Electric vehicle infrastructure central to new 'road to zero' strategy

Out-Law News | 10 Jul 2018 | 2:49 pm | 3 min. read

Plans to require electric vehicle charging points to be installed in new homes in England have been outlined by the UK government.

Those plans, together with other proposals aimed at providing the infrastructure necessary to support the widespread use of electric vehicles, were set out in the government's new 'road to zero' strategy (147-page / 4.67MB PDF).

The strategy is designed to support the UK's previously stated goal of ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. To help achieve that goal, the government has set an interim target requiring at least half of new cars built by 2030 to be "ultra low emission", and further said that by 2050 it wants "almost every car and van to be zero emission".

Plans to boost the underlying infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles have been set out in the strategy as a means to achieving those targets. It includes plans to make new homes "electric vehicle ready".

"It is our intention that all new homes, where appropriate, should have a chargepoint available," the government said in its strategy paper. "We plan to consult as soon as possible on introducing a requirement for chargepoint infrastructure for new dwellings in England where appropriate."

Peter Feehan of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, who specialises in innovative commercial energy contracts, said the proposal will "attract the attention of housebuilders" which are seeking to deliver the government’s target of 1 million new homes by 2020. He said the challenge will be whether this helps bring the necessary infrastructure forward for the wider transition to electric vehicles. 

"Our experience from Europe is that a significant amount of charging occurs at home, so clearly this is an important factor, but infrastructure is also needed in the built environment in order to really allow people to make the change to electric vehicles," Feehan said. "The government must also consider how it will be able to keep up with the pace of technology advances and whilst wireless technologies are favourable, we need to have an effective UK charging network which supports the transition and reduces concerns surrounding range anxiety of electric vehicles."

"One area we are interested in following is the development of cost effective bi-lateral charging points which would allow homes to essentially opt to be 'off-grid' using the electric vehicles to power an owners’ home. This potentially could see real changes in the marketplace, transforming the automotive sector and energy sector too," he said.

In its strategy, the government also said it would look to fit lampposts with electric vehicle charging points, where they are "appropriately located, in areas with current on-street parking provision".

"The availability of charging stations in areas where homeowners do not have access to driveways or a garage is of key importance in helping to drive wider adoption of electric vehicles as it helps downplay consumer doubts about finding charging stations and doubts over being able to own an electric vehicle in the first place without owning a house with a driveway allowing them to charge at home," said James Mashhadi of Pinsent Masons.

The strategy also set out plans to fund research "to develop and trial innovative, low cost wireless charging and public on-street charging solutions that can be deployed across entire residential streets", and to update planning rules to support the deployment of new electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

"As we move to the mass adoption of ultra low emission vehicles, more infrastructure will be needed and we want to see improvements to the consumer experience of using it," the government said. "Our vision is for current and prospective electric vehicle drivers to be able to easily locate and access charging infrastructure that is affordable, efficient and reliable."

Chris Grayling, transport secretary in England, said: "The coming decades are going to be transformative for our motor industry, our national infrastructure and the way we travel. We expect to see more change in the transport sector over the next 10 years than we have in the previous century."

"The road to zero strategy sets out a clear path for Britain to be a world leader in the zero emission revolution - ensuring that the UK has cleaner air, a better environment and a stronger economy," he said.

Mashhadi said the government must set out a strategy for meeting the electricity demands for a society moving towards electric vehicles as the standard to supplement the latest plans.

"High power and rapid charging networks being developed greatly increases the energy requirements on the electricity grid to meet such demands and as electric vehicle batteries become larger in capacity so do the requirements for charging them, meaning long-term planning is needed to ensure such ambitious charging plans can be powered," he said.