The global shift towards low-carbon technologies, including electric vehicles, has led to increased reliance on the electricity grid. A significant portion of EV charging infrastructure is connected to the electricity network across London, the South East and East of England, with over 200,000 drivers depending on UK Power Networks to charge up for their daily commutes, access essential services and for getting around day-to-day. By 2030, projections indicate that this will soar to 4.5 million customers.
Joining forces to prepare EV drivers for every eventuality
The uptake of EVs will require an increase in electricity generation, and occasionally result in increased planned maintenance activities. Unless made aware, this downtime could potentially disrupt work commutes, delay school runs, or result in missed appointments. Recognising the need to keep EV drivers informed and prepared for potential network disruptions, UK Power Networks embarked on a groundbreaking partnership with ev.energy to keep EV drivers in the know.
Named Powercast, this collaborative effort saw ev.energy act as the customer-facing interface, bridging the gap between potential disruption and EV drivers. Real-time signals received via the UK Power Networks power cut API were relayed to drivers via push notifications from the ev.energy mobile app. ev.energy played a pivotal role throughout the project, encompassing primary user research, trial design, notification development, and recommendations for UK Power Networks' Open Data Portal.
Putting EV drivers in charge
The Powercast solution ushers in a new era of innovation, benefiting both individuals and the broader industry.
1. Empowering EV drivers
Powercast transforms the way EV drivers manage their charging during potential power cuts. Real-time power cut updates are seamlessly delivered to the driver’s mobile device, enabling them to stay in control.
This innovation empowers users to make informed decisions, such as proactively charging during off-peak hours ahead of a power cut to maximise financial and environmental benefits while minimising disruptions, or finding an alternative charging location.
By providing timely information, Powercast ensures drivers are ready to face power outages with confidence.
2. Supporting the EV transition
By minimising any uncertainty caused by potential power disruptions, it ensures that EVs remain a reliable mode of transportation, particularly for vulnerable individuals with critical appointments or emergencies. This improved trust and reliability not only increases confidence among existing EV drivers, it also encourages the adoption of EVs among the wider population.
Informing the trial design
To inform the trial design, a comprehensive survey (n=100) gauging attitudes toward power cuts and appetite for receiving notifications was conducted.
Drivers predominately charged at home and relied on their EVs day-to-day
Of the drivers surveyed, over a third owned only an EV, without an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle for backup. Of the 64 drivers who had a mix of EV and ICE vehicles, 81% predominantly drove their EV instead of their other vehicle(s). The majority, 65%, said their EV was very or extremely important for activities such as driving to work, attending medical appointments, and carrying out caregiving opportunities.
Despite 87% knowing where the closest public charging point was to their house, 95% chose to do the majority of their charging at home, citing cost and convenience for choosing to charge at home.
Overall, drivers were not concerned about losing power due to a power cut
75% of drivers said they were not concerned about being unable to charge due to a power cut. Users who were not concerned cited reasons such as always keeping their car charged to a minimum level, being able to easily access other transport, and living nearby to a public charge point. Users who did express concern said it would majorly impact school runs and being able to get to work.
Drivers were interested in network updates and said they would take action if notified of a power cut
88% of users said they would find power cut notifications from ev.energy useful. Users cited the start/end times of a power cut, whether the power cut was planned/unplanned, and changes to the power cut timeline being the most important updates they’d like to receive via notifications.
79% of drivers said they would charge ahead of time at home if they were given advanced warning of a planned power cut. If notified of an unplanned power cut impacting them right now, 49% of drivers said they’d use a public charge point.
Validating the trial design
1:1 interviews were conducted with six of the 100 users surveyed to validate the trial design. Visual representations of the notifications were shared with users to gain feedback on the clarity and usefulness.
Trialling power cut notifications with EV drivers
A trial ran from March to May 2023 with 500 ev.energy users. Four types of notifications were sent via email and push notification, including:
1. New Incident: Informing users about a planned or unplanned power cut affecting their household.
2. Update to ‘Planned At’ Time: Notifying users of changes in the expected start time for planned power cuts.
3. Update to ‘Estimated Restoration’: Updating users on changes to the expected restoration time for power cuts.
4. Confirmed Restoration: Informing users that power should now be restored.
Drivers wanted to continue receiving Powercast notifications
In the post-trial survey (n=54), feedback was overwhelmingly positive with 94% of drivers wanting to continue receiving notifications beyond the trial and 92% saying the notifications were very clear and easy to understand.
The notifications incited drivers to take real action in preparation for an outage
Looking to the future
Building on the success of the trial, ev.energy identified two key improvements for the full launch:
1. Enhance location accuracy
The accuracy of notifications will be further improved through using full postcodes to determine which users are impacted by an outage. This will improve the usefulness of notifications and further harness trust in the Powercast service.
2. Introducing SMS notifications
71% of users expressed interest in receiving SMS notifications as an additional communication channel. This will allow ev.energy to reach more users reliably in the event of Wi-Fi becoming unavailable in a power outage.
Powercast is here to stay
Powercast launched to all ev.energy users in the UK Power Networks region, covering London, the South East, and East of England, in November 2023. ev.energy will continue to gather feedback and optimize the service, working closely with UK Power Networks to ensure EV drivers enjoy peace of mind if the power goes out.
ev.energy are proud to have worked with UK Power Networks on recommendations for how their Open Data Portal, one of the UK’s largest sets of electricity network information, can be effectively shared with EV drivers. This partnership exemplifies the potential for collaborations between leading charging software providers, such as ev.energy, and Distribution Network Operators to address the challenges of a rapidly evolving energy landscape.