Electric vehicle adoption is now being propelled by software, and many international companies are taking their innovations to the world, writes Julien Deconinck, managing director of international investment bank DAI Magister.
As electric vehicle adoption ramps up around the world, software is emerging as the key link to mass uptake, with innovations in this space already providing solutions to scaling challenges.
From a US$1 billion industry in 2021, EV charging software is forecast to grow to US$25 billion by 2030, making it one of the fastest growing software sectors in the market today and offering a huge opportunity for value creation.
EV adoption challenges software can solve
Electric vehicles are set to revolutionise the automobile industry, however a full transition to EVs requires the overcoming of several critical challenges. The first relates to infrastructure and interoperability.
While the number of electric vehicle charging points is growing globally, it is insufficient to meet the demands of many EV drivers, who still must plan their journeys – particularly long distance ones – as the current network of chargers are inadequate. Range anxiety remains a major stumbling block for many willing consumers.
As the EV market grows, it will strain the grid. According to some estimates, 1.1 EV chargers will be needed for every EV car. This could increase peak electricity demand on local grids by 15-50 per cent, requiring expensive upgrades to accommodate increased demand.
The interoperability of different EV charging systems also remains a major issue. Currently, this scenario causes a problem of overnight charging for EV owners who lack off-street parking. Having varying protocols means different standards/levels of device management, transaction handling, security and smart charging functionalities.
New protocols such as the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) and communication standards such as ISO 15118 are now in place but will need continuous co-development by all stakeholders to increase compatibility between different charging stations and management systems.
The second key challenge is equipment and maintenance costs as EV charging hardware remains expensive, including installation.
The final challenge relates to the length of time and cost of EV charging, which is more complex than refuelling a petrol car. Some charging stations provide a full charge in as little as an hour – and an 80 per cent charge in as little as 20 minutes – while others require several hours.
Overnight charging is often available, but the length of time required can vary depending on the car model and station type. The cost of charging also varies depending on vehicle type, location and specific charging stations, as well as associated fees.
EV software solutions
The evolution of charging technologies is following a pattern of innovation that improves performance and commoditises hardware, meaning EV equipment costs and charging time will rapidly drop in coming years. Therefore, software innovation becomes the real enabler of EV scaling by addressing many of the industry’s key challenges.
On the issue of EV charging infrastructure availability and managing its impact on the power grid, there are already many companies around the world addressing this, including PredictEV, Volta Charging’s proprietary network planning software, which uses machine learning to predict current and future EV charging needs, from infrastructure load requirements to site-level specifics such as optimal locations.
For grid management, companies such as London-based Kaluza have an advanced platform that helps utilities manage the impact of EV charging on electricity grid demand by providing an intelligent, distributed system that can monitor, control and optimise charging. Similarly, WeaveGrid’s data-driven platform ensures the grid can accommodate EVs safely by helping utilities in the US find EV drivers, analyse and gather insights on charging patterns, enrol them in managed charging programs and EV-specific rates, and incentivise beneficial charging habits.
Many software companies around the world are improving return on investment of EV charging infrastructure through real-time monitoring and improving demand flexibility to reduce charging costs.
In Europe, Mobility House has developed its ChargePilot platform that provides B2C and B2B owners of EV charging stations with a management system for monitoring, maintenance, schedule-based load management and billing.
Denmark-based Monta has EV charging management software that serves drivers, companies, cities and grids with one integrated software solution, making it easy for businesses to maximise efficiency of their EV charging infrastructure through detailed analytics, real-time monitoring, dynamic pricing capabilities and automatic billing and payment.
EV fleet management is a growing area of the sector, with companies Vulog, from France, and Autofleet, from Israel, being leaders in this space. Vulog’s integrated software and data solutions power shared mobility services such as car-sharing, ride-sharing and bike-sharing, while Autofleet’s cloud-based software platform helps businesses manage fleet vehicle maintenance, driver safety, fuel monitoring and route optimisation.
EV scaling through software
As electric vehicle adoption upscales, systematic maintenance of EV infrastructure will become crucial. While EV charger monitoring exists today, the concept of smart, “self-healing” EV chargers is not widely embraced. This capability will be software-led, as evidenced by the smartphone market where your device learns from your daily charging habits to improve the lifespan of your battery.
Companies such as Israel’s Driivz claim they can already remotely address up to 80 per cent of operational problems related to EV chargers by leveraging automated self-healing algorithms. As a result, issues with EV infrastructure can be automatically diagnosed and proactively fixed, which maximises network availability and stability.
From a user point of view, EVs need to be charged more frequently than petrol vehicles. Instead of the typical 40 annual fuelling sessions, an EV may need 500 or more yearly charging sessions. The nature of these sessions is different and software helps take advantage of those daily interactions to upsell users various services. Long-term, expect the emergence of super-apps from the EV charging software sector, which will fuel significant growth.
EV charging software will be instrumental to the transition towards renewable energy. According to Finnish EV charging services company Virta Global, there will be 140-240 million electric vehicles globally by 2030, which means there will be at least 140 million batteries with an aggregated storage capacity of 7TWh. EVs will provide crucial power storage to support the generation of renewable energy, using vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.
A recent whitepaper from Kaluza shows a typical EV sits parked 90 per cent of the time with a battery capable of storing 40kWh of energy – enough to power an average modern home for two days. Unlocking bidirectional charging will enable a more affordable, highly resilient energy transition.
EV charging software is one of the fastest growing and potentially one of the largest new software sectors globally. As the complexity and scale of EV charging networks increases, EV charging software looks set to become more than a US$50 billion market, helping drive the global economy towards net zero.