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Case Study – Durham County Council And The SOSCI Project

Durham County Council joined a consortium of partners - that included EV charging specialists Mer - to deliver a groundbreaking project called 'Scaling On-Street Charging Infrastructure' (SOSCI).

sosci case study mer

Client – Durham County Council

Geographical Area – North East England


The Background

As one of the first UK councils to declare a climate emergency, Durham County Council was keen to position itself at the forefront of efforts to reduce carbon emissions – and work with partners and local communities both to lower air pollution and help residents save money on fuel costs. 

The council understood that, central to its aims of empowering residents to make more sustainable transport choices, is helping to support the switch to electric vehicles (EVs).  

Of particular importance is ensuring adequate provision of EV charging infrastructure, ahead of the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans. 

Yet County Durham is a large county, with sizable rural areas where the return on investment of charging infrastructure is more limited than in more urbanised settings – making attracting inward commercial investment hard.  

A second problem is that Durham also has a higher than average proportion of residents living in terraced housing (40%) – meaning many people don’t have access to off-street parking that would enable them to charge their vehicle at home.


The Solution

Keen to overcome these challenges, Durham County Council joined a consortium of partners – that included EV charging specialists Mer – to deliver a groundbreaking project called ‘Scaling On-Street Charging Infrastructure’ (SOSCI). 

The SOSCI project consortium, which won funding from Innovate UK in 2019, aims to remove barriers stopping the more widespread adoption of EVs, firstly by installing over 150 community charge points in less-populated areas across the North of England. 

sosci case study mer

It also has a research objective to assess the feasibility of installing more EV infrastructure in under-served areas. 

Durham County Council received full-funding for the SOSCI project, while Mer, who own and operate the charging infrastructure were awarded 50% sponsorship, while contributing the remaining 50% of funding themselves. 

Keen for a collaborative approach with residents, Durham County Council set up an EV working group and a Community EV group, where locals could register their views on the best sites for charging installations. 

Sites range from community and leisure centres to public car parks where residents can park overnight. The ultimate goal of the wider SOSCI project is to ensure 8 million UK citizens without off-street parking are within a 5 minute walk of a charge point – with Durham acting as a proof of concept. 

The SOSCI project ended in January 2022 and Mer – owned by Europe’s largest renewable energy producer Statkraft – installed 150 charge points at 67 locations across the county. 

Mer worked with local installers – Elmtronics, headquartered in Consett, County Durham – with the company now also becoming part of the Mer family, in a January acquisition. 

The installed charge points include:  

  • 70 Fast Chargers (7 to 22kW speed – with a Universal, Type 2 connector) 
  • Rapid Chargers (50kW – CCS and CHAdeMO connectors) 
  • 2 Semi-rapid Chargers (25kW – CCS connectors) 

The chargers have either ‘universal’ Type 2 or CCS sockets – the most common connectors on current EV models – for ease of use. 

Drivers have the choice to charge as a guest user or as a registered customer. They can use several charging methods – including via the Mer app or the Mer charge card. There is also the option to charge through their web browser with the ‘Mer Driver Portal’ or use their preferred method via our roaming partners.   

Since the project began, Durham County Council has been credited as a Local Authority that has taken a big step forward in building the infrastructure for EV charging – which has also allowed them to better support the rural areas in their community. 

sosci case study mer

Due to one village – Shotley Bridge in Consett – gaining an EV charge point, the local Derwent Valley EV Car Club has been able to expand its network and base one of its electric vehicles in the village.  This provides a low cost, affordable option for the local community to access an electric vehicle. 

And, true to its values of inclusivity, Durham County Council also held a disability drivers’ awareness event – to ensure that everyone will be able to access and use the EV chargers equally. 

“Mer were very supportive of this – and we are working together to look for ways to make the EV chargers both accessible and easy to use.”

Tracy Millmore, Electric Vehicle Project Officer at Durham County Council

“We see the installations on the SOSCI project as a start to building the EV infrastructure around Durham, and look forward to installing more EV charge points to support electric vehicles. 

“Enabling more EVs on the road supports the council’s plan to reduce its carbon footprint.” 

“Mer is proud to be part of the consortium developing EV charging in under-served areas, and also to learn from the research project.

“When local authorities work well with their communities to expand the local charge point network, it acts as a great incentive to improve public confidence ahead of the widespread adoption of EVs – and move towards a more sustainable future.”

Anthony Hinde, Mer UK’s Managing Director

Mer’s mission is to make sustainable electric mobility easy and accessible to everyone.

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