Why electric vehicles are the next big step for developers working in sustainability

In this guest post, Rollo Home, head of product at national mapping agency Ordnance Survey, sets out the opportunities for software developers to get more actively involved in sustainability projects

Governments around the world have created legislation and regulations to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions. Such targets include a significant focus on supporting the rollout of sustainable transport, including electric vehicles (EVs).

EVs are a key component of the UK government’s net zero strategy and zero emissions policy to continue to reduce emissions with specific targets for 2030. Demand for EVs is growing in popularity with consumers, with one in four motorists in the UK intending to buy an EV in the next five years.

To respond to the demand, the government has committed to creating 300,000 EV charging points across the nation by 2030. To meet the infrastructure demands that EVs will bring, new technologies are essential, presenting a wealth of opportunities for software developers.

The EV industry is booming

Already an underserved market, EV users will become a much larger proportion of the population in coming years, with a 10.8% market share. However, the infrastructure and digital ecosystem needed to support widespread EV adoption is not yet in place. In fact, it’s not even ready for the current prevalence of EVs, with just one charger for every 15 cars. Unless something is done, there won’t be enough charging points to meet requirements.

To keep up with the growth, a host of digital offerings to smooth the user experience and enable the transition to EVs from petrol and diesel vehicles will be needed. Mobile applications that locate on-street charging locations and larger stations, will be crucial, as will journey and route planning applications.

Commercial organisations’ EV fleets, particularly those operating last mile delivery services, will also need support, which will open up further opportunities for those with the digital skills to help orchestrate this new EV ecosystem.

Non-consumer-facing applications will also be needed, such as those that enable the government, local authorities and private companies to support their EV and energy infrastructure projects. Once again, developers and data scientists will be needed to determine the optimal locations for charging stations across the nation, which can then be captured by consumer apps—helping to deliver accurate and timely information to EV users.

As with any project that relies on the intelligent placement of assets, geospatial data will be a key element in each EV use case—which is where organisations like Ordnance Survey will play a crucial role.

Unique features of sustainability projects

According to Ordnance Survey’s ‘Sustainability: opportunities for developers’ research, developers are increasingly becoming more involved in sustainability projects—with 59% having worked on such projects. There is a growing motivation to ‘do good’, and the development of EV-related solutions provides a unique opportunity for those who want to make a difference with the work they do. This is backed up by the research, which reveals that 54% of all those surveyed like to be part of the greater good and make a difference. A total of 94% also bring their own ideas to sustainability projects, showing that they are highly engaged with the process.

The base nature of developers is to always seek opportunities to truly test their skillset. More than 73% of those surveyed said they like solving the complex technical problems sustainability projects bring, with 66% liking the creative challenge posed by developing new algorithms. There is also a high desire in developers to expand their skillset, with 59% enjoying the ability to use new tools and data services that projects provide them.

Historically, projects requiring the use of geospatial data required specialist skillsets and geographical knowledge, and the data itself was difficult to access. Today, however, easy-to-use geospatial data sets and tools are easily accessible via APIs and online repositories, allowing developers to quickly harness this data for applications. This evolution of usability means there is no longer a need to find specialists to work on sustainability projects, meaning developers of all stripes can bring their skills to bear on society’s most pressing environmental problems.

Sustainability pays in money and skills

There is an increase of funding for sustainability projects, with the UK government injecting £20 million into the industry. More than 82% of developers surveyed by Ordnance Survey reported that sustainability projects attract at least 5% higher remuneration than others, with British and Polish developers reporting at least 10% higher pay.

The research also found that developers are using a variety of tools beyond programming languages in their sustainability work. These tools include database management, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, collaboration and code-sharing platforms, and user experience and quality assurance testing tools.

Additionally, some 46% of developers working on sustainability projects use geospatial tools. It’s clear that when looking for a data source, developers are less swayed by cost and more by what works, with only 10% saying a source being free was the reason for their preference, while 40% said they were looking for the best tool for the job. With more opportunities to use new tools and develop new skills, it is no surprise that developers are flocking to sustainability projects.

Between the increased demand for developers, interest in doing something positive for the world, the desire for a technical challenges and the higher remuneration attached to sustainability projects, now is great time for developers to get involved and to help ease the transition to a greener world.

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