NIC welcomes electric vehicle infrastructure strategy

Government commits £1.6bn to expand UK charging network, with tenfold expansion in chargepoints by 2030.

The National Infrastructure Commission has welcomed the UK government’s newly published Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy, while stressing the need for rapid delivery to provide drivers with the confidence to switch from petrol and diesel vehicles.

The strategy would mean a huge boost for the UK’s charging network, with plans to support the UK market to reach 300,000 public electric vehicle (EV) chargepoints by 2030 – equivalent to almost five times the number of fuel pumps on our roads today.

Backed by £1.6bn under the new strategy, ministers claim that charging will become easier and cheaper than refuelling a petrol or diesel car, while new legal requirements on operators will see drivers of EVs able to pay by contactless, compare charging prices and find nearby chargepoints via apps.

The new strategy sets out the government’s aim to expand the UK’s charging network, so that it is robust, fair and covers the entire country – as well as improving the consumer experience at all chargepoints, with significant support focused on those without access to off-street parking, and on fast charging for longer journeys.

£500m will be invested to bring high quality, competitively priced public chargepoints to communities across the UK. This includes a £450m Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) fund, which will boost projects such as EV hubs and innovative on-street charging, so those without driveways don’t miss out on cleaner transport.

A freshly launched pilot scheme for the LEVI funding will see local authorities bid for a share of £10m in funding, allowing selected areas to work with industry and boost public charging opportunities.

Meanwhile, the LEVI funding includes up to £50m to fund staff to work on local challenges and public chargepoint planning – ensuring that any development complements all other zero emission forms of travel, such as walking and cycling.

The existing £950m Rapid Charging Fund will support the rollout of at least 6,000 high powered super-fast chargepoints across England’s motorways by 2035. This comes on top of ministers’ pledges to continue addressing any barriers to private sector rollout of chargepoints, such as local councils delaying planning permission and high connection costs.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “We’re powering ahead with plans to help British people go electric, with our expanding charging network making journeys easier right across the country. Clean transport isn’t just better for the environment, but is another way we can drive down our dependence on external energy supplies. It will also create new high-skilled jobs for our automotive and energy sectors and ultimately secure more sustainable and affordable motoring for all.”

The strategy forms part of wider government plans to reduce the UK’s reliance on imports of foreign oil, improving the security of the UK’s energy supply and reducing the country’s vulnerability to volatility in global energy prices.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “The scale of the climate challenge ahead of us all is well known and decarbonising transport is at the very heart of our agenda. That’s why we’re ensuring the country is EV-fit for future generations by the end of this decade, revolutionising our charging network and putting the consumer first.”

Bridget Rosewell, national infrastructure commissioner, said: “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. Government has now accepted the scale of the challenge and the need to empower local authorities to help ensure chargepoint coverage is accessible and fairly priced for all drivers. We’re shifting into drive mode, and we have a decent map for the road ahead, but we now need to keep our foot down and actually deliver the infrastructure needed to give drivers confidence to make the switch.”

Mark Richards, partner and EMEA leader energy, environment & infrastructure practice at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP, said: “The UK government’s national charging strategy provides much welcome direction towards the goal of building a world beating EV charging network. Government policy support is essential as it drives confidence for our real estate, infrastructure and industrial clients who will be called upon to provide significant private investment to scale the vision of a nationwide charging network. Abundant charging gives confidence to drivers and fleet owners to make the switch from vehicles powered by increasingly expensive fossil fuels to BEVs. The environmental benefits and opportunities for ESG compatible private sector investment will be enormous.”

Louise Dalton, partner in the energy and climate change team at law firm CMS, gave a slightly more cautious response to the new strategy. “Although this announcement is a welcome demonstration of the government’s commitment to a net-zero transport system, serious challenges remain,” she said. “Constraints in relation to grid connection, consenting and land rights for the necessary infrastructure present practical barriers to the deployment of EV charging points. Further, there is the continued need for holistic, cross-sectoral collaboration between the EV charging sector, the wider transport community, and the energy industry.”

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