5th September 2017
The new month kicks off with a brace of tech announcements aimed at boosting motoring convenience
Many of us live increasingly busy lives nowadays, whether it’s dashing from home to the gym, to work and then out to a night class as a youngish driver, or collecting the grandkids and then zipping around tackling a seemingly never-ending list of errands as a supposedly leisured retiree.
With traffic jams and diversions further irking many motorists, convenience is key, and September has arrived with some expediency-boosting news that will hopefully be embraced by certain drivers.
Most electric car or van users will likely agree that, until more recently, charge points have been provided rather patchily with motorway services having initially led the way, before supermarkets, councils and a handful of other sites cottoned on.
EV rapid chargers rated 50kW plus will soon start springing up at various fuel forecourts across the UK thanks to the announcement from ChargePoint Services, who have penned an agreement with Motor Fuel Group (MFG)1. You’d be forgiven for not making the connection, but MFG is the UK’s second largest independent operator of fuel retail sites and their 413-strong portfolio is comprised household names like Shell, BP, JET, Texaco and Murco.
Incorporated into the GeniePoint Platform, this promising-sounding network of rapid chargers will restore a touch of the traditional to motoring, drivers visiting a familiar setting to top up their cars – albeit still nowhere near as fast as sticking a green or black nozzle in.
Alex Bamberg from ChargePoint says they realise that reliability is key and they feel that “electric vehicle charging is now a critical public service.” MFG’s statement is slightly more realistic, viewing “the growth of the electric and hybrid vehicle market as an important part of the fuel mix going forward.”
Looking a little deeper at the context, this news will certainly help assuage the government’s keen desire to see green motoring embraced more vigorously, with the Queen’s speech and the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill setting out plans to make such forecourt charger provision mandatory2.
Online forums3 are excellent for gauging public mood, and comments in response to fuel forecourts introducing EV chargers range from people stating that few motorists will want to loiter at a petrol station for 15-to-30 minutes for a top-up, to others saying that 150kW chargers coming online will negate this admittedly off-putting current trait of EV ownership. It’s also evident that many motorists still see retail parks, cinemas and gyms as far more cohesive sites for EV-charging.
With electric and hybrid vehicle uptake here in the UK hovering around the 5% mark at present, it would certainly be beneficial for technology to catch up first before more private and business motorists take the plunge and ditch petrol or diesel. Announcements like this in the meantime are of course very welcome though.
Also hot off the press on the first day of September, French car manufacturer DS, which is part of the PSA Group, has launched a convenience-focussed solution in the form of the world’s first car key with embedded contactless payment technology4.
Provided to customers who purchase or lease a DS 3 model in Connected Chic trim during September, the key is powered by bPay technology with the integrated chip enabling drivers to safely and swiftly pay for all manner of things up to the current £30 contactless limit.
Mark Blundell from DS Automobiles comments that the keys will “credibly complement their customers’ active lifestyles, where staying connected and being able to easily interact with the world is key”.
The UK was first introduced to contactless card payment technology a decade ago by Barclays, and DS drivers needn’t be worried about overspending as the app will enable them to keep tabs on their usage, block or cancel transactions and top up balances. Barclaycard’s Tami Hargreaves comments that “today’s time-pressed consumers are looking for hard-working, multifunctional technology.”
Sentiment out there on the proverbial streets seems largely apathetic, though, with French cars’ historic electrical reliability records brought into conversations, along with concerns that such technology will be exposed to fraud by hackers or even valets quickly sneaking a couple of small payments through, while others are happy enough using existing contactless payment facilities on their smart watches or good old-fashioned cards5.
Although there is now a bewildering array of contactless payment platforms to choose from and older motorists may be more wary, younger drivers such as the DS 3’s target audience will likely be more open to trying out devices like this, and contactless payments are certainly more convenient than chip and PIN, proving especially life-saving for the UK’s increasingly cashless society. Recent figures revealed that 33% of us carry between £1 and £5 in change, with 14% having already ditched cash completely and 24% keen to do so in the near future6.
As we approach the inclement weather of autumn and winter months, Jaguar and Shell’s in-car payment app that we covered earlier this year is still the ultimate in effortless convenience, but with more and more OEMs plus technology pioneers releasing easy payment facilities, counter queues will with any luck soon be a problem of yesteryear.