Trends in e-mobility: a conversation with Suthalan Gnanes
Suthalan Gnanes is Managing Director at GreenFlux and responsible for international sales of charging infrastructure management software. He has extensive experience in consulting and has held various commercial positions at German companies in the telecommunications and automotive sectors. Most recently, he worked for several years in a strategic position at DKV Mobility and was jointly responsible for the development of electromobility. We made an appointment for a short interview to hear his perspective on the EV market and to exchange views on trends and developments in e-mobility.
Which e-mobility trends are developing in Germany?
In Germany, we are currently seeing very strong growth in e-cars and charging stations. More than 14% of all newly registered cars are already battery electric (BEV). In 2020, according to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, that was only 6%. So that is doubling in almost a year and a half.
The expansion of the charging infrastructure is also making progress. But the developments are far from sufficient to enable charging across the board. There are simply not enough charging stations in rural areas, and drivers in urban areas often have to search for a long time to find an available charging point.
That may change in the next few years with federal tenders. By promoting the Germany network alone, more than 1000 quick charging hubs are to be created throughout Germany by 2023.
How do we stand with these developments in comparison to other countries?
I would say that we are moving in a very positive direction, both legally and economically. As far as the legal framework is concerned, we are at the forefront in Europe – not least thanks to calibration law and the amendment to the charging station ordinance. Other countries, such as Austria, are now using Germany as a model to develop their own laws.
When it comes to practical implementation, however, some of our neighbors are already further along. The Netherlands, for example, remains one of the pioneers in e-mobility and, thanks to early government support and subsidies, EVs are enjoying widespread acceptance among the population. Countries like Denmark and Norway are a bit ahead of us when it comes to openness to electric cars.
For us, range anxiety is still a big issue – despite improved battery capacities and charging infrastructure. We can now drive a good 500 km with e-cars from the middle price range, but in wintry weather, with frost and snow, the range can also fall below 250 km.
If there is no charging station nearby, drivers in a country like Germany naturally worry whether they will still reach their destination (on time). But if in the future, new DC charging stations are installed every 20-30 km on motorways, drivers can also remove this worry.
Fast charging on motorways is particularly interesting for gas stations and service areas that act as charging station operators.
How does their business model differ from the charging services of energy suppliers and other companies in the automotive industry?
It is important for operators of petrol stations and rest stops to serve as many customers as possible and at the same time to offer them a coffee, snack, or meal from the shop during the charging process in order to make their stay as short-lived as possible. To do this, they can invest in charging stations and software that guarantee high availability.
For energy suppliers, it is more interesting to start with home charging in addition to public charging offers.
This allows bundling charging stations together with a power contract and other energy services to meet a range of customer needs.
Automobile manufacturers, fleet operators, and leasing companies can bind customers to their own brands through good service. They will impress with a holistic product that makes charging as easy as possible for private individuals – whether at home, at work, or on the go. An all-round service portfolio with a wall box, installation partner, e-car, charging card, and solution at the workplace is ideal for attracting customers in the long term.
The costs of setting up charging infrastructure are high. What can charging station operators and mobility service providers do to make their business model profitable in the long term?
When charging in public spaces, CPOs should pay particular attention to choosing a good location. In addition to the connection to important traffic routes, it is advisable to include factors such as parking spaces, lighting, roofing, and existing services in the site planning. This is the only way operators can achieve high utilization at their charging stations in the long term.
In addition, operators and mobility service providers can develop tailor-made offers to specifically address the needs of their customer groups. In addition to appealing and transparent pricing, they can convince drivers with 24/7 support, an integrated CPO/EMSP solution, and roaming contracts with partners at home and abroad.
Another option is to link the charging services with the existing service portfolio.
What should CPOs and EMSPs look for when purchasing charging management software?
Ideally, the software is perfectly tailored to the needs and requirements of the respective CPO or EMSP. An interesting feature, especially for larger companies, is the multi-tenant capability. Access to the backend platform can be controlled using multiple rules so that only users with specific permissions can access particularly sensitive data.
Energy companies often benefit from SaaS applications with dynamic load balancing to control charging during peak periods and prevent grid overload. Solutions that adapt the charging of electric cars to forecasts in the electricity market are also ideal for this target group, as they allow additional flexibility and, above all, cost savings.
Operators in public spaces, such as cities and municipalities, should ensure that the software of their choice supports all desired tariff models so that they can adjust prices depending on the time of day, day of the week, or traffic density.
A database with reliable information on the exact location of the charging stations, as well as the option of reserving parking spaces and charging fees for blocking charging stations, is also beneficial for this target group.
In general, however, operators should ensure that their solution approach is flexible enough to support new business models. We therefore always recommend hardware-independent solutions that allow operators to manage charging stations from different manufacturers via a single application.
Depending on the sphere of activity, do market-specific requirements also need to be considered?
Definitely. For CPOs and EMSPs in Germany and Austria, compliance with calibration law (also on the software side) is of course crucial. A good roaming offer with access to hubs in other countries and multilingual driver apps is essential for internationally active companies.
A forward-looking application for the automated calculation of prices, as well as cooperation with payment companies, can also be of interest to this group, as they simplify billing in different currencies with different tax rates.
What interesting developments are coming up in the industry in the near future?
We are currently seeing strong consolidation in the market. This means that many smaller charging providers are disappearing and migrating into larger companies with higher budgets. This allows us to anticipate new product and service offerings as the expertise of industry pioneers now come together with the resources of large corporations. This can accelerate the introduction of innovative technologies into the market.
We are already seeing this with Plug & Charge technology. Automobile manufacturers, energy suppliers, and e-mobility companies are already investing in ISO15118 certification today, as they expect barrier-free charging to become established in the years to come. Drivers would then only have to connect the cable to start charging.