Supporting the growth in demand for electric vehicles (EVs) continues to be a central challenge for local authorities in the fight for cleaner air and reduced carbon emissions. Despite the success of new initiatives such as the recent involvement of the Energy Saving Trust in helping to make both fleet and private vehicles more cost efficient, the spectre of inaccessibility and hindered consumer confidence remains. Perennial risks of ‘charging blackspots’ emerging in small towns and rural areas mean that unless the rollout of new chargepoints is able to match the pace of consumer demand, we risk compromising our mission to ban the sale of fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2030 and slowing our overall progress on the road to net zero.

To succeed, local authorities need the confidence to install chargepoints en masse in the right locations both to demonstrate economic viability in the long term and to ensure swathes of the population are not left behind.

Predictive analytics as a driver of progress

Predictive analytics technology combined with mobility and network data can help local authorities to achieve their sustainability goals by mapping out risks and opportunities that are crucial in determining the success of this mission. Often used for real-time analysis or long-term forecasting, mobility data can enable users to plan and understand future travel scenarios through insight into aggregated patterns of behaviour.

Combined with predictive analytics, it can indicate key commuter routes in towns and cities and help pinpoint which areas are likely to experience a quicker EV uptake before the network is embedded.

Leveraging this data in real-time can help local authorities to rollout charging infrastructure with a near-complete view of satisfying end-user demand and delivering on the specific needs of the communities they represent. The insight provided by predictive analytics can also assist local authorities with deploying EV chargepoints in areas likely to drive a positive return on investment (ROI).

Deploying real-time data modelling enabled by predictive analytics means that local and planning authorities can better understand and leverage usage information. This means they can generate smarter, more flexible planning cycles that can account for evolving trends such as reduced demand during off-peak hours. Such trends become more insightful when integrated with additional system data meaning that those responsible for demand-side planning can adopt a more holistic approach to catering for EV demand.

Securing a balanced rollout

As well as helping to rollout EV chargepoint infrastructure at pace, predictive analytics can enable local authorities to take targeted approaches to investment that deliver on the needs of local communities. Existing data has already been proven capable of identifying which demographics are likeliest to invest in EVs (18–24-year-old ‘white collar’ workers) and can be integrated into wider transportation planning. This means that areas with a higher proportion of older residents or low vehicle ownership for instance can receive targeted investment in local transport such as bus services.

The integration capabilities of predictive analytics can also enable local authorities to collaborate more freely between other stakeholders. Sharing mobility data with chargepoint operators, estate managers and industry developers can help target investment in rural areas more efficiently and reduce the risk of repeating the past mistakes of ‘rural blackspots’ seen with the rollout of fibre optic broadband. In a time when local authorities are facing steep financial deficits caused by the pandemic, the opportunity for predictive analytics to provide enhanced accessibility and deliver a positive return on investment is to be seized upon.

Moving forward

Just as local authorities are looking for innovative new ways of delivering a green recovery from the pandemic, predictive analytics can help plug the accessibility gap and deliver positive change for all communities. The rollout of EV infrastructure is not the panacea to our climate woes, but it is a step in the right direction. Just as permitted development rights are starting to favour the mass rollout of chargepoint infrastructure and enhanced resources are coming through from the involvement of the Energy Savings Trust, local authorities can set the national standard on the EV rollout. By making use of data, we can demonstrate our commitment to targeted development, ensuring that we develop equitably, fairly, and sustainably.

This article was originally published in the autumn issue of LAPV. For a free subscription to the magazine, sign up here.