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Wejo's CEO, Richard Barlow, on EVs in California

January 18, 2021
Richard Barlow
Founder and CEO

Does EV infrastructure really pose the problem we think to the future of electrification? 

President Elect Joe Biden has pledged to shift the US economy ‘away from the oil industry’, and that will mean the mass electrification of transportation.

While the coronavirus pandemic has dented all car sales, global sales of pure electric and plug-in hybrid cars are forecast to hit 2.9 million in 2020. Better batteries, more charging options and better price comparisons with traditional petrol vehicles are all enabling the trend to electric. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, electric vehicles are on course to hit ten per cent of all global passenger vehicle sales by 2025, rising to 28% in 2030 and 58% in 2040.

Given President Elect Biden’s promise to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and make an annual investment of $500 billion toward this goal, a portion of which will support electric vehicle production and charging infrastructure, I would expect the trend to accelerate even faster.

As the world’s leading connected vehicle data business, my company Wejo provides a heightened ability to understand the landscape on the ground and the interplay between electric vehicle drivers and the current infrastructure. We are identifying trends in the way existing electric car drivers use their vehicles which can inform policy decisions as the sector grows.

Take California. Residents of the state love their cars and the State has a goal of getting 1.5million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2025 underscored by its Clean Transportation Program which is investing in charging infrastructure and technologies that are helping to drive the transition.

Wejo already has nearly 1 million vehicles on its platform in California, the most of any connected vehicle data business. Wejo has coverage of around 10% of the total electric vehicle fleet in CA. Our data provides a striking snapshot of EV trends and preferences and shows that drivers are prepared to drive on average 10.8 miles to their nearest charging station and then spend around 4.5 hours at the charging destination. This suggests many drivers combine leisure or shopping activities with waiting for their vehicles to charge.

The data shows the best place to live in California in terms of availability of charging stations is Los Angeles and the worst (of significant population) is SantaCruz,. However, our data also showed that 83% of electric vehicles were not recorded as stopping within range of a public charging station during a period of an entire month. This strongly indicates that most electric vehicles are charged at home.

This suggests that contrary to the prevailing view, availability of public charging infrastructure is not a major adoption consideration for the large majority of buyers. Most drivers are prepared to charge up at home as the US embraces the electric vehicle revolution.

Another point worth considering is that money for maintaining roads in California is generated from tax based on how much fuel a driver buys. As the sales of EVs and hybrids continues there will be less tax generated to repair roads as vehicles use less fuel. California Department of Transportation’s latest thinking is for EVs to not pay road tax but that would be replaced by a new road charge based on mileage driven. Wejo can support states by providing insights on how many miles each type of vehicle travels on average to provide a way to model out potential cost points per mile and the subsequent revenue generated.

In addition, our data shows that drivers themselves are playing a key role in the EV transformation, adapting to support an electric lifestyle by modifying their behaviour to accommodate this new technology. Connected vehicle data has a key role to play in the EV story, providing reliable insights that demonstrate how EVs are really being used to support decisions at policy level, within businesses and even with automotive manufacturers themselves. Wejo is at the forefront of the connected vehicle data ecosystem with 95% coverage of all US roads and we are a champion of data for good putting all road users as the heart of everything we do.

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