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How the UK Government Plans to Boost the Number of Public Chargers to Increase EV Adoption Rates

The government just announced a £1.6 billion funding package to boost EV charging across the UK - with Local Authorities set to play a crucial role.

government plans public chargers

The UK government has emphasised the ‘crucial role’ of local authorities in meeting the country’s transport decarbonisation targets – after announcing plans to boost the number of public electric vehicle charge points to 300,000 by 2030.

This tenfold-increase in current public charger numbers was accompanied by a £1.6 billion funding package – £500 million of which is earmarked for additional local authority support to deliver ‘high quality’ charging infrastructure.

The newly-confirmed plans – part of the government’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy – comes after consultations showed that the provision of local on-street EV chargers ‘significantly lagged behind’ other areas of the EV infrastructure market.

By naming the lack of public charging infrastructure ‘the single biggest challenge to achieving transport decarbonisation’ the government is focusing its latest targeted intervention in two areas:

  • High-powered chargers on the strategic road network
  • Local on-street charging

It hopes the new funding will address the genuine – or perceived – fears of a lack of local public chargers, which drivers say is the biggest barrier to more widespread EV adoption.

 

Government strategy

The strategy aims to solve regional charge point disparities, including the challenges of installing chargers in remote areas, which contribute to ‘range anxiety’ among existing EV users.

And it follows calls from local councils (LAs) to be provided with more support to deliver their EV charging commitments.

Additionally, the new government strategy sets clear expectations for LAs, and other stakeholders.

It has announced a new knowledge hub to support them in working with partners – like EV charging specialist Mer – to achieve long-term, sustainable infrastructure with operators who can ensure charger reliability.

Of the new investment, £450 million will be used to create a Local EV Infrastructure Fund (LEVI) – through which Local Authorities will be able to leverage private sector investment in bidding for support to install on-street charge points and hubs.

The remaining £50 million will be used to train staff to work on charger-planning and implementation.

Following the example of the ground-breaking SOSCI project, where Mer worked with Durham council and other partners to install chargers to underserved areas, the new funding is aimed at expanding the UK’s charging network so it is ‘robust, fair and covers the entire country’.

government plans public chargers

The new LEVI investment is in addition to the existing £950 million Rapid Charging Fund – supporting the roll-out of 6,000 super-fast chargers across English motorways by 2035.

“This is a promising package which tries to tackle the big obstacles – the need for a visible network of rapid chargers alongside better local provision for those without driveways or garages to charge up overnight,” said Bridget Rosewell, the UK’s National Infrastructure Commissioner.

“The government has now accepted the scale of the challenge and the need to empower local authorities to help ensure charge point coverage is accessible and fairly priced for all drivers.”

 

The current state of the UK’s public infrastructure

Despite the UK’s provision of one rapid charger per 32 battery EVs being the best in Europe – and the number of EVs accounting for one in six new cars in 2021 – the country’s charging infrastructure has struggled to keep pace.

The government’s new plans hope to address fears that its ambitious plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 will not be achieved unless it dramatically upscales public EV charging infrastructure.

Although the UK had installed more than 30,000 chargers by March 2022 serving more than 750,000 plug-in vehicles (EVs and hybrids) the rate of public charging installation is still too slow – with only 600 chargepoints a month added in 2021.

The government report stated that this ‘is not a pace consistent with what is needed for a wholly zero-emission new car fleet in 2035.’ And this is particularly true for local on-street charging – crucial for the 6.6 million households in the UK that don’t have driveways.

Also noted was the regional disparities in EV charging infrastructure – with the ratio of charger to EV standing at 1:30 in the south, compared to 1:52 in the north.

Further challenges include the problem of poor-quality installations, a lack of LA expertise, and the challenges of installing chargers in remote areas.

 

Government help for Local Authorities

The newly announced LEVI fund – set to be introduced from the 2022/23 financial year – joins other existing government schemes that together add up to £620 million of support for LAs to aid the transition to EVs.

  • The Local EV Infrastructure Fund (LEVI) – announced in March 2022, consists of £450 million for local on-street charge points.

A further £50 million will fund LA staff to work on chargepoint challenges and planning.

And a LEVI fund pilot scheme will see LAs bid for a share of the first £10 million – with the chosen areas expected to work with industry to boost public charging opportunities.

  • The On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS) – available to all UK LAs, ORCS has supported 140 LAs to install nealy 4,000 charge points since its inception in 2017 – and has been extended to offer £20 million in 2022/23. It provides funding towards the capital costs of installing public charging infrastructure both on-street and in LA-owned car parks.
  • The Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) – is a voucher scheme helping LAs to electrify their own fleets and to help transition their staff to EVs.
  • EV Chargepoint Grant for Landlords – from April 1 2022, LAs that own social housing will be able to apply for grants of £350 towards the cost of purchasing and installing charge points, with up to 200 grants a year available for each LA.
  • Local Government Support Programme (LSGP) – Helps local authorities seeking to develop chargepoint strategies, procure charge points – partnering with operators such as Mer – and apply for funding, support and guidance.

 

The benefits for Local Authorities

The government has acknowledged that EV charging infrastructure provision has proved a complex challenge for local authorities – and its new strategy of funding and guidance should go a long way in assisting councils to meet the transport needs of their local population.

Its guidance demanding ‘high quality’ infrastructure – such as that provided by Mer, owned by Europe’s largest energy producer Statkraft – should drastically improve the reliability of public chargers, leading to better consumer trust and more widespread EV adoption.

Local benefits include improved air quality and health from reduced emissions, as well as new investment opportunities and widespread environmental gains.

“This new package of funding and guidance will proactively support Local Authorities as they work with partners like Mer to deliver vital on-street EV charging infrastructure” – Anthony Hinde, Mer UK Managing Director

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