How local government can drive the EV agenda

Lee Feihn, UK Business Developer at NewMotion, analyses the perpetual movement of the Electric Vehicle (EV) landscape in the UK and the role local government can play in shaping a lasting strategy for its continued development.

 A recent report by Transport & Environment shows that by the end of 2017, there will be more than half a million battery, electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on Europe’s roads. Although the figure may seem low, it represents a massive shift in a traditional industry not seen since the introduction of the Ford Model T back in 1914.

It’s a shift that in the past year alone has seen government investment of £30 million in the installation of charge points for EVs, the start of production of Tesla’s first mass-market EV and even the Queen mentioning EV in her 2017 speech to parliament.

There’s no denying that the EV revolution is gathering pace, with the worlds of science, politics and technology now aligning to support the growth of the industry.

From the recent Bonn climate talks, that have once again seen the reduction of car CO2 and the accelerated roll-out of EVs put firmly on the agenda, to the dramatic reduction in the cost of battery production, the time is now for EVs. All of this paired with innovative manufacturing from leading EV players such as Tesla is driving rapid development in the technology at work under the bonnet of EVs.

In the centre of this, the consumer is being given a choice they’ve never had before – the ability to buy an EV on par with conventional vehicles with a range over the psychologically important 300 kilometre range.

This change in consumer behaviour internationally, in particular the rapid growth in EV sales in China which is now the world’s biggest market, has forced the large car manufacturers to access their EV options and take the market seriously. With governments in the UK and France pledging to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040 and the Netherlands seeking to implement a similar ban as soon as 2025, Chinese EV competitors like BYD will soon be exporting to Europe forcing non-Chinese carmakers to sit up and take notice.

What fundamental changes can local councils adopt to prepare for the growth in the number of EVs on Britain’s roads?

Change can start internally within local councils taking a lead and upgrading their own fleet to ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV) plus ensuring there is a local infrastructure to support such a fleet. This sends out a message to residents and locals businesses to consider going electric while also educating the public of its benefits.

With government incentive schemes expanding and EV sales on the rise, we will see the provision of more public infrastructure and sustainable fleets in the coming years. The On-Street Residential Charge Scheme is a good starting point. This scheme provides funding to Local Councils of up to £7500 per charge point and will cover 75% of the capital costs of installing and procuring the charge point on a dedicated parking bay.

Low emission zones and lower parking costs for electric vehicles will also incentivise drivers to consider making the change to EV. London is already leading the way by introducing an ‘Ultra Low Emissions Zone’ from 2019 with 10 additional sites around the UK set to follow. North Somerset Council and Oxford City and County Council are already beginning to pave a path for EV by investing in public charging spaces in response to growing demand.

Local councils can shape the future of EVs by incorporating plans to change public parking spots into electric charging stations. In order to do this, before pulling tenders together, local councils should consider consulting with OLEV on charge point implementation or start appointing an OLEV accredited installer who can offer smart charge points and a portal to monitor kWh usage throughout the network.

Local governments have a fantastic opportunity to be a leading light to shape the future of commuter transport and build a robust EV network for generations to come.

Article by Lee Feihn, NewMotion, UK Business Developer