Government unveils electric vehicle infrastructure strategy

United Kingdom

On 25 March 2022, the UK Government published its Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy (the “Strategy”). The Strategy aims to address two critical areas to the electric vehicle (“EV”) industry: 1) deployment of rapid chargers on strategic road networks and 2) availability of local on-street charging.

The Strategy forms an important part of the Government’s wider net zero by 2050 plans, as transport is currently the UK’s largest emitting domestic sector. The Strategy notes that fit for purpose EV charging infrastructure now stands as the single biggest challenge to decarbonisation of the transport industry.

This article provides a brief overview of the Strategy, the opportunities it brings and the timelines under which it aims to be delivered.

Key takeaways

  • By 2030, the Government expects the number of public chargepoints to increase from 29,600 currently to 300,000, which will coincide with the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles. The envisaged number of chargepoints is almost 5x the number of fuel pumps available to consumers in 2022.

  • In Spring 2022, the Government will launch the Local EV Infrastructure (“LEVI”) Fund, allowing local authorities to bid for funding to plan and deliver local public charging infrastructure.

  • To accelerate the rollout of 6,000 rapid chargepoints across England’s motorways and major A-roads by 2035, the Government will consult on a Rapid Charging Fund between Winter 2022 and Spring 2023.

Government’s action plan

The Strategy makes clear that the Government aims to make public chargepoints available to everyone. It envisages EV charging to become effortless, be it on- or off-street. It has identified that a reliable network of rapid chargepoints will be crucial in gaining consumers’ trust. The Strategy focusses on the following areas:

1. Shift in focus of chargepoint subsidies

The Strategy confirms the ending of subsidy support for home charging and workplace charging at the earliest appropriate time. Instead, drivers without their own driveways and garages, as well as small accommodation business and the charity sector, will be able to apply for financial support, with a view to making EV charging accessible to all.

2. Ultra-rapid charging network on major roads

Cooperation with the private sector is expected to deliver at least six ultra-rapid, open access chargepoints (150-350 kW) at every motorway service area in England by the end of 2023. The Government expects the network to comprise around 6,000 rapid chargepoints across England’s motorways and major A roads by 2035.

To meet the target, the Government plans to launch a £950m Rapid Charging Fund, which will allow electricity network infrastructure to be installed at strategic locations ahead of chargepoint demand to enable provision of chargepoints where this is not yet commercially attractive.

3. Chargepoint strategies on a local level

To scale up the rollout of public chargepoints on streets, local governments will be able to bid for a £10m share of funding from the £450m LEVI Fund each. Local councils who have not previously received EV infrastructure funding and those with a low number of chargepoints will be given priority. An additional £50m of the LEVI will be allocated to upskilling and employing staff to work on public chargepoint planning and implementation.

The Strategy proposes that a strict obligation be put on the local authorities to develop and implement local charging strategies to plan for the transition to a zero-emission vehicle fleet.

The Government will explore options for introducing a unified consent process for installing EV chargepoints, including consideration of a streamlined process for obtaining both the planning permission consent and the highways consent for the traffic management works at the same time.

4. Cooperation with Ofgem

An exponential growth in the number of EVs will place a significant burden on the energy system. To ensure smooth integration, the Government will work with Ofgem to encourage ‘smart’, off-peak charging (see our previous Law-Now here) and keep connection costs low so as not to deter chargepoint deployment. An ‘electricity networks strategic framework’ will be published in spring 2022 which will set out an overall approach with an aim to improve affordability of connections. The Government is also considering sharing chargepoint location and energy data to support network planning. See our previous Law-Now on Ofgem’s key priorities for the EV transition here.

5. Regulatory changes to make chargepoint reliable and easy to use

The Strategy confirms that the Government is planning to propose new legislation aimed at improving user experience with public chargepoints, (see our Law-Now covering the consultation here). It envisages:

  • enabling drivers to access open data and real time information about public chargepoints;

  • a single pricing metric of pence per kWh will be required;

  • standardising payment methods;

  • requiring all publicly available rapid chargepoints of 50kW and over will have to meet 99% minimum reliability standards by the end of 2023, helping eradicate the so-called ‘range anxiety;

  • introducing new accessibility standards for chargepoints with the British Standards Institute (BSI) or chargepoints 

From June 2022, all new homes with associated parking as well as new non-residential properties will be required to have chargepoints installed. Consultations on reforming the Traffic Regulations Orders are also planned for this summer, with the aim to make the installation process of on-street chargepoints more straightforward. Changes to chargepoint design standards to improve accessibility and signage are also in the pipeline.

A week after the Strategy was unveiled, the EV Energy Taskforce published its ‘Charging the Future’ report. It identifies charging near the home and en route rapid charging along the strategic road network as two key priorities to deliver the EV charging infrastructure that will meet the needs of EV drivers.

Comment

The long-term aim of the Strategy is to make EV charging more accessible, cheaper and easier than refuelling a petrol or diesel car. The cooperation between the public and private sectors will be important to deliver the Strategy, which is a positive indication of political support to developers and investors. Ambitious as it may appear, the Strategy contains many policies that have previously been announced/consulted on. There have been concerns from motoring groups that the rollout of chargepoints will not meet demand and some in the industry anticipate that more action will be needed to provide infrastructure in rural areas - consenting, grid connections and land rights continue to be barriers to deployment.

The Government will review its approach to the Strategy by 2023 and work with bodies such as Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce (EVET), the Automotive Council, and the EV Fleet Accelerator to monitor progress made. It will establish metrics to measure performance and decide whether further changes to the regulatory framework are required in 2023 and beyond. The Government is keen to emphasise its proactive approach to rolling out EV charging infrastructure ahead of 2030.