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Master thesis on electric vehicle charging systems wins KPMG award

Angelos Tsereklas-Zafeirkis has been awarded this year's KPMG-RSM Sustainability Master Thesis Award for his research on electric vehicle charging systems. The MSc graduate was presented the award at the RSM Sustainability Forum 2017, hosted by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) on 31 March 2017. The runner-up was Florian Böhm for his thesis on sustainability and the farming of quinoa.



Every year, auditing company KPMG honours research conducted by RSM master students in the field of sustainability. The winning thesis best exemplifies academic excellence, business relevance, originality, and environmental or social impact. A total of 60 theses qualified for this year's competition, with a shortlist of five submitted to the jury for final evaluation.

Improving the environmental performance of electric cars

MScBA Master in Management graduate Angelos Tsereklas-Zafeirkis' research, which was supervised by the Erasmus Centre for Future Energy Business, addresses the imminent problem of peak-time congestion at electric vehicle charging stations. Just like morning traffic jams, neighbours and colleagues will compete to use electric car charging facilities.

In his thesis Variable-rate Pricing of Electric Vehicle Charging: Exploring consumer behaviour using TamagoCar app, Tsereklas-Zafeirkis makes use of an app to gather data on the behaviour of users of electric cars. This data can be used as input into the design of charging systems to reduce peak congestion. According to the jury: “Solution providers in this domain will find [Angelos Tsereklas-Zafeirkis'] thesis extremely valuable. The same methodology with a wider test group would yield data that could directly inform business decisions.”

Balancing local distribution grids

Tsereklas-Zafeirkis’s co-reader Dr Konstantina Valogianni and coach Professor Wolf Ketter are happy about the acknowledgement of the importance of this research. “This helps to balance local distribution grids,” says Prof. Ketter. He added that with one or very few electric vehicles in a neighbourhood, there is no problems with grid stability when it comes to charging your vehicle, but if you add more EVs in the future, then the tasks become much harder. “If this isn’t done right, we’ll need additional peak power plants to balance the grid. These are expensive and very polluting for the environment.”

“A win-win-win situation”

Valogianni, Ketter and Tsereklas-Zafeirkis’ research helps to circumvent these problems and lets people maximise the share of renewable energy resources. “It’s a win-win-win situation for the grid operator, the car owner, and the environment,” said the professor.

The jury commended Tsereklas-Zafeirkis for the methodology he used in his research: “His research is a great combination of literature study, hard-core data-analysis and financial modelling based on new primary data on consumer behaviour gained through an app. We believe this is the way forward for students: apply the technology you use on a daily basis in your research and work.”

Poverty and the truth about Quinoa

Runner-up Florian Böhm, a cum laude graduate of RSM's MSc in Global Business & Sustainability, was praised by the jury for his thesis The grain of the gods against poverty. Böhm explores the impact of the growing global demand for quinoa on farming practices and poverty in Bolivia and Peru.

The jury said: “This is a must-read for all sustainability, supply chain and procurement professionals that work for companies that buy, use and sell quinoa, and for consumers who are interested in the farmers that grow their quinoa. It reads like a practical baseline study for organisations like IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative or other multi-stakeholder platforms that create sustainable agricultural supply chains.”

Leaders from corporate sustainability

The jury responsible for judging this year's competition included Jan Bom, chief editor of the CSR magazine P+; Bert Tulleners of the Rock Group; Henriette Davelaar, head of sustainability at PGGM; and Jerwin Tholen, director sustainability at KPMG and chairman of the jury.

Compared to previous years, they said, was that most of the theses on sustainability were from Finance & Investments and Organisational Change & Consulting programmes, not all from RSM's MSc Global Business & Sustainability programme, a trend that will be “interesting to watch”.

The top five theses selected for this year's competition included Adèle Berthelot's Supply Chain Collaboration and Environmental Performance. A Study of Connekt Lean & Green, Florian Böhm's The grain of the gods against poverty, Patrizia Fazli's Sustainability Marketing Communication in the Beauty Industry; Jonas Flake's Enabling Radical Sustainability-Oriented Innovation in Large Firms and Angelos Tsereklas-Zafeirkis' Variable-rate Pricing of Electric Vehicle Charging: Exploring consumer behavior using TamagoCar app.

Process for selecting the best

Sustainable RSM has created a comprehensive framework for identifying the qualifying theses from among the very large number of potential candidates. Using this framework, RSM's student work group pre-selects the theses from all those defended in the past year, and identifies a shortlist of the top five. This year 60 were selected from the 1,503 theses defended at RSM from September 2015 to August 2016.

A thorough report is then submitted to the jury that includes a detailed evaluation of the short-listed theses. It is then over to the jury to select the winner, using the same criteria as that used by the student work group.

The jury: “We were impressed by the quality of the theses and the approach to the different aspects of sustainability. We desperately need well-educated leaders with a long-term perspective, a high standard of ethics, integrity and morals, and a pro-active approach to tackling the most pressing issues in society.”

The winner received a cash prize of €1,000 euros; the runner-up €500.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 research-based business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China. www.rsm.nl

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at mschouten@rsm.nl.

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