Neil Isaacson 12 February 2021

How local authorities can deliver bang for buck with on-street EV charging

How local authorities can deliver bang for buck with on-street EV charging image

Last week, the Government announced a £20m ‘cash injection’ to boost the number of on-street electric vehicle charge points across the UK and local authorities were urged to take advantage of it.

In a letter to councils, transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that funding for the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS) will continue into 2021/22, allowing motorists without private parking to reliably charge their vehicles. This is welcome news and a positive step forward if the UK is to hit its well documented net zero targets. However, £20m isn’t going to go very far and the UK has much to do in order to deliver the public charging infrastructure required for EV to deliver on its undoubted potential.

Oven ready solution to roll out

Around the same time Grant Shapps was making his announcement, the think tank, Policy Exchange, released a new report - Charging up - that explores policies to deliver a comprehensive network of public EV charge points across the UK. The report found the UK is likely to need around 400,000 public charge points by 2030. Today, the UK has around 35,000 public chargers according to the thinktank, with chargepoint operators installing around 7,000 new charge points per year.

The numbers don’t add up. To install enough public charge points to meet the requirement, roll out will need to occur five times faster at a cost of between £5bn and £10bn by 2030. Clearly, neither the Government nor local authorities can be expected to foot the bill in full but there is - to quote the Government - an ‘oven-ready’ solution.

Rather than supporting infrastructure roll out via funding, Government needs to support local authorities in having more dedicated teams and resources, while absorbing some of those costs. And this is where the role of private enterprise becomes clear. Local authorities need to work with private industry to to accelerate their deployment plans, because they don't have sufficient resources, capabilities or expertise in-house. This is because, like any major works there are many nuances, challenges, processes and insights that specialist private enterprise companies have at their fingertips that local governments simply do not.

A clear path to installation

Take the matter of site selection, for instance. The act of identifying where to place on-street charging is a time-consuming and complex process. For every site selected, councils may have looked at and analysed anywhere up to 20 alternative locations before landing one the final choice - that’s a huge amount of wasted time, effort and money.

Not only can private enterprise speed up the process by using geospatial tools to identify where the uptake points will be highest, but this can be done with full macro visibility into influencing factors, mitigating any issues before they occur. Like, for example, finding sites that don't have path pathway restrictions - you should have at least 1.8 meters of pathway space to avoid charge points becoming blocking obstacles. And this is just one hurdle of many. By engaging support from the private sector, local authorities, are getting the insight, expertise and knowledge to charter a much clearer path to installation

Call for collaboration

There are some great examples of local government doing this well, particularly in London, Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes. But that too is another area of improvement if local councils are to maximise this opportunity in the form of much improved knowledge sharing.

EV charging is a fantastic example of how local governments need to collaborate - both with other authorities that have been through the journey before they have - and within their own teams. The ambition being to collaborate to achieve a joint goal because, when you look at the number of different departments and functional crossovers required ranging from; highways, planning, climate change, procurement, finance and legal, the volume of people, processes and personalities is vast.

Gift from Government

The funding announcement is a welcome move from the government and a further indication of its commitment to the acceleration of electric vehicles.

The baton has now been passed onto local councils to make the most of what is on offer to not only showcase their ingenuity and invention but to get EV deployed much quicker and make the most of the gift from Government.

Neil Isaacson is CEO of Liberty Charge

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