When it comes to providing a governance framework for EVs, corporations are taking the wheel
In February 2019, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported a 105 per cent increase in electric vehicle sales over the past year. Nonetheless, the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, called on the government to help the industry to increase EV adoption. There can be no doubt that the evolution of EVs relies on collaboration across sectors and organisations, but are corporations doing enough? We spoke to Trevor Hutchings of Gemserv, to find out how the company is spearheading a new governance framework for electric vehicle adoption.
Rooted in sustainability
After 20 years of civil service in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the energy and climate change department (DECC), and auditing for the European Commission, Hutchings joined World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Hutchings then became Director of Strategy and Communication at Gemserv, a commercial organisation that provides professional services to markets facing unprecedented disruption.
Gemserv’s purpose, explains Hutchings, is ‘making things that matter work better for everyone’. This means tackling social and environmental challenges, improving and simplifying markets, harnessing the power of digital transformation, and supporting ethical data protection. Some sectors and businesses have been quick to adopt environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, but for Hutchings, it remains a mixed picture. There is still uncertainty, he says, over what the concepts of ‘green’ and ‘ethical’ really mean, and how purpose can work to increase profit. Fortunately, consumer demand has forced businesses to think carefully about ESG. Similar shifts are also evident in government.
“Ever since the 2008 Climate Change Act, the government has gone to great lengths to meet those commitments in carbon budgets. But to maintain the carbon reduction trajectory to get us to 80 per cent or even zero net emissions by 2050, we need more legislation and policy initiatives.”
Enter: Electric Vehicles
One area which holds particular importance for Gemserv is the electric vehicle market.
“EVs are a really pressing issue, and one where Gemserv feels it can make a real difference. It draws on our experience in good governance across the energy market, and also our data and digital capabilities,” says Hutchings. But, he adds, there are countless challenges, including the interoperability of charge points, consumer protections, and data sharing and access.
“Market level challenges are holding back an efficient uptake of EVs and charge points. There’s a whole range of things that, in a mature market, would be established through codes of practice, regulation and standards. But this simply doesn’t exist in the EV market at the moment. It’s our view that this is holding back the roll out of EVs, which of course is essential from an air quality, climate change point of view, but also from a commercial and world leadership angle.”
According to Hutchings, if the EV market is slow to progress, the government could decide to legislate. Although more legislation is needed to achieve carbon reduction and sustainability targets, passing new laws is notoriously sluggish and could further delay EV progression. In response to uncertain market development, and to lessen the burden on legislators, Gemserv recently launched a new Electric Vehicle Governance Framework (EVGF).
“In lieu of government legislation and intervention, which brings with it a concern of over prescription and inflexibility, we are proposing that codes of practice and standards, consumer protections, and arrangements for data sharing could be brought forward by the market,” Hutchings says. “What we want is companies in the EV supply chain to see value in signing up and demonstrating trust and compliance to the consumer.”
For Gemserv, the next stage is to set up an industry forum run via a digital platform to oversee the governance framework. The long term goal is for the EVGF to become an accredited industry standard for the EV market. With support from the likes of Eon, Energy UK, WWF, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and IBM, the EVGF is certainly in a strong position. And, if it means that the government doesn’t have to muddle out laws, everyone wins.
United Kingdom, united EV market
As well as taking unnecessary pressure off government, the EVGF presents an opportunity for the UK to establish itself as a leader in the electric vehicle space. Hutchings is confident that the UK is well placed to take advantage of the market while it is still in its infancy.
“The UK has a leading position in offshore wind renewables and in green finance, and has an electricity system that is well on its way to becoming completely decarbonised over the next decade,” he says. “We became a global leader in offshore wind, and at one point we generated more offshore wind power than the rest of the world put together. The learnings from that industry that made us a leader in that area – the technology, supply chains, financial mechanisms, policy instruments, and so on – could do the same in EVs.”
You’ve been frameworked
Gemserv doesn’t plan to stop at EVs. Aside from electric vehicles, Gemserv aims to offer governance frameworks for artificial intelligence and blockchain.
“Both technologies are new and in our view would benefit from governance arrangements that ensure safe, consistent and transparent operation,” says Hutchings. “On the AI side, our concern would be to ensure that the ethical implications of automated decision making are surfaced and addressed through codes of conduct and standards. Likewise, on the blockchain side, public blockchains would benefit from common standards and rules around how data is uploaded, and what happens if you get discrepancies of data on different distributed ledgers.”
In the development of any new and transformative technology, organisations need to play to their strengths. When it comes to EVs, businesses can use their expertise to avoid roadblocks. Gemserv’s EVGF initiative calls upon industry to take responsibility for the aspects of EV governance that it can readily address, without waiting for legislation. This proactive approach, while not new, demonstrates a decisive move by industry to accelerate adoption and could, if Hutchings is right, propel the UK towards EV leadership.
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