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Funding for UK on-street EV chargers at unacceptably low level warns AA

© Shutterstock / Around the World PhotosEV charging.

The AA has called out the low numbers of local authorities successfully applying for funding for on-street EV chargers saying it threatens to deter people from switching to EVs, and pointed out that rural areas risk being left behind.

Data released by the Department for Transport on the 18th August shows just 107 councils have made successful applications under the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS), with just 2,869 currently installed.

In the UK government’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy, April 2022, figures for residential on-street charge points are tabled at 125,000, which current installation rates fall far short of.

Decarbonisation of residential vehicles will be impeded by lack of on-street charge points.

What the AA’s warning highlights is that it’s not enough to create and deploy a new technology, but that the infrastructure must be available to support it.

The rise of electric vehicles has already given rise to concern that as long as electricity is derived from fossil fuels, the use of EVs will make very little difference in terms of emissions reduction. And the reality is that, given the fact that the majority of vehicle-related air pollution comes from tyre wear, without that shift, the transition to EVs will make little difference.

There is work being done to increase the amount of renewable energy being delivered to the UK network, and companies like GRIDSERVE are doing their bit to ensure the wider deployment of renewably powered charge points.

What the AA is warning however is that the transition will not be possible without a far great country-wide focus on the effective deployment of charge points.

On-street charge points an essential tenet of EV infrastructure but installation rates too low

Lack of on-street charge points does not give the 40% of households without a driveway, parking space or garage the confidence to take part in the transition to electric vehicles, says the AA.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said; “Drivers without dedicated off-street parking looking to switch to electric cars want to have the option for cheaper, affordable charging close to home rather than be reliant on the rapid network.”

A ban on the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars is taking effect in 2030. Targets for the sale of clean vehicles will be in place from 2024. However the great switch for residential vehicles will likely not take effect without the requisite charge points.

The number of ORCS currently installed is just 4% of the 70,000 on-street chargers that the government has said would need to be installed by 2030 according to the AA. Funding for a further 9,543 has been approved to add to the 2,869 currently installed.

The government’s paper on EV infrastructure says that over time, on-street charging will become more prevalent.  It says: “By 2035 it is assumed EV owners without off-street parking source 80% of their charging demand from on-street charge points.”

Developments on the ground are not keeping pace with the government’s EV infrastructure strategy. The government has said it expects around 300,000 public chargers as a minimum by 2030. It has a goal of ensuring that these charge points are installed ahead of demand, inspiring confidence in drivers who have not yet made the switch.

Rural areas are still ignored in terms of charge point rollout

Another problem is that the distribution of charge points is clustered in the southeast with parts of the country having almost none.

The unevenness in coverage was raised in 2021 when the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)  said access to chargepoints can be a ‘postcode lottery’ with the number of total public chargepoints per head in Yorkshire and the Humber a quarter of those in London.

The government publicly acknowledged in July 2021 that further action was needed to ensure a national network of electric vehicle chargepoints is in place ahead of the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.

Greater success with domestic charging devices

A greater uptick in residential charging devices has been made through the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) which has seen a total of 328,657 domestic charging devices installed since September 2014, with a total grant value of £136.7 million.

In the last 12 months the number of EVHS funded charging devices has increased by 132,955, corresponding to an additional £49.72 million in grant value. The EVHS has provided grant funding for up to 75% of the cost of installing electric vehicle charging devices at domestic properties.

This scheme has now stopped though to new applicants and has been replaced with the EV charge point grant. Details of the new grant scheme will be released in November 2022.

EV garners high investor attention

Overall the private sector has ploughed more than $4.8 billion into electric vehicle charging this year around the world showing how hot the industry is to investors. Pure-play charging companies are targets for M&A activity according to Bloomberg.

Significant investment is currently being directed at ultra-fast charging. For example, BP and Iberdrola announced a €1 billion joint venture for 11,000 fast chargers across Europe. The role of charging in effective EV deployment cannot be underestimated.

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