Q&A: Adam Hall, Head of Electric Vehicles, Drax, on the role of renewable energy in the burgeoning EV market

One of the key differences between Drax and other EV service providers, such as automotive or leasing companies, is that we’re experts in both the energy and EV markets.

Festival Net Zero 2021

Adam Hall, Head of Electric Vehicles at Drax

Image: Adam Hall, Head of Electric Vehicles, Drax
  1. How is Drax Electric Vehicles different from other providers on the market?

One of the key differences between Drax and other EV service providers, such as automotive or leasing companies, is that we’re experts in both the energy and EV markets. This combination allows us to build a truly consultative partnership with our customers. We’re agnostic when it comes to manufacturers and models so our recommendations are focused purely on what’s right for our customer’s needs.

As the UK’s largest supplier of renewable power to businesses, we’re also in the unique position of being able to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint even further. We make sure that the electricity they use to charge their EVs is 100% renewable, while also helping them to optimise their electric assets by analysing their electric machinery and equipment and reviewing their energy usage. Switching to EVs is the first step, but if you’re powering your fleet with fossil fuels or wasting any energy through inefficient operations, you’re undoing most of the good work.

  1. What are the main aspects of Drax’s strategy for 2021?

Our mission, which underpins every aspect of what we do, is to enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future. This year, our goal is to help more customers reach their sustainability goals and play their part in tackling the climate crisis. Supporting our customers to electrify their fleet plays a key part in this. Alongside renewable electricity, batteries and smart technologies, EVs allow our customers to streamline their operations in a way that’s good for the environment and their bottom line.

We’re already working closely with several large companies to help them make the switch to EVs, from building the business case, all the way to set-up and optimisation. One of our customers is SES Water. By helping them to switch 12 of their  120 strong fleet to EVs, the business has seen a saving of 18 tonnes of CO2 emissions prevented based on 14 months since the trial started. That’s the equivalent of 61 journeys from Land’s End to John O’Groats in a traditionally fuelled passenger vehicle.

We’re walking the walk ourselves. At our Northampton and Ipswich offices, we’ve installed seven charge points – with capacity to charge 14 vehicles at once, all of which are connected directly to our building’s solar panels. Since their installation in 2019, the EV charging stations have been used over 950 times across both sites, with over 14MWh of electricity dispensed, saving over 11.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

This year we’re going further, exploring the use of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology at our Ipswich office through a test-and-learn site. V2G is an exciting prospect, we’re optimistic of its future role in the energy system, particularly as this technology will be hugely important in managing potential future grid constraints.

  1. What are some of the main challenges facing fleet managers who want to transition to an EV fleet? How does Drax EV help them?

Time and headspace continue to be two of the biggest challenges facing fleet managers. With all that’s been going on over the last 12 months, most don’t have enough of either.

Likewise, convincing the board that transitioning to an EV fleet is a financially viable and realistic option during the current economic climate continues to be difficult without the right supporting data.

At Drax Electric Vehicles, we simplify the electrification process by helping fleet managers link the elements of fleet transformation while avoiding any costly mistakes. By working in partnership with us, our EV experts can help fleet managers by doing the hard work for them when it comes to looking at the data to understand which EV solutions would benefit their business. By removing time consuming and onerous aspects of the switching process, we can free up the fleet managers to make decisions and then get on with running their fleets.

We also use data to support the development of a robust business case for our customers, which we gather through an EV Suitability Assessment. With the end of the sale on new ICE cars looming, all fleet managers need to be thinking ahead. After all, nine years is only two leasing cycles away. However, determining whether now is the right time to convert to EV can be a complicated process. We take our customers through the entire process, identifying potential costs and hurdles along the way. At the same time, we’ll build a compelling business case that outlines the value and benefits of EVs, and demonstrate how they can increase brand reputation, support ESG goals, and showcase their long-term benefits.

  1. What are your predictions for the EV market over the next few years?

Many businesses are now waking up to the fact that EVs are not only good for reducing carbon – they can also reduce costs. This is reflected in the remarkable 185.9% rise in new battery electric vehicle (BEVs) registrations last year, with company cars accounting for 68% of all new EVs taking to our roads. This is despite overall figures for new vehicle registrations falling by over a quarter (29.4%). The next step is to make sure that the private vehicle sector is equally as progressive and doesn’t fall behind.

There’s also a lot of talk about the impact Brexit will have on the EV market’s growing momentum, particularly around surety of supply and Rules of Origin tariffs. Yet, despite all the challenges of Brexit, the EV industry has proven itself to be resilient and we don’t see that changing any time soon. The key will be for policy makers to ensure that the UK remains an attractive market for suppliers while still delivering on the nation’s net zero targets.

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