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Energy: it’s time to transform mobility shifts into supercharged results

Updated: Dec 31, 2022


Energy and resources companies can act now to take advantage of the consumer shift to electric vehicles.


In Brief

  • EY’s most recent Mobility Consumer Index shows consumers planning to buy a car are showing an increased preference for hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fully electric cars

  • Consumers shifting to electric vehicles creates new opportunities for power and utilities, mining and metals, and oil and gas companies

  • Companies should thoroughly evaluate their business through an e-mobility lens and explore innovative ways to fill consumer needs

Canadian car buyers lead the world in their appetite for electric vehicles today. The way Canadians move is clearly changing. And therein lies an opportunity for energy companies to steer that evolution by jumping on this momentous shift in consumer behavior.

New research shows that more Canadian car buyers now prefer an electric vehicle (EV) than at any other time in history. Importantly: those numbers are up almost 10% over 2021. But that’s not all.

First launched in 2020, our most recent EY Mobility Consumer Index global study reveals that more than 13,000 travelers in 18 countries, including 1,000 Canadians, are transforming quickly. While North America witnessed the greatest drop in work travel from pre-pandemic levels, Canada led the way with a 20% dip. At the same time, Canadians also became less likely to use public transportation and micro-mobility — for example, shared and personal e-scooters, e-bikes, and bikes — and more likely to say constant access to a personal car was very important to them, up 11% since 2021.

With that context, the kind of cars they’re looking for change, too:

  • Of the 40% of Canadians currently planning to buy a car, 46% say they would prefer an EV. In fact, the preference for a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full EV cars was up 11% over last year.

  • Motivated largely by environmental concerns, more than 80% of potential EV buyers in Canada are even willing to pay a premium to purchase an EV.

  • Although British Columbia and Québec residents are expected to drive ED adoption in Canada, interest is up in all provinces nationwide.

These consumer trends aren’t likely to reverse course any time soon. The national economy — and the world — continue to be rife with uncertainty. The ongoing war in Ukraine. Continuing political uncertainty in the United States, compounded by shifting geopolitical forces overseas. Advancing policy and regulation on sustainability, decarbonization, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards. Tumultuous energy pricing and affordability stemming from chronic underinvestment in oil and gas development and production. Challenges around utility generation, transmission, and distribution.

All these factors have an impact on the mobility industry itself beyond automotive alone, including any business that provides vehicles or transportation infrastructure. Layer in the fact previous research and analyses show EV adoption could be as high as 30% by 2030, and it’s clear that organizations across sector pillars must begin to adapt accordingly.

Call me a card-carrying optimist, but I see so much possibility here for businesses from coast to coast. What does that look like?

1. Consider oil and gas. The need for oil will never disappear. Whether required to fly airplanes, heat homes or produce plastics and a host of other petroleum derivatives, use cases continue to abound. That said, car gasoline consumption is absolutely going to change. That’s undeniable. If you’re in oil and gas, this is your chance to dive in and embrace the change. In Canada, EY data show retail locations, workplaces, and highway rest stops or fuel stations are considered the most convenient, non-residential charging locations. How could you jump on that preference and rethink retail operations to become part of the solution? Wouldn’t that be a meaningful way to cement customer loyalty going forward? First movers like Petro-Canada are already making headlines by launching Canada’s initial network of EV charging stations and dropping a charger every 250 km or less from Halifax, Nova Scotia straight through to Victoria, BC. Just last summer, another Canadian energy giant, Parkland, announced plans to launch the largest number of EV ultra-fast charging sites strategically along British Columbia’s major highways and in key cities and towns from Vancouver Island to Calgary. These steps forwards are critical. They matter. Yours can, too.

