Hotel Suppliers reporter, Manon Martini sits down for a Q&A session with Mark Winn, Head of EV Strategy at SMS plc.

What is your mission at SMS? What drives you forward?

“SMS plc is a low carbon technology specialist. At the heart of what we do is helping homes and businesses to reduce carbon emissions, and we are proud to be innovators in the space, designing fresh solutions for a greener, more sustainable world.

We recently moved into the EV charging market. Our (nearly) 30-year heritage as energy specialists meant we could see the issues that were developing in the sector. As such, we were able to enter this space and problem-solve these issues by providing EV infrastructure that is fit for purpose and sustainable in the long-term.

The UK’s EV charging network is a critical infrastructure challenge and SMS is well-positioned to be at the forefront of solving this. Our aim is to help the government achieve its goal of having a minimum of 300,000 public EV chargers installed and operable by 2030. We are committed to being responsible for at least 10% of these.

When it comes to EV charging, it isn’t a case of simply erecting a charging point. Our focus and expertise is on ensuring the right speed chargers are installed in the right locations. This will ensure that UK drivers can be confident that a current or future purchase of an EV vehicle will not lead to charger anxiety. Especially as the UK government will be banning the sale of petrol and electric vehicles by 2030.”

What variety of energy solutions do you offer the hotel industry?

“SMS helps with the delivery of multiple green carbon technologies within the hotel industry. We have worked extensively with key clients and large brands in this sector to identify ways of reducing carbon while also reducing costs.

Providing EV charging points in car parks is one element of this, but SMS works on a much broader basis by consulting with hotels to create a full roadmap for decarbonisation. This covers all facilities from heating, insulation, kitchens, restaurants and spas. We use the latest smart technology to remove fossil fuels from the hospitality sector as much as possible. Our experience in the utilities industry enables us to walk clients through the entire carbon reduction journey from start to finish.”

How are you revolutionising guest experiences with your solutions?

“Renewable energy is by far the cheapest source of energy provision in the UK and significantly less expensive than using fossil fuels, so hotels adopting this technology will save on costs in the long-run.

From a user perspective, consumers are increasingly demanding eco-travel options, so hotels are already under pressure to switch to renewable energy sources. At SMS, we work directly with hotels to understand and design bespoke solutions with the user experience front of mind.

Unfortunately, in a bid to offer sustainable technology as quickly as possible, the consumer experience sometimes gets forgotten. For instance, we’ve seen many hotels install rapid charging points that charge vehicles with a high level of power, very quickly. However, what most hotels really need to be adopting is slower charging points that will allow visitors to plug their cars in overnight and leave them, rather than having to move them after a few hours, which could cause friction to their travel experience.

On a personal level, if I arrive at a hotel and have to wait an hour to access a rapid charger, knowing I’ll then need to move my vehicle a few hours later when I might be busy, I’m more likely to leave the site and charge it elsewhere. The upshot of this is that hotels could be losing money from guests who would have stayed on site to eat, drink or use the facilities because they don’t have the right EV chargers in place.

Hoteliers are therefore at risk of not only losing revenue-per-room opportunities, but also providing a poor customer experience, which could significantly damage their reputation. It’s critical that hotels implement eco infrastructure based on guest behaviour, and don’t expect guests to change their behaviour to fit in with unsuitable facilities.

SMS works with hotels to ensure their EV charging experience matches guest needs. In turn, this helps eradicate the ‘charge anxiety’ many consumers experience around the accessibility and availability of the right charging points.”

When it comes to EV charging, do you think it’s very important to distinguish the different needs within the hospitality industry such as between a hotel and a restaurant, for example?

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to decarbonisation of the hospitality industry. What works for one hotel in a particular location doesn’t necessarily work for the same brand in a different location. As utility experts, SMS is perfectly positioned to work directly with individual hotels to design innovative and often complex solutions. We are not an off-the-shelf product; our strength is in creating bespoke carbon reduction roadmaps that meet the needs of businesses and their customers.”

Can I get a bit of insight then into what your process looks like at SMS, from initial consultation to installation?

“At SMS, the consultation process is key. We fact find to discover what happens on site, what’s important for the hotelier, and what they are looking to achieve. Establishing the answers to these crucial questions allows us to prepare and present a plan to the client, which is tailored to their specific needs. We look at everything from the building infrastructure to software and booking platforms to ensure a completely interoperable solution.

In short, we design, deliver and operate the full installation, making sure the client is fully briefed at every point and given an extensive handover once work has been completed. It’s a hands-off solution for the client, allowing them to focus on their day-to-day while we do the decarbonisation work”

What’s your proudest achievement at SMS?

“SMS moved into EV less than a year ago and what we’ve achieved in that time has been phenomenal. Our achievements are born directly out of our heritage in the energy industry. Having two decades of experience in utility design and infrastructure means we’ve been able to take what we’ve done in the past to inform our work in the EV space. As a result, we’ve designed and delivered solutions to customers in a much shorter space of time than perhaps other providers with less industry experience.”

You use the word ‘heritage’ quite a lot. Do you think your longstanding presence in the industry is something that differentiates you from competitors?

“Our long heritage and significant experience in designing and delivering utility provisions is of immense importance to our customers. What’s more, being a credible plc makes SMS a trusted partner across multiple industries as partners know we are in this for the long-run. To simplify what SMS does, essentially we are building big eco-friendly plugs, but what goes into those plugs is decades of knowledge and experience.”

What are you currently working on?

“This is a really busy and exciting time for SMS. We’re currently working with major national and independent hotel brands on a site-by-site basis to develop different decarbonisation roadmaps. These are really exciting projects for us, which will enable SMS to continue to innovate and problem-solve within the hospitality space. We’re committed to building fresh solutions for each client, and it’s a buzz for our engineers to be able to design new technology that is fit for purpose. ”

Click here to learn more about SMS and its hotel energy management solutions.