EU Policy. Eurelectric chief says data harmony is missing link to electric car future - interview

KEYSTONE / Martial Trezzini
KEYSTONE / Martial Trezzini Copyright KEYSTONE / Martial Trezzini / AP
Copyright KEYSTONE / Martial Trezzini / AP
By Marta Pacheco
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As carmakers gathered for Autoworld in Brussels this week (6-7 March) transport and energy industry leaders are mulling regulatory affairs, including how to break deadlocks over data to smooth the path for electric vehicles (EVs) to reach European mass market adoption.


Representing the electricity industry in Europe, Eurelectric’s secretary-general Kristian Ruby discussed the group's latest report on the future of EVs with Euronews, which posits that the industry's future success depends heavily on data interoperability, information sharing between all the actors within the ecosystem, and integration of cars within smart grids. As EVs become ever more connected, there's a risk of sensitive data - related to location, driving habits, and personal preferences - being compromised or misused. It is essential, Ruby argued, to balancing the need for data to optimise EV performance and grid integration against privacy concerns. Ruby answered questions from energy and environment reporter Marta Pacheco.

Few drivers understand how data sharing may enhance their experience, what benefits does it offer?

In the coming years, we will be living through high-speed transformation of mobility. By 2030 we expect some 75 million electric cars on the road which means that we need to get the charging infrastructure ready. For that, we need to get the electricity grid behind the charging infrastructure ready and all this needs to happen while people are using the cars.

Better exchange of data on the performance of the car, the level of charge on the battery, the direction it’s going in and so forth can help charging point operators understand the driving patterns and it can help the distribution system operators find out where they need to reinforce their grids. In the same vein, data from charge point operators about which of their charging points are currently being used can help EV drivers make informed decisions about where they want to go and charge.

How willing do you think drivers are to trade privacy for customer experience?

We see time again in the digital economy that if the service is good enough, people will be willing to share some of their personal data. Essentially, it’s all about the quality of the service as well as their trust in the fact that the data is treated with caution and that their privacy is respected.

For drivers planning to drive across the EU, what is the developing situation for charging stations, can drivers rely on re-charge within the bloc?

The good news on the infrastructure side is that EV fast chargers now boast ten times more power than five years ago. This substantially cuts charging times and improves the overall charging experience for drivers. The bad news is that charging infrastructure is still very unevenly deployed across member states. In addition, there are challenges with closed systems of subscription. In the early stage of e-mobility uptake the natural business model for a company that installed a big charging infrastructure was to offer people a subscription to this particular infrastructure. But as we move towards e-mobility as the norm for all passenger cars, we also need to develop a better system for interoperability. Imagine you’re on the highway in your gasoline car and you pass by a Shell station and a BP station but you’re not able to go and tank because you don’t have a subscription. That would not be a good customer experience. We need to create a system where the opportunity to make money and run a good business owning a charging infrastructure remains, but where at the same time it’s possible for people to utilise that infrastructure without necessarily being a subscriber.

What are the biggest challenges the EV sector faces in attaining full data interoperability?

First, we should focus on implementation. The EU has developed a lot of legislation and requirements on what kind of data to share, for instance in relation to the car’s battery. Making everybody comply with that would be an important first step.

Second, there is a need to develop industry standards in a number of specific places. This means, for instance, establishing standardised communication protocols for automakers, roaming networks for charging, grid congestion heat maps for strategic infrastructure planning, smart grid integration and common platforms to break down data silos.

Existing EU legislation such as the Renewable Energy Directive, European Performance of Buildings Directive, Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation and the Data Act all support data exchange, what further regulation is needed to help with EV data harmonisation and standardisation?

I think the list of directives here speaks for itself. It’s clear that there’s already a lot of data sharing requirements set in legislation. I think we should also be clear that we don’t necessarily want micromanagement on all aspects of this.

For me, the crucial next step is for industry players to come together and work even more closely together to define industry standards in some of those places where data exchange is needed but not necessarily set in legislation. That would be an important first step and it would also allow us to do things without having to wait for a new legislative cycle to pass.

Having said that, we welcome the European Commission’s initiative for an in-vehicle data act to facilitate vehicles’ data sharing as it would help accelerate EV adoption and unlock better data interoperability, thus complementing the existing Data Act.

A lot of the data that will be important for the success of e-mobility is organised today at member state level or local level. Data related to networks build out plans, and capacity flows of electricity are clear examples. This means there will also be a role for member states to help facilitate and improve cooperation on date exchange.

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