We are proud to welcome Clive Southwell as our Sales Director for the UK and Ireland.
Clive believes in working towards a sustainable future proven by his ten plus years’ experience in the electrical vehicle (EV) industry. He specialises in EV charging infrastructure, and has helped establish companies like NewMotion, Allego, and recently Enel X, in the UK. Not just that, Clive actively promotes the energy transition from fossils to renewables and played a crucial role in voicing the ban on combustion engine cars in the UK by 2030. In addition, he is the chair of the EV Charging Interoperability Committee of the Renewable Energy Association (REA). At present, apart from making the GreenFlux team even smarter, he is passionately trying to implement interoperability and roaming in the UK.
We spoke to Clive about his sustainable journey so far and trends and challenges of the industry.
Tell us about your love for electric vehicles and your experience in the industry.
Around 12 years ago, I started working with Mitsubishi, and helped launch their first electric car in the UK – the i-MiEV . I switched to this small electric car from my 3-litre, four-wheel drive Shogun and Evo X sports car, and that’s when I saw that this really worked in London traffic.
After that, I worked with several companies in the EV industry such as Liberty Electric Cars, Allego, Enel X, and NewMotion, where I helped them set up charging infrastructure in the UK.
From then on, I knew this is the area I wanted to work in. I set up my consultancy and worked on several projects for EVs and charging infrastructure. I also advised OEMs that wanted to get into the EV industry and helped them develop a roadmap for the UK market.
Why did you choose GreenFlux?
I was looking for a company in e-mobility that could really deliver. If you look at e-mobility, hardware is becoming increasingly commoditized, and prices are falling. You can even buy EU-certified wall boxes from Alibaba for around $25. The value going forward will be in the smart software that controls those charge points and enables different types of transactions.
When we look in the marketplace, there are very few players that are at the top end of that game. I think GreenFlux stands out in several areas. Mainly, it is hardware-agnostic, meaning it’s not tied to any oil, or gas, or energy company, giving us a broad scope of potential customers. Being independent in such a market is a very attractive proposition.
Plus, what matters to me a lot is to work with people who deliver. I am aware of GreenFlux’s involvement in the setting up of eViolin and their efforts in helping bring interoperability in the UK.
It was interesting that most of the major players within the UK, such as GRIDSERVE, UKPN, Western Power Distribution and Electric Blue to name a few, were already clients of GreenFlux . The real attraction of GreenFlux is that the product is already there and working. It’s deployable, and we can put it out in the field today.
If I ask you to explain your role to a 5-year-old child, what will you say?
I would say I am like the shopkeeper for the UK. In my shop, I have a big box of chocolates. In this box, I have lots of different flavours. You can buy any flavour that you want. I have a flavour called back office, another one called smart charging, and demand limitation. Plus, if you become a customer of mine, I’ll call you now and then to make sure that you’re happy, and if you still like these chocolates, or if you want to buy more.
And to the industry experts…
We have a full-service, software-as-a-service platform. We have many components, each of which you can buy individually. With some of our competitors, you must take the entire package. But, we have it compartmentalised, so you can only take and pay for the actual items that you will use on any given deployment.
What trends are you seeing in the EV industry?
The market is moving in several ways – not just in the UK, but also in Europe, North America, and other parts of the world. A major change is driven by car manufacturers, wanting to increase the charging speed. This is because companies like Kia (EV6) and Hyundai (Ionic 5), and now Volkswagen (ID.3 and ID.4), will launch cars that can charge at a higher speed (800v architecture). Along with that, we can see the development of rapid charging hubs that almost replicate traditional petrol station models where there are multiple chargers, and a shop selling tea, coffee, sandwiches, etc.
In the UK, there is a ban on the sale of pure internal combustion engine (ICE) cars from 2030, which along with beneficial benefit-in-kind tax rates for company car drivers, is accelerating the adoption of EVs. The manufacturing cost is falling, as is the price of batteries. Though most of the OEMs now electrify only top models, soon they will start electrifying cheaper models as well. With increasing production and lowering costs, it is predicted that by 2023, we could already reach price parity with ICE cars. Then the battery-powered vehicles will not only be cheaper to run but will be cheaper to buy as well.
Besides these trends, more companies are opting for electrified fleets due to imposition of low emission zones and a wish to portray a more environmentally-friendly image. This large uptake of EVs for fleets is a good thing since these vehicles later will enter the used car market. This will make it easier for people with low household incomes to afford EVs.
Lastly, we know Uber is developing an autonomous EV along with a start-up in the UK. This will bring in the trend of inductive charging, which will be a basic requirement for this type of vehicle.
When we look at these trends, a vehicle, whether autonomous or driven, would require a charge, and smart software solutions for EV charging will thus become imperative.
What challenges does the industry face?
The industry is growing exponentially, and the number of EVs on the roads is rising. But public charging, especially in cities like London, Paris, Rome, and the like, is a big challenge. About 70% of the population in these cities do not have access to off-street charging.
Some say we should convert several lampposts to chargers and have a lot of charging along the street. Firstly, it is not practical to do that because the power supply that goes along that street is not enough. Secondly, it is inefficient in terms of putting in a new power supply for all those areas. A more efficient way would be to put one big power supply into a local hub where you have some high-power chargers for people who need to charge quickly and go, and an array of slower chargers for those who want to park overnight.
Also, EV owners today are more affluent, living in the suburbs, where they have a garage and other charging infrastructure because they can afford it. As the price of cars falls, or more second-hand EVs are available, then those living in social housing would also like to drive them. Thus, it is essential to address the public charging issues now. If we want to make a real difference, we need to make it available to everybody.
In addition, it is important to clear some of the doubts about EV charging. Some people who don’t drive EVs think it needs to be plugged in all the time. If you look at Europe, one generally drives around 30 to 35 kilometres a day on average, and the car capacity is probably 300 kilometres or more. Then, we only need to charge once a week. And replicating the idea of once a week is just like everyone is used to with petrol or diesel cars.
What is your take on interoperability and roaming in the UK?
The UK market is different from mainland Europe. While we have good charging infrastructure, we fall behind in interoperability. For instance, some CPOs try to operate as private clubs, meaning they have restricted access to their charge stations. That’s why drivers need to use several apps or charge cards to refuel around the UK.
To give you my example, I have four RFID cards in my car right now. And that is because roaming is not as efficient as it should be. However, the UK government is framing legalisation to make interoperability mandatory in EV charging. As a result, the major players are already working towards making roaming possible. To add to this, networks that want to accept payments from fleets will need to accept fleet cards on their chargers. The aim, of course, is that every driver can charge at every public charge point.
What are your plans for expanding GreenFlux presence in the UK?
The UK has a very mature charging infrastructure. Companies from all over the world want to play in the UK. We have a strong proposition and are in touch with key EV stakeholders – we just need to continue developing the platform and keep bringing features to the market that are useful, and deployable.