by Editor, Camy Sandford.
Head of E-mobility at Enel X Giovanni Bertolino speaks to the current challenges in e-mobility, and the future of electrification.
The global energy sector is experiencing unprecedented change. With oil prices plunging below zero for the first time in history, the future of the global energy mix has become uncertain, and the industry insecure. Among those affected by this precarity is the burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) industry, with financial and operational constraints emerging as key concerns for both acceleration and uptake.
In an interview with CleanTech News, Head of e-mobility at Enel X Giovanni Bertolino discusses what these developments really mean for the EV industry, examining if, and how, future trajectories will be forced to change.
Renewables & the Emergence of EV
“Enel is the largest private renewable operator in the world, and we are investing heavily in adding to our renewable capacity.” Bertolino begins.
Situating Enel X within the wider energy landscape, this growth is centered around two primary development goals. The first is the production of renewable energy, which can then be better integrated into the grid through the use of storage. “That’s really where Enel is putting the majority of its investment,” Bertolino explains, having been its primary focus for the last decade.
“The Second step is using that renewable energy not only to power traditional electricity consumption but to go beyond that, expanding the use of electricity to substitute fossil fuels.”
Addressing the significance of e-mobility in particular, he explains, “the biggest area we can further replace fossil fuels with electricity is transportation so that’s really our next goal – to support the electrification of transportation.”
Concentrating their focus on the provision of smart charging, Bertolino says that at Enel X, “we see ourselves as the enablers of the adoption of EV through the infrastructure needed to power those e-vehicles”, implemented in both public and private spheres.
Incorporating innovative storage solutions, consumption management, and even emerging V2G, these infrastructures support not only EV uptake, but wider electrification, maintaining grid stability while maximizing the potential of renewable output. As a result, with Enel X’s running rate estimated at over three gigawatts per year (and growing), the capabilities of these new technologies are enormous, leading the way towards a low carbon, clean future.
Current Challenges & Future Trajectories
Addressing the impact of COVID-19, Bertolino makes it clear that the e-mobility industry has, and will continue to be significantly affected.
“We were hoping that 2021 would really be the year of change – a point from which we’d see an acceleration in the availability of new models and a real uptake in demand,” he explains.
However, this is becoming less likely as volatile oil prices coupled with significant financial constraints are “challenging the adoption of EV at different levels.” In light of economic stagnation, manufacturers are now announcing delays in new model production, while organisations poised for transition are pushing timelines back, leveraging low oil prices while their budgets are limited.
Expanding on the consequences of these developments, Bertolino explains that the largest hurdles to uptake – choice, and affordability – will be exacerbated by these delays. With fewer models coming to market, not only is consumer choice compromised, but it is more difficult to “reduce capital cost which at present is still quite high.”
As a result, Bertolino says we should “expect a slowdown in the adoption and the availability of electric vehicles.”
However, these impacts will not be universal. Rather, Bertolino says, “we might see things moving at two different speeds.” In the European market, emissions targets and the focus on EV expansion remain in place, maintaining a foundational level of demand. On the other hand, with North American governments compromising environmental initiatives, he explains manufacturing for these markets is likely to decrease considerably, consequently hindering growth.
Turning to longer-term developments, Bertolino’s outlook remains positive. “I feel like there is growing awareness of the fact that EVs can provide a number of benefits, not only due to emission but in the reduction of local pollutants”, Bertolino says, as the respiratory effects of COVID-19 are a topic of increasing public concern.
“I think that’s something from a public policy perspective should be recognised,” he continues, encouraging the designation of stimulus funds into electrification initiatives.
In addition, commenting on the long-term consequences of oil volatility, Bertolino says that although electricity prices are not necessarily more stable, “with smart charging infrastructure you can actually leverage the moments in which the electricity prices are low every day and try to use electricity at the best price possible.”
Alongside this optimization, Bertolino explains that the overall trend in electricity cost is one of decline, making electrification an efficient, cost-effective alternative through the use of Enel X’s pioneering smart management infrastructures.
Bertolino remains confident in the continuance of EV growth in the long term, concluding that we can expect acceleration if not by 2021, by 2022.
For more information, please see Enel X.