At least a quarter of local authorities in England and Wales have put a brake on the expansion of charging networks for electric vehicles, according to a media report.
More than 100 local councils told The Guardian they had no plans to increase the number of charging points they offer. Campaigners and politicians fear this could hinder the expansion of the UK’s electric fleet.
Electric vehicles are seen as key to government plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also have a role in cutting air pollution, the paper noted. This week Public Health England called for vastly more electric vehicles to replace petrol and diesel types, to tackle the problem of toxic air in cities.
The findings follow more than a decade of efforts to upgrade the UK’s infrastructure to encourage drivers to switch to electric.
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat former energy and climate change secretary, blamed cuts to council budgets for the lack of investment in charging points.
Of the 301 councils that responded to Freedom of Information requests, 107 said they had no plan to increase the number of charging points, 122 had a plan in place to increase the number, and 62 said they were taking steps to increase the number without having a formal plan to do so. Eight said they had no appropriate locations for installing new charging points. About 60 councils failed to respond.
“In some areas electric vehicle charging expansion will be driven by the market, and some areas will have different needs for charging infrastructure,” Judith Blake, the transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association told the Guardian. “Councils will play an important role but all areas will respond in a way that suits local circumstances.”
She said councils were taking other steps to tackle air pollution, such as promoting cycling and putting in place low-emission zones, as well as improving air quality monitoring. But she said a lack of long-term funding was “a clear barrier to such investment” and called on the central government to address the problem.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport told the paper: “Our vision is to have one of the best infrastructure networks in the world for electric vehicles, and we want charging points to be accessible, affordable and secure. Our Road to Zero strategy sets out our commitment to massively expand electric vehicle infrastructure, while the GBP400m public-private charging infrastructure investment fund will see thousands more charging points installed across the UK.”
A report by Aurora Energy Research found the number of EVs on the road in Great Britain could rise from 140,000 last year to as many as 35m by 2040.
The same report revealed that up to 3m C&I charging points could be required across Great Britain to support the mass roll-out of EVs by 2040. Given that there are now roughly 17k public charging points in Great Britain, there will be substantial infrastructure opportunities for commercial and industrial sites.
A study from Bloomberg New Energy Finance looking at the flexibility gaps in the future high-renewable energy systems for the UK found EVs do not ‘break’ the power generation system in a high-uptake renewables scenario, but there will be significant impacts on the transmission and distribution network.
Louis Shaffer, EMEA distributed energy management segment manager at Eaton, said: “As more car manufacturers begin to produce electric vehicles, there is still one major issue to consider. The UK simply does not have the infrastructure in place to charge these vehicles yet. If we want more electric cars on the road, we need more charging stations. However, this creates another issue: if everyone switched to electric vehicles tomorrow and wanted to charge their cars during peak times, the UK’s current grid infrastructure would struggle and may fail to cope with the sudden increase in demand.”
“To handle this increase in energy demand, changes must be made to provide new forms of flexibility. This means planning a national network of charging facilities – not just on roads but meeting high levels of consumer ‘away from home’ EV charging demand with charging facilities at the workplace, in public car parks and at the supermarket. Besides commercial and industrial ‘smart’ charging, technology such as energy storage and demand response will need to work alongside the growth of solar, wind and other green power sources to ensure the UK’s shift to an affordable, flexible, renewables-led power system which can sufficiently support a major leap in energy demand.
“To support current infrastructure, the government and industry will need to start investing in the technologies, services and modifications that can enable our energy system to cope with the dramatic shift in how we generate and use electricity. It’s up to UK regulators and government to help foster the right environment and encourage businesses and commercial property owners to play their part.”