Are we prepared for an EV future?
By 2030 the UK will require 300,000 public chargers in place. However, only 30,000 public chargers are currently online. So, how prepared are we for a greener, EV future? Hélène Maillet-Vioud caught up with Trenches Law to provide further insight.
Following the Government’s release of its “Taking Charge: The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy” in March 2022, the Government estimates that it will need 10 million electric vehicles (EVs) replacing petrol cars by 2030 to be on track for its net zero target.
This means the expectation is that by 2030 there will need to be at least 300,000 public chargers in place throughout the UK. With only around 30,000 public chargers currently online, are we prepared as a nation to not only meet that target but to further protect our planet?
As we sit here in June 2022 it is now pretty clear that EVs are here to stay, and the Government is busy getting on with trying to ensure that it reaches its 300,000 public charge point minimum target.
Setting aside the home EV Chargepoint grant and Work Charging Scheme, which are not for “public charging”, the Government has started to make some inroads. The On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS), which provides a fund for local authorities for on-street charging, has been boosted by the £10 million local EV infrastructure fund pilot and will be further improved by the £450 million local EV infrastructure levy fund when this is put into place.
The Government is also putting together a Rapid Charge Fund to help roll-out 6,000 rapid chargers across the country by 2035.
But even with this investment it is difficult to see the Government achieving its target without significant uptake from the private sector, and just what that uptake will be is difficult to guess. What we do know is that the private sector will be looking for a return on investment and this will influence what projects they support which, in turn, might not meet the needs of all communities.
Funding isn’t the only potential barrier to the installation of public charge points and the uptake of EVs. Suitable connection to the National Grid at the relevant charge point locations, potential need for battery storage (to support the National Grid) and multiple land rights and ownership issues add to the complexity of public charge points.
Once again, rural communities are particularly at risk of being left behind. With ongoing concerns in this group about broadband and transport links, this is obviously going to be a contentious point if it happens.
What the Government strategy tells us about the future of EV
The Government’s strategy sets out four types of public charging options, these being:
- Residential on-street
- Residential charging hub
- En-route charging
- Restination charging
The Government is now moving away from the “easy wins” in terms of EV charging infrastructure generally and it needs to do so. The Electric Vehicle Home Charge Scheme (EVHS) has come to an end and the EV Chargepoint Grant is now focusing on flat owners and landlords, acknowledging the need to bring these property owners, as a significant proportion of the population, onboard.
However, even with grants, the roll-out could be slow as multiple layers of ownership and proprietary interests, and complex grid connection works, are often involved. Additionally, there has to be an appetite from landlords and flat owners to engage.
EV charging point operators and installers are not regulated in the same way as utilities or telecoms providers, so there are not the same safeguards for the interested stakeholders and this can lead to nervousness and opposing interests on projects.
But the immediate challenge for the Government will be helping other communities that rely on on-street parking and are often located in environmentally or historically sensitive areas. This can lead to additional constraints such as planning and cultural heritage.
In these communities, on-street public parking and public charging will also have additional challenges such as residents’ concerns about how public charge points would impact on the precious parking available to them, i.e. the risk that charge points are taken up by “non-residents” and environmental/heritage constraints to the location of charge points and/or availability of electricity supply.
The Government’s strategy does look at the option of Residential Charging Hubs. Fast charging hubs could solve some issues for these communities, but the location and speed of charging will be key in terms of ensuring usage and uptake of EVs.
Where we think the Government’s strategy should focus on next
The Government has already implemented some regulations on manufacturers and installers of EV charging points through manufacturing regulations and building regulations, but these do not speed up the roll-out of the installations. The Government has also started to look at regulations around consumer use of charge points to make them simpler to use, and this will be welcomed by existing EV users. However, it will still not assist with roll-out of infrastructure.
A glaring gap seems to be the regulation around the installation of EV charging points and infrastructure which, if simplified through a combination of updating the powers of electricity suppliers and NDOs, the planning process and regulation of EV operators, could speed up roll-out considerably. This would give people confidence to enter into simpler and more standardised land arrangements in order to facilitate the installation of EV charging points. It would also give lenders and insurers confidence to develop products that can support their customers’ needs in this area and reduce risk.
It feels to us as though there is quite a bit of synergy between the needs of developing the EV charging market and the telecoms sector, and the Government should turn to the experience in this sector to speed up the process.
A formal consultation with EV operators and installers would be a good place to start as we think that they would welcome some regulation to help smooth the roll-out of the installation as well as give customers and investors’ confidence in the longer-term operation and management of the infrastructure.
Finally, wayleave is vital here. Trenches Law’s Managing Director and Co-founder, Sharon McDermott, has spoken passionately about the EV market, but charge point installations won’t progress for many if they don’t have an agreement in place at the earliest opportunities.
Overall, it’s important that the Government does more so EV provision is accessible to all. And particularly from a planning point of view – which includes the rights, obligations, and legislation – so that landowners can’t take advantage.
Now’s the time to streamline processes so that we’re not all tripping over one another to find the ‘holy grail’ when it comes to EV charging. So, how do you balance the need for speed with the role of the network guardian, for example? Understanding all the above considerations and simplifying the wayleave process would be a start.