Electric Vehicle Innovation Accelerator
The Electric Vehicle Innovation Accelerator - 17th Jan

The Offer

The Electric Vehicle Innovation Accelerator wants to support innovative solutions that encourage the uptake of electric vehicles and address three key challenges:

Challenge One:

Do you have an innovative solution that would allow individual drivers, fleet operators and local authorities to understand, quantify and report the environmental benefits of low-carbon driving? Both EV and non-EV drivers are increasingly interested in the realistic environmental savings they can make by low-carbon driving. In the UK, most of the air pollution is caused by road transport, but drivers of petrol and disease vehicles don’t generally think in terms of their emissions footprint, and don’t necessarily understand the environmental benefits of switching to electric.

The major causes of urban air pollution are nitrous oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide (CO) produced when we burn fuel in conventional petrol and diesel vehicles. For many years, we’ve been told that diesel vehicles produce more emissions than petrol vehicles, however most drivers don’t realise that electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions when driving because they aren’t burning any fuel. Innovative solutions which can help private and fleet drivers alike, understand their current emissions and the savings they can make by switching to electric, could help to accelerate their changeover to electric vehicles.  They could also help local authorities to understand the scale of benefits resulting from their clean air strategies, help with the assessment of clean air zone options and the measurement of their success in improving air quality for residents, workers and visitors to our region. 

Challenge Two:

Do you have an innovative solution to improve the utilisation of EV chargers in public parking areas? One of the biggest challenges facing EV drivers, is the availability of charging facilities due to EVs parking for longer than their required charge time. Could this problem be addressed with a mechanism to monitor and improve the balance between EV parking and charging duration, simplify payments for parking and charging and potentially, and communicate with EV users and regulatory agencies.

This November, the Department for Transport, published a league table of charge points in cities across the UK, showing the North East performing well. However, a major study of North East recharging behaviour found electric vehicles park in charging bays for much longer than the time required to recharge. Whilst that convenience is a great benefit for EV drivers now, as the demand for charge points continues to grow, its’ also limiting the availability of the charge point network – acting as a barrier to future EV adopters and giving the perception that there aren’t enough chargers to go around. 

It’s not easy to work out how to encourage drivers to move off charge points once they’ve received all the electricity they need. Similarly, it’s not easy for parking enforcement officers to regulate EV charging times currently due to the variety of indicators used on vehicles and charge points. However, an innovative technical and commercial solution could be used to encourage drivers to move off charge points, enable enforcement, and combine parking and charging services to improve the availability of the existing recharge estate and encourage growth.   

Challenge Three:

Do you have an innovative solution to transform the infrastructure and/or services required to increase the uptake of electric bikes, mopeds and motorbikes in the North East?  In terms of urban mobility, electric motorcycles and mopeds provide an attractive alternative to cars. They offer quicker commutes, reduce congestion and reduce parking space requirements in our congested urban areas, as well as lower emissions. For riders they have attractive performance characteristics:

  • Instant torque provides excellent acceleration
  • Lower noise and vibrations make for a more comfortable ride
  • Convenient to recharge
  • Cheaper to run and maintain

The UK Government also offers financial incentives towards the purchase price however, adoption of electric motorcycles and mopeds is still low in the North East and recharging provision has so far concentrated on the needs of electric cars rather than other electric vehicles such as smaller motorcycles and mopeds. Electric bikes enable longer personal active lifestyle journeys, as well as urban mobility options, whilst the developments in last-mile freight solutions are also growing fast, making this a real low-emission alternative to inner-city freight vans. Have you got a solution to encourage these car alternatives? 
We will also consider innovative solutions that may help encourage the uptake of electric vehicles more generally and are outside of these challenges but show commercial potential.

The Opportunity:

We are looking for innovative solutions to help decarbonise road transportation

Poor air quality poses a real threat to many of our major towns and cities and has been linked to around 40,000 early deaths each year across the UK. It is caused by many factors but one of the largest contributors is road transport, which is estimated to contribute 37% of the region’s annual CO2 emission; with population growth in cities increasing the demand on deliveries, innovation will play a key part in developing a greener economy.

Recent stats indicate that the fastest growing segment of urban road traffic is vans and light goods vehicles (LGVs).  High levels of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter known to be damaging to our health has been linked to diesel engines, which are most common amongst LGVs. Daily deliveries for sectors such as cold-chain pharmaceutical and commercial food are traditionally transported in temperature-controlled diesel-powered vehicles.  It is estimated that 28% of grocery shopping is currently done online, with figures continuing to rise significantly.

As pressures on road transportation are a major contribution to the rise in global temperatures, Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, Northumberland County Council and Sunderland City Council have all declared a climate emergency; with each council now exploring what is required to become 100 percent carbon neutral by 2050.  Three of the areas in the region have now also been given a legal direction by the Secretary of State to identify a package of measures to deliver compliance with legal limits for NO2 in the area for which they are responsible, in the shortest possible time.

Decarbonisation of road transport is a global and national ambition. Through their Road to Zero Strategy, the UK government has issued targets to increase the take-up of electric vehicles (EVs) and is committed to making nearly all cars and vans zero-emission by 2050. 

To ensure the region, as well as the wider country, is equipped to meet these targets, The Innovation SuperNetwork and ENGIE are working together to identify innovative solutions from North East businesses which will encourage low carbon driving and help overcome some of the associated barriers with decarbonising road transportation. Whether it be infrastructure related or behaviour change, we want local small to medium-sized businesses to bring forward ideas to help with the transition to a cleaner society, reduce levels of pollution and make our environment a better place for everyone.

How to apply?

Applicants from North East-based small and medium-sized businesses across all sectors are encouraged to apply.  Successful applicants will receive intensive business support and expert advice to further develop their solution from the Innovation SuperNetwork, ENGIE, Zero Carbon Futures, Newcastle University, the North East LEP, the North East Joint Transport Committee and Northstar Ventures.

You will also have an opportunity to be invited to pitch for £20,000 in grant funding to help bring your idea to reality.

The Electric Vehicle Innovation Accelerator is part-funded through the ERDF programme 2014-2020 and is part of the Go Ultra Low North East Programme.

Key information

  • Challenges launched: Thursday 28th November 2019 at VentureFest North East
  • Application forms open: Friday 29th November 2019
  • Application forms close: Friday 17th January 2020
  • Business support available: Monday 16th December 2019 – Friday 27th March 2020
  • Pitch for grant: week commencing 10th February 2020**

**to be confirmed once successful applicants are identified 

Please download the application form here.