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The Role for Local Authorities in Future Proofing Public EV Charging

With the development of EV charging infrastructure across towns and cities, how can local authorities future proof public EV charging?

public ev charging

One of the most significant adverse environmental impacts unquestionably comes from the pollution emitted by fossil fuelled vehicles. Transport emissions amounted to 34% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.

Electric vehicles will undoubtedly help cut this back significantly, which will be critical to the UK meeting the Government’s plans after it set the most ambitious pro-climate change reduction targets in the world – cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

This transition to EVs will need to come from across society. Still, with 83.9% of the UK population living in urban areas, there will need to be a significant development of charging infrastructure in towns and cities if the country is to achieve widespread adoption.

City council and local authorities are critical partners in this paradigm shift in transportation because of their ability to future plan and shape the way this much-needed infrastructure will be delivered in our urban areas. Within a busy urban environment, there are several critical challenges around provisioning the right EV charging infrastructure to enable mass adoption and provide a positive experience.


The Off-street parking conundrum

One of the biggest questions in any urban area is: ‘How to solve the problem of providing residents without access to off-street parking with EV charging solutions?’

This is a massive problem, given that around 40% of people don’t have access to private driveways or garages. However, there are several options that can work, focussing on fast charging.

These include:

  • Workplace charging: access will be contingent on the employer’s appetite to install charging infrastructure. Many workplace charging schemes are managed on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Charger sharing is a novel concept that allows homeowners with off-street parking & charging points to rent out the parking space. However, in many instances, this is not practicable for either the driver or the host.
  • Residential on-street charging – for example, points installed in lampposts – however, it is challenging to scale. It also has a complicated business case due to the slow charging speed. Each charger can only realistically serve one customer per day.


Public EV rapid charging

Today, most “rapid charging” is located in out-of-town locations intended to capture the on-route charging market. The business case is well established, and the infrastructure is being upgraded and expanded for the impending EV revolution.

However, as you move further into the city, we see that the presence of rapid charging diminishes. Where they are present, locations typically consist of one or two chargers. It is more common to see AC fast charging in the city centre.

This is due to the long-held view that we use fast charging as our primary charging method and rapid as our on-route facilitator. While we accept that this is the case for those with access to off-street parking, the same can’t be said for vehicles that park overnight on the street.

However, if we consider rapid charging in the urban environment, the faster top up speeds that an ultra-rapid charger provides offers flexibility and convenience for those who can’t charge elsewhere.

This flexibility means that a singular piece of infrastructure can address a broader market. Urban charging hubs can overcome the challenge of scalability for residential off-street charging, cater to the needs of commercial users (taxis, vans etc.) and enable onward travel. Focussing demand at a single location will assist in developing a sustainable business model.

public ev charging


Technology shift

Modern EVs have significantly greater battery capacity than they did even just a couple of years ago. That extra capacity equates to a longer driving range – with the ‘sweet spot’ sitting at cars with a 200 – 250-mile range – although some can have a significantly longer range.

As the vehicle can travel further between charges, the energy requirement will be greater when it recharges. Meaning that the average length of time to recharge on 50kW will increase, decreasing throughput and convenience. DC charging speeds have increased to address this. Modern chargers can provide charging speeds up to 350kW.

This development in charging performance creates new opportunities to use these chargers in situations beyond the motorway service station. Using a 50kW rapid charger would add around 80-100 miles of range in half an hour, whereas with a 150kW charger, the same could be done in 10 minutes.

All of this is important when designing a charging ecosystem for the needs of a particular city or town. We need to move away from arbitrary 0% to 80% metrics. With modern batteries and higher charging speeds, and with more EVs hitting the ‘sweet spot’ – instead, the focus should be on the range added per X minutes of charging time – as this chart shows:

public ev charging


Deploying ultra-rapid hubs- charging infrastructure for all

The first advice we would offer to local authorities is to consider where and how they can support the deployment of ultra-rapid charging hubs in their cities. So drivers can quickly charge their vehicles in short periods of time.

It is important to position these charging hubs in the most optimal locations. Typically, a good location will be:

  • Close to major routes through the city
  • Close to areas housing without off-street parking
  • Within council-owned car parks, mainly open-air, large car parks
  • Close to an electrical connection

Mer can undertake such studies. In a previous project, we overlaid a map that indicated the major routes through the city, the council-owned car parks, and the residential hotspots together with electrical substation capacity. The locations that score highest on the location matrix are the “best” locations across all criteria.

The design of the charging hub is of critical importance, ensuring that it is easy to use, sympathetic to the local area and scalable for future demand are all considerations.

Our charging hubs will be specifically designed to accommodate commercial vehicles. Larger commercial vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) above 3.5T have different physical attributes and require a different layout. Currently, there isn’t any charging infrastructure to support these vehicles.

Electric vehicle charging hubs can also support modal shift ambitions. We can provide infrastructure to support Mobility as a Service (MaaS), car clubs, e-Bikes and Scooters at the same location.


Scaling up electric vehicle charging infrastructure

City planners need to consider how quickly they can scale up EV charging infrastructure, how and with whom they partner, and what support is available?

Taking that last question first, the recent Government Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP) report – here – highlights a number of initiatives the Government is promising to support local authorities in the ramping up of EV charging infrastructure. These include:

  • A £950 million Rapid Charging Fund for the roll-out of 6,000 ultra-rapid charge points
  • An On-Street Residential Scheme to support local authorities in installing EV infrastructure.
  • A new £90 million Local EV Infrastructure Fund.
  • And, the Government has also said it will review the National Networks National Policy Statement to further accelerate EV rollout.

This is encouraging and needed – especially given the Government has also recently accelerated its plans to remove diesel and petrol-powered vehicles from the road. Transport Minister Grant Shapps also states in that same TDP report that the Government is committed to consulting on a phase out date of 2040 for internal combustion engines – after which all vehicles will need to be electrically, or otherwise, fuelled.

In terms of partnering – the EV charging infrastructure needs for cities will only be solved with a mix of solutions. Because of that, you will need either a mix of partners or partners able to deliver multiple solutions. Those partners should also be able to supply their solutions in an adaptable, scalable way that supports the ethos of providing the most sustainable electricity to power your sustainable city.

At Mer, this is one of the key attributes that sets us apart from other EV charging partners. We have extensive experience building EV charging networks in cities across Northern Europe. We have Fast, Rapid and Ultra-Rapid electric vehicle charging solutions of up to 350kW with zero carbon and 100% renewable energy from hydro, solar and wind sources.

We are investing in the UK EV charging infrastructure and offer a fully funded solution. We promote roaming agreements and multiple payment methods for a simplified EV charging experience.

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