“ We cannot just tell people to give up combustion engines or buy an electric vehicle. We have to make things easier for them. ”
The world needs new ways of dealing with energy and transport, and electric vehicles (EV) are playing a major role in this development. By 2030, the European Union (EU) seeks to have at least 30 million electric vehicles on its roads. This is an enormous potential market, but it comes along with serious challenges. It requires that manufacturers, innovators, research organizations and public authorities work together to leverage the potential of new technologies and create the framework for adopting and implementing it.
The three major barriers for the deployment of EVs in the EU – the high cost of vehicles, the low level of consumer acceptance, and the lack of recharging stations – form a vicious circle.
So how can we break it?
While some countries offer significant subventions or tax reductions to encourage people to switch to EVs, the infrastructure is still the main drawback in many European regions.
“We know that in the electromobility market, especially in the public sector, it is sometimes difficult to achieve a return of investment for the infrastructure. We wanted to design, test, and validate new business models to optimize the infrastructure and come up with new solutions for mobility service providers and users,” says Ángel Moya, Project Manager at ETRA, a leading industrial group providing smart solutions in transport, mobility, energy and security.
He is also the coordinator of MEISTER, a Horizon 2020 funded project focused on improving the collaboration of charging point operators, e-mobility providers, housing companies and cities for optimized parking and charging services in public and semi-public spaces.
MEISTER involved the implementation of three pilot projects in Malaga (Spain), Berlin (Germany), and Stockholm (Sweden) – to test and validate research results and transfer the solutions to regions across and possibly beyond Europe.
One of the main challenges that the electromobility sector is facing is the multitude of actors involved, from technology providers to regulators, from operators to end-users. Because of this, the journey of a new product or service to the market often involves lots of adjustments by adding or quitting functionalities along the way. Outside the European market, things can get even more complicated.
“We also work with non-EU markets like Colombia and Mexico, and sometimes when we want to transfer and exploit products and solutions that we have developed we face new challenges because the market is different and so are the regulations” explains Moya.
“In USER-CHI, we can basically do lots of things that did not exist or were insufficiently developed when MEISTER was implemented. And this is one of the reasons we wanted to work with Horizon Results Booster (HRB), because things in the electromobility field change incredibly fast and we wanted to have tools and methodologies to take advantage and commercialize the products and the services that we were testing,” says Moya.
“The Go-To-Market service was very important because it helped us go into details and come up with real figures, analyse our final customers and the market. But it’s not possible to go in depth if you don’t go through the previous services and do the work. So, all three services are important and relevant and follow a certain logic,” explains the project manager.
He says that another benefit of working with the HRB experts was better assessing the potential of the solutions and focusing on the most promising ones. The team was initially working on three products but after working with the experts and tools provided by HRB, they decided to develop the Business Plan and Go-to-Market strategy for a specific product. Moreover, they will apply the tools, methodology and canvas to other solutions developed in other projects.
Regardless of the EU objectives, the lack of infrastructure in many European regions and the absence of an overall unified electromobility system still hampers the sales of clean cars. But projects like MEISTER provide actionable solutions that can be multiplied.
“We demonstrated that interoperability is possible and made a test with someone from Berlin who charged his vehicle in Malaga without having to download a new app or contract a different operator, only with the MEISTER app and the protocols developed within the project”, says Moya before adding: “We cannot just tell people to give up combustion engines or buy an electric vehicle. We have to make things easier for them.”
As a result of MEISTER, the municipality of Berlin has extended the car sharing service tested within the project, because it is cost efficient and has many other benefits, such as reducing the space for parking. Inspired by the results, another technology provider in Berlin is adding this “smart parking” solution to their mobility app.
“There are many things that the cities are implementing in order to boost electromobility thanks to the developments we did in MEISTER. It is great, because we know that one of the main objectives of the European Commission is to achieve something tangible at the end and to get the things working,” Moya added.
The seven business cases and the five products developed within MEISTER have been gathered in a handbook to transfer the knowledge and provide guidance to cities and e-mobility stakeholders and it is available on the project’s website here.
Ángel Moya is optimistic about the market evolutions, although there are still many challenges to address, from technology aspects to protocols between different actors involved, general regulations, and the availability of certain resources that can be disrupted by economical and political events, such as the war in Ukraine.
“ We need to change our minds a little bit to go beyond the technologies and solutions we develop. Once you have the solution or even before that, you need to analyze if it is in line with the needs of the target market. ”
“ Sometimes it may be difficult to find an immediate application for the research that is being developed. It is important for researchers to identify it so they can generate new technologies, innovation, and revenue that will come back to the society in multiple forms. ”