Patrick Hall is a Senior Researcher at the think tank Bright Blue.
Last year, the Transport Secretary expressed the Government’s “unwavering support for a cleaner, greener transport future”.
The Government certainly appears to be living up to its rhetoric, recently bringing forward the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles so it takes effect from 2030, committing large amounts of funding to support the manufacturing of electric vehicle (EV) batteries in the UK, and most recently offering a £20 million boost to support the rollout of on-street chargepoints across towns and cities in the UK.
Ministers are right to address the rollout of on-street chargepoints. Recent polling shows that 44 per cent of drivers thought that a lack of local chargepoints held them back from purchasing an EV – the second largest barrier to EV uptake after their high upfront price.
For those who live in homes with no off-street parking, a lack of nearby charging infrastructure is a significant barrier to EV ownership. Off-street parking provides EV owners with the opportunity to install their own EV chargers on their premises, such as in a garage, driveway, or private parking bay. Being able to charge an EV at or near a driver’s home is important for prospective EV owners, given that this is how the vast majority of EV charging takes place.
But about a third of homes in England do not have off-street parking. If homes do not have off-street parking, EV drivers are reliant on either on-street charging infrastructure or ‘at destination’ chargepoints located in places such as the workplace, supermarket or shopping centres.
A look at the number of public chargepoints by region and local authority reveals the postcode lottery when it comes to accessing on-street charging infrastructure near drivers’ homes. London had the greatest availability of chargepoints, with 57.3 chargepoints per population of 100,000. However, this varies significantly between different London boroughs. For example, Havering only has five chargepoints for every 100,000 people whilst in Kensington & Chelsea, this figure is 197.9
The North East and South East of England have 30.4 and 27 chargepoints per population of 100,000 respectively, whilst the West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber both have the poorest ratio in England of 17.30 chargepoints per population of 100,000.
The need for on-street charging infrastructure is especially important for London, where two thirds of all EVs parking in residential areas overnight will require on-street charging in a high EV uptake scenario.
Currently, local authorities determine where on-street chargepoints will be installed in residential areas, funded in part through the On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme. In Bright Blue’s new report, Driving uptake: maturing the market for battery electric vehicles, we recommended that this process should instead be demand-led, with an onus on local authorities to install on-street chargepoints when requested by residents within three months unless there are reasonable grounds for objection. This would be based somewhat on such a scheme in the Netherlands, which has the greatest density of chargepoints in Europe.
Drivers should be able to access an online portal established and administered by local authorities for making their request. Drivers would be required to show proof of purchase of an EV to their local authority, before making a request through the online portal for the installation of a chargepoint near their place of residence. The request could be assessed on various criteria, for example whether the driver has access to off-street parking, the walking distance to other existing or planned chargepoints in that area, and the occupancy rate of nearby chargepoints.
If the request is approved, the local authority would open a consultation period of six weeks, where stakeholders could challenge or propose amendments to the plan. Following this, and assuming no setbacks as a result of the consultation period, the chargepoint would then be published on a map and other nearby registered EV drivers could be notified of its location before being installed.
Local authorities could either own the chargepoints or tender out their ownership to a private organisation. The operation of the chargepoint could also be tendered out to a charging network.
In Bright Blue’s report, we also recommended that interoperability be a condition for central and local government funding towards chargepoints. This would mean all chargepoints across a borough or district would be easily accessible regardless of the charging network they are connected to. But, if this was not implemented, any new on-street chargepoints in the borough should be grouped under a single tender to one charging network. This would ensure that all chargepoints within a borough or district would be accessible via the same charging network.
A demand-led, online on-street chargepoint scheme such as this would ensure that households with no off-street parking are more reassured about purchasing an EV. Additionally, such a scheme would ensure that chargepoint installation is targeted towards areas where they would be utilised.
If EV uptake is to increase significantly within the next nine years, policymakers should, among other measures, introduce this demand-led on-street chargepoint scheme.