How much do we really know about the EV driving experience?

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Jane Lindsay-Green, Shell’s UK Future Fuels Manager, explains why the evolution of EV infrastructure should be rooted in a driver-centric approach

It’s a time of exciting change for those of us in the mobility world. As the ways in which people power their vehicles have started to diversify, so too have the opportunities for us to cater to these growing demands for new fuel sources. Customers are increasingly seeing electric vehicles as a viable alternative to their traditional petrol- or diesel-powered cars, with new registrations up in the UK by 800% per month compared with 2014.(1)

This is reflected in a growing interest in EVs among many drivers, but there remains an infrastructure challenge to overcome before we can inspire true confidence in the use of electricity as a transport fuel. As EV adoption continues to grow, it’s vital that we as an industry understand the unique requirements of EV drivers as customers and ensure that our products and services really do cater to their needs.

Last year, Shell UK took its first steps into the EV space, launching 10 Shell Recharge charging points across our UK network. Now, a year on, we have gained some valuable insights into this new customer group, and we are using these to shape our future on-the-go EV charging offer.

Over the coming months, we will be bringing Shell Recharge to approximately 30 more of our sites to create a network across the UK, targeted to areas where we have seen growth in the uptake of EVs and the connecting roads between them.

How much do we really know about the EV driving experience? We are also adding the facility for contactless payment, as well as extending our food and beverage offering, to enable EV drivers to make the most of their waiting time while their car is charging.

While it might be easy to speculate about what drivers want, for customers to really be at the heart of our strategy we need to ensure we have a true understanding of what makes them tick. That is why we took to the road to conduct a survey with more than 400 UK motorists to find out about their driving experiences. Of course, we included EV drivers in this group – and gained some fascinating insights into their needs and behaviors. With three of these drivers (2), we conducted an in-depth analysis to uncover what it’s really like to be an EV driver today.

EV owners might not be who you would expect
For one of our drivers – a self-confessed ‘petrolhead’ – swapping the horsepower of a combustion engine for a battery might seem an unlikely move. But in fact, we found that perceptions of EV driving are changing, and we’re now seeing an increasingly diverse group of drivers.

How much do we really know about the EV driving experience?

Jane Lindsay-Green, Shell’s UK Future Fuels Manager

Range anxiety is being replaced by ‘planning perfection’
Things have changed since the early days of EVs. New models boast impressive range and the drivers we talked to agreed that charging infrastructure has improved. But while there are more charging stations than ever, there is still uncertainty over the type of charging each offers, the payment systems available and whether they’re in the right locations. Everyday journeys might no longer be an issue, but new routes require detailed planning.

The factors influencing purchase are changing
When it came to switching from their old petrol or diesel car to an EV, two of our drivers told us that their chief motivation was financial, and that the savings they could achieve on the road were persuasive. When it came to choosing the EV model itself, they told us that range is king. However, performance also ranked highly, with our EV drivers clearly wanting a great driving experience.

EV drivers are pioneers of technology
All of the three drivers expressed a desire to be ‘ahead of the curve’. With a keen interest in technology, this was a big influence in making the leap to electric. Two drivers said that when purchasing an EV, connectivity and futuristic features were a big pull. Our trio were notably excited by the prospect of future transport developments such as autonomous cars.

The magic of driving is evolving
EVs offer a very different driving experience to petrol and diesel cars. The roar of an engine is slowly becoming a thing of the past, but two of our drivers specifically reported enjoying the quietness of EVs and the smooth driving experience. Their journeys made them feel relaxed, signaling that perhaps the magic of driving is evolving into an altogether more chilled-out experience.

Current EV drivers encourage others to make the switch
A common theme among the EV drivers we surveyed was that they were asked about their cars by friends, family and other motorists. They told us that people were interested in learning more and wanted to find out how practical driving an EV really is. They enjoy sharing their knowledge and can be powerful advocates for converting more people to EVs.

How much do we really know about the EV driving experience?

While gathering these insights, what really shone through to me is that the EV driver of today’s mobility make-up has well and truly arrived. They enjoy the driving experience and above all else are extremely proud to own an EV. These drivers are part of a wider group that are defying the ‘go with what you know’ choice and bringing EVs into the mainstream.

As our EV charging offer continues to develop, I want to stay close to our customers to ensure we continue to provide them with the best service possible. Their experience is directly affected by the infrastructure and offerings available to them, so as an industry we should be standing up and taking notice of how they feel about it.

We have such an exciting opportunity to be present at a time when an alternative fuel is set to revolutionize the way we drive. It is in these early years that it is essential we shape the offering by collaborating with our customers to fine-tune it to their needs.

We may not get this chance over again. The time is now to engage with customers, listen to them and adapt in response to work toward a sustainable mobility fuels mosaic of the future.

2. Shell Driving Experiment 2018, supported with individual interviews. Respondents have been anonymized to encourage openness and honesty.

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