grid stabilization costs, and optimize wholesale/retail portfolio spend. The value potential in the United States of grid flexibility is estimated to be US$30 billion.
Leading utilities will generate additional value by combining solutions in a bundled service, comprising the electricity EV owners need to power their vehicles, new services integrated on a single platform and designed to improve the ownership experience, and the grid flexibility to drive cost and network optimization.
Cruising to value
Leading utilities in the United States will thrive in the eMobility market by taking actions that will bend the EV adoption curve upward. They will maximize the size of the eMobility opportunity for all invested parties by:
- Putting the customer in the driver’s seat. Utilities are well positioned to help consumers make the right choices as they navigate the complex EV ownership journey. Leading utilities will double down on understanding the motivations for—and barriers to—EV adoption. They will crack the code on EV consumer behaviors and drive the EV customer experience.
- Mapping the journey to hyper-relevance. Leading utilities will leverage a platform approach, selecting partners from different industries that are committed and able to boost the customer value proposition—from car manufacturers and dealers to fleet operators, charge point operators, parking space owners and many others. They will appropriately incent their ecosystem partners and architect collaborations to ensure that joint offerings benefit EV owners and multiply value to all ecosystem players.
- Outmaneuvering the competition. Drawing on their vast amounts of consumer data, forward-thinking utilities will invest strategically in a portfolio of services aimed at simplifying the EV ownership experience and removing barriers to adoption. Importantly, they will see EVs not in isolation, but as part of a broader set of emerging growth opportunities such as distributed energy and the connected home—and focus on further integration of services. The eMobility race is won through a combination of speed and value.
With these actions, utilities will ensure their relevance and drive sustainable profitability through the opportunities eMobility presents.