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Together as one – how the energy and transport sectors are combining

Author: Network, in association with Costain

We are moving into a rapid expansion in the uptake of decarbonised transport, with car manufacturers and governments across the world placing an emphasis on developing the required technology and associated energy and transportation infrastructure.

The decarbonisation of transport brings together two industry juggernauts.

The energy and transportation sectors have historically had a clear but distant link, yet they’ve had to come together in a short timeframe where customer buying patterns are at the centre and critical to success.

Aligning the energy and transport networks so that they can sucessfully accommodate the 36 million electric vehicles (EVs) expected on UK roads by 2040 is a challenging task, but one that is being embraced by the network operators.

Dr Oliver Teall, head of intelligent mobility at Costain, discusses some of the challenges involved in bringing together the energy and transport sectors.

Network (N): What barriers need to be overcome in order to enable the rollout of electric vehicles?

Dr Oliver Teall (OT): One of the big barriers is around the manufacturing capability for batteries, particularly within Europe, and in keeping up with demand given the recent announcements around ultra-low emission zones and the push towards the decarbonisation of transport. There are also challenges around energy demand and how local systems may cope with an increase in energy consumption related to electric vehicles (EVs)s.
N: How should the electricity and transport sectors work together to help achieve this?
OT: We know that we need more charging points for EVs, which brings about a transport infrastructure challenge in knowing where to put them and what type to install. What this looks like in reality changes based on how people are going to use their EVs. Are they going to charge more at home or are they going to be charging in car parks in transport hubs? Layered on top of that is the actual energy supply network and the ability to draw on an appropriate power source. Resolving these challenges requires both sectors to collaborate and communicate.
N: How does the connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) sector play into the EV revolution?
OT: In the future you’re likely to see a lot more connected electric vehicles. Through this connectivity, you can gather data on how these vehicles are being used and use them to inform decisions around where EV charging infrastructure is needed and how to optimise energy supply. Autonomous vehicles are expected to open new business models around shared usage and ride hailing, which could change how and where EVs are used and charged.
N: What role is there for other forms of decarbonised transport?
OT: I think a mix of technologies and fuels will continue be used in the future. For light private vehicles, battery EVs seem to be winning as the prevalent form of alternative fuel to petrol and diesel. With larger vehicles such as trains, buses and HGVs you then run into the challenge of size and weight of battery needed. That’s where fuels like hydrogen, which has a higher energy density, could play a valuable part.
N: If there’s one thing that could be done to progress things in this area, what should it be?
OT: I think taking a systems-engineering approach to what is a very complex problem would be valuable. One of the challenges currently is that many organisations and people are working in silos. Taking a systems-of-systems approach and mapping out an overall architecture to figure out what needs to be done to progress this is something that would be very beneficial to the conversation.
N: What is Costain’s role in developing solutions and working with the industry?
OT: Costain is a smart infrastructure solutions company working across energy, transportation and water. We are a technology integrator, open to working with our collaborative partners, suppliers and clients in this area. Our aim is to integrate and deliver solutions to get to the best outcome for the UK and improve people’s lives.

This article first appeared in Network Magazine as part of a wider ‘bringing networks together’ study. Download your copy here.