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September 13, 2022

UK developers nix home chargers – report

Laws requiring all new build homes to have a charger were announced in November 2021

Britain’s biggest housebuilders privately lobbied for the government to throw out rules requiring electric car chargers to be installed in every new home in England, a media report said.

Construction firms Barratt Developments, Berkeley Group and Taylor Wimpey were among the companies who argued against the policy in responses to an official consultation seen by the Guardian newspaper. The “blatant lobbying efforts” were criticised by campaign group Transport & Environment.

The lack of chargers and widely reported related issues such as broken equipment and payment problems are seen as a barrier to uptake in the UK.

Laws requiring all new build homes to have a charger were announced by former UK prime minister Boris Johnson in November 2021 as the flagship policy of a speech to business leaders. While the details were overshadowed at the time, as the former prime minister meandered through his speech with a riff on the children’s cartoon character Peppa Pig, the government hoped 145,000 charging points would be installed thanks to the rules, the Guardian report said.

However, the paper added, the housebuilders who responded stated their opposition to the policy, citing cost concerns. They also warned that mandating installation could lock homeowners into obsolete technology, there could be a risk of electric shocks with some car chargers and the plan could prevent owners from choosing between cars with different plug types used in Asia and Europe.

Taylor Wimpey reportedly warned the installation of chargers could result in fewer homes being built. “We see practical and financial challenges associated with the proposed approach,” it wrote, citing “significant uncertainty over the financial costs”.

Berkeley Group said it did not believe chargers would be required at every parking space because people would charge at work or while “going to the gym”.

However, according to the Guardian, automotive industry leaders say charging at home is more attractive for users because it removes the need to search for available power outlets during the day and because smart tariffs allow people to charge overnight, when energy is cheapest.

The report said the housebuilders had argued their responsibilities should end with the laying of “cable routes” into homes, which could then be used for charging points, saying this would avoid the installation of infrastructure that went unused. In most cases, these would be simple – and cheap – pipes or gutters that could later carry cables to parking spaces.

Matt Finch, T&E’s UK policy manager, told the Guardian: “It’s absurd that housebuilders attempted to hold back progress and slow down the drive to net zero. In the future, all cars will be electric, and futureproofing new homes with charging infrastructure is an obvious step to take.

“The government should be applauded for resisting these blatant lobbying efforts.”

Cost concerns were a common theme in the housebuilders’ warnings, the paper reported. Barratt said mandatory chargers could cost it as much as GBP63m. Vistry Group, which recently changed its name from Bovis Homes, argued the requirement would cost it up to GBP14m.

The details of the lobbying efforts came in freedom of information disclosures obtained by the Guardian, as part of the building industry’s response to ministers consulting on the new charging point rules in late 2019, before the government introduced the measure.

Spokespeople for Berkeley Group and Taylor Wimpey told the daily they supported moves to encourage electric vehicle adoption and were now installing charging points in line with the law.

The Taylor Wimpey spokesperson reportedly said it had provided “constructive feedback” ahead of the rules being introduced, while arguing that a “wire-only approach” would have reduced the “need for retrofitting in the event of incompatible technology should electric vehicle charging technology advance”.

A Barratt spokesperson told the Guardian its view in 2019 was that there was not “sufficient supply chain capacity to support full electric vehicle charging point rollout nationwide”. Since then it had worked with the government on regulations which give customers choice while “being practical for the industry to deliver at scale”.

Vistry did not respond to the paper’s request for comment.

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