2. Think about power and utilities. A surge towards greater EV purchases will require an upgrade in transportation and distribution grids — one substantial enough to support both increasing electrification and greater load — and purpose-built to accommodate significant temperature swings characteristic of Canada’s climate. By the numbers, we know that 80% of EV owners in Canada charge their vehicles at home at least once a week. That’s indicative of a huge need for home infrastructure that will send ripple effects across power and utility distribution plans for years to come. More than half of EV owners say they’d be comfortable with a range of up to 200 miles from a single charge, compared to 42% of potential EV buyers who say the same. With more than 85 million EVs expected to hit the roads in the United States and Canada by 2035, it’s clearly time for power and utility organizations to think ahead about building new capabilities with these consumer preferences in mind. There are a lot of things you could potentially help consumers solve through your own innovation. That includes engaging to help remove and eliminate infrastructure hurdles that might otherwise hold progress back. Utilities can play a meaningful part in moving EVs into the fast lane by leaning in to modernize the charging grid, which boosts consumer confidence and access at the same time. Thinking through ways to support public charging stations can also accelerate EV adoption. Canadian utilities are well positioned to lead the way on these fronts now. 3. Explore mining. We know that an increase in EV adoption generates a correlating uptick in the need to mine rare metals and minerals. The battery technology requires this. In fact, by 2030, demand for lithium and cobalt is forecast to jump by an estimated 637% and 183%, respectively. Just one EV manufactured alone is predicted to require almost 50% of the current global supply of nickel to meet targets each year. Because EVs include about five times as much copper as internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, the industry will also require an additional two million tonnes of copper to produce an estimated 30 million EVs. Even more will be required for charging ports and infrastructure. We continue to see Canadian miners move in this direction. In fact, entrepreneurial market entrants are building their asset portfolios specifically around downstream conversations with automotive clients who not only need battery-grade cobalt sulfate, but also battery-grade nickel — and a place to recycle materials. This kind of forward-thinking offers endless ways to align future plans for exploration and development to the very specific needs of the mobility industry. True, too, for getting creative about delivery and execution. In Canada, upfront costs continue to be the key inhibitor to purchasing an EV. As inventory backlogs and supply chain complexities continue to force automakers into the unfavourable position of passing additional costs on to consumers, how could your mining operation carve out a distinctive offering that drives progress forward? Start innovating on this front now.

4. Ponder new entrants. Entrepreneurial startups and industry offshoots are already springing up right across the country. Just this week, I was amazed by the number of new entrant charging stations lined up across priority parking spots at the local mall. Just one of these alternative providers alone has already rolled out 65,000 charging stations across North America. They’re also selling directly to consumers, with special offers on universally compatible chargers that can be purchased online and shipped directly to your home. If you don’t think about it, someone else will. How can you evolve what you’re doing now into a dedicated or bespoke solution that opens your organization up to new channels and markets? What else about the transforming consumer speaks to a need you could fill? Where are the opportunities to unroll new offerings in partnership with hotels, grocery stores, office buildings or any other place EVs are likely to need a charge?

Of course, this data only tells one piece of a story that’s still taking shape. It reflects a Canadian consumer intention to continue moving in this direction. That doesn’t mean other priorities and challenges won’t continue to take shape. But choosing to see this as your next big opportunity to partner across industries — and with consumers — can unleash meaningful and sustainable change.

Energy companies can keep these three guiding principles in mind to transform mobility shifts into supercharged results:

  1. Look at what you do best through the new mobility lens and identify ways to channel existing capabilities into what consumers expect next.

  2. Consider downstream and upstream gaps and examine your own operations and plans to channel entrepreneurial spirit into new growth.

  3. Explore partnerships that cross not only the mobility and energy sectors, but consumer products, retail goods, hospitality, real estate, government and any other industry seeking to adapt with new consumer attitudes in mind.

Summary


The number of Canadians looking to buy electric vehicles in 2022 hit its highest level yet according to the latest EY Mobility Consumer Index. Energy and resources companies have an extraordinary opportunity to capitalize on shifting consumer demand to supercharge their growth.


By Dr. Lance Mortlock (EY Canada Managing Partner, Energy & Haskayne School of Business Visiting Professor) & Andy Grainger (EY Canada Power & Utilities Consulting Leader)


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