Labs

Learning about electric vehicles

An illustration showing an electric vehicle being charged

We’ve been investigating the future of electric vehicles (EVs), and what the future will mean for EV owners and energy suppliers. We’ve spoken to Bulb members and companies in the EV sector. And we’re partnering with companies who bring together different pieces of the puzzle. In this post, we share some of our work from the past few months.

Learning about EVs through partnerships

Last month, we wrote about our partnership with smart meter company EDMI, and our trial of smart charging devices for electric vehicles.

We’ve also been working with open smart charger company EO, in a partnership to support businesses across the Suffolk area. Plug In Suffolk is the UK’s first fully open fast charging network. Businesses taking part in the scheme get help funding, installing, maintaining and operating charging stations, in partnership with local installers. This helps EV drivers charge vehicles when they’re away from home, known as ‘destination charging’.

Destination charging looks set to become more popular and accessible in the UK. Asda and Sainbury’s top the charts for EV supermarket charging and with a proposed merger, they could become the largest ‘out of home’ network of fast EV chargers (7-22 KW) in the country.

Learning about electric vehicles as an industry

A couple of months ago we attended CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas. ‘Consumer electronics’ used to mean televisions, computers and smartphones, but in recent years the list of products showing at CES has grown. Now it also includes electric vehicles.

EVs challenge our habits around charging and driving. And they’re changing our relationships with the high street. As we walked around the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Centre we were looking for signs of what’s to come. Here’s what we found out:

Cars are taking their place in the ‘consumer electronics’ market

Arguably, in 2019 CES became as important a show for showcasing automobile futures as any of the big car shows. This reflects the fact that, with electric and autonomous being the accepted future, the car has been recognised as a technology gadget. The form factors, materials and design languages on show for cars were no different to those we saw in other electronic product categories.

Consumer electronics are encroaching on the automotive space

As consumer electronics brands develop propositions that permeate every aspect of our lives, the time we spend in vehicles is just another way of passing time. Permission to play in the automotive space no longer belongs solely to car brands. CES 2019 saw big players like Amazon, Samsung, Panasonic and Bosch make a play for the vehicle space.

Transport brings the gift of time

CES 2019 painted a picture of the future where autonomous electric vehicles give people back their most precious resource – time. Travelling becomes an opportunity. When there’s no mental effort required to drive, that’s time to shop, catch up on your life admin, exercise, play games or bond with the kids. The technical realities behind autonomous vehicles still put this future is further away than you might think, but it was interesting to see the different ways it could play out.

Vanishing screens bring the battle of the ‘wake words’

The exhibition halls were a battleground of the digital assistants. As different demos kicked off, you could hear cries of ‘Hey Google’, ‘Alexa’ or ‘Bixby’ over the general hum of the crowd. But unlike previous years, the space wasn't dominated by screens. Instead, actors performed scripts to help showcase functions. Whole plays acted out, to reimagine your dawn-to-dusk life, enabled by your omnipresent, ever-helpful assistant.

Technology needs great power. With great power comes great responsibility

As a showcase of the wonderful things you can do with abundant power, CES 2019 also surfaced our responsibilities around electricity. Brands took pains to emphasise that this future-tech life was fuelled by renewables. Life for those without affordable, or available power was shown with solutions to overcome this problem. 21st century technology has much to offer everyone. And those living without power have as much, if not more, need of some of the technological solutions electricity delivers.

There’s still further we can go

CES isn’t quite ready to showcase or host conversations about the future of networks, the balance between home and destination charging or what makes people take the leap from a petrol to electric car. But it’s great to see car companies starting to engage in the wider conversation. This is more than the driving and parking experience.

At Bulb Labs we think there’s a lot of space for simplicity and a rich conversation to be had about how electric vehicles will change our cities of the future. Watch this space for more announcements over the coming months and check out the rest of our work. To continue the conversation, join the community, we'd love to hear from you.