Visit to Elmtronics: UK PEOPLE case study
Brendan M. Challenger-Mills, MA student, Durham University
On February 28th, UK team of students on the PEOPLE Project module visited Elmtronics, the UK’s largest independent supplier and installer of electric vehicle charging stations. The day would give us some insight into EV infrastructure charging from the perspective of a company who design, install and maintain infrastructure for home, business and public sector use.
We began with lunch: mass amounts of food and every soft drink you can think of piled on a few small tables – perfect. We were then led outside for a vehicle demo, showcasing some of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) currently on the market. This included a ride around the block in the BMW i3, while Dan Martin (CEO & Co-founder of Elmtronics) provided copious amount of information and enthusiasm for the little PHEV, which remained silent throughout.
Dan, along with Simon Tate (head of sales) and Lindsay Hetherington (sales manager), then led a presentation focusing in on the various types of domestic, commercial and public EV charging infrastructure; the Hubsta network; and UK case studies of Council’s implementing networks of EV charging infrastructure.
North Somerset council, for example, have implemented one of the largest EV infrastructure networks in England, creating a culture that is slowly becoming embedded around EV use – e.g. 70% of the Council’s fleet is electric. As we are working closely with Durham County Council’s Low Carbon Team in implementing a strategy to promote the uptake of EVs in Durham city, this proved extremely useful.
A bit of technology which I hadn’t come across before was the Hubsta network, which acts like a phone network, providing data to the EV user such as their charging locations, charging use, and charging costs. The app, with the amount of information being available at one’s fingertips, can potentially reduce range anxiety, which is still common among EV users. It is also a useful tool for Dan and his team, who can analyse data from charging points connected to the network to see how and when a charging point is being used, while remotely fixing those that are not working. Again, this fits in nicely with our project, in that future technology such as this, which is currently being produced and tested, will help to reshape and remould opinions of electric vehicles.
It was great to get an industry perspective on the issues of the promotion of the uptake of EVs, and how technology has the potential to change public opinions. It is now our job as social scientists to conjoin this technological understanding with current EV user perspectives, to analyse how Durham County Council should go about promoting the uptake of EVs in Durham city
On a final note, we would like to say a big thankyou to Elmtronics for their fabulous hospitality (I took a few retro soft drinks home with me); the visit provided some very useful information for our project.
Read the UK PEOPLE team’s other reports on their case study: presentation of their research progress, meeting with Zero Carbon Futures, and the description of their case study on electric vehicles in Durham City.