HM Insights

Charging forward: is the UK ready for the Electric Vehicle revolution?

The move away from the internal combustion engine to battery power is slowly gathering pace with every major car manufacturer due to release an electric vehicle (EV) in one form or another over the next few years.

These moves are in part driven by rising Co2 emissions and looming financial penalties for breaching EU targets in 2021, while governments in Scotland and the UK are committed to a net-zero emissions future.

The number of electric vehicles being registered in the UK is rising fast, but can drivers be confident that the infrastructure will be in place to support vast numbers of EVs coming on to our roads over the next few years? Here we look at the landscape for EVs and how far legislation might go to speed up the move to electric.

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What are the manufacturers doing?

Jaguar Land Rover announced earlier this year that it is investing hundreds of millions of pounds to build a range of EVs in the UK, a significant step in the delivery of the company’s commitment to offering customers electrified options for all new models from 2020.

Volkswagen revealed the ID.3 on the eve of the Frankfurt motor show, the German brand's first purpose-built pure EV which is widely acknowledged to be as important to Volkswagen as the original Beetle or mk1 Golf.

Audi is already fast-tracking a programme that will see the launch of 20 pure EVs by 2025 and Volvo forecasts that by 2025 around 50% of the cars they produce will be EVs and it has placed electrification at the core of its future business.

The last few years have seen demand for EVs in the UK grow from 3,500 registrations in 2013 to nearly 60,000 registrations in 2018. The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that so far this year total EV registrations are just over 54,000 to take a record 2.7% market share with pure EV registrations more than double than at this point last year.

The charging network

The UK already has one of the largest EV charging networks in Europe, with public charging points at over 10,000 locations. According to the charging point information platform, Zap-map, over 3000 charge points have been installed across the UK in the past 12 months and new locations are being added all the time.

However, when you compare the number of EVs registered to the number of charging points available, it highlights just how inadequately the charging infrastructure is keeping up with the industry and the public desire to move to EVs.

It is calculated that currently there are 15 EVs per charging point, with that figure rising to an astonishing 94 EVs for every fast-charging point.

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018

Access to the public charging infrastructure must improve, particularly for those who are travelling without returning to their homes or who do not have access to driveways.

The good news is that the number of available charging points is due to rapidly increase over the next few years due to Part 2 of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018, which promises improved access to "smart" charging points in strategic locations, giving the government powers to introduce regulations to force upgrades to the network if necessary.

Firstly, the Act allows for regulations to achieve technical interoperability between chargepoints. New rules on compatibility could see the introduction of standardised connection sockets and a common method of payment across the network to ensure that drivers can use any public chargepoint without special adaptors or having to download multiple service providers' apps.

The government has already announced that it wants to see all new rapid EV chargepoints provide a ‘pay as you go’ debit or credit card payment option by spring 2020 but, at present, this is guidance rather than a legislative measure.

The location of public charging points is due to be regulated with all motorway service areas and large petrol stations required to have some provision for fuel for EVs. This will ensure that there is adequate provision for refuelling on longer journeys which is significant as, although 95% of trips in the UK are less than 25 miles, journey range is one of the main factors discouraging EV use.

Details of the regulations are to follow but they could also include reliability measures such as guaranteeing that public charge points are available 24 hours a day and are supported by a maintenance service.

The Act introduces other powers to improve convenience and reliability by providing for open data on the location and real-time availability of charging points. The government has the power to introduce regulations requiring network service providers to release this information so that drivers can check that a charging point is available and in working order before pulling up to use it.

Finally, the Act provides a framework for regulations to achieve ‘smart’ capabilities of new chargepoints so that usage information can be relayed to National Grid and supply and demand on the electricity grid can be intelligently balanced. Cyber-security protection is also critical to managing risks to the electricity grid through a cyber-attack and the government has
the power to impose minimum cyber-security standards on smart chargepoints.

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles is currently consulting on draft smart charging regulations to be made under the Act, although these will not be finalised until 2020.

Road to Zero – ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles

By 2030 the government hopes to see at least 50% of new car sales being ultra low emission and, as set out in the Air Quality Plan, it is committed to banning the sale of new petrol and  diesel cars by 2040 to help achieve net-zero emissions in the UK by 2050.

Scotland has an even more ambitious target, looking to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 under the new Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill and pledging to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2032. The Road to Zero strategy sets out the process for achieving the net-zero commitment, and developing the EV charging infrastructure to cope with the energy demands of EVs is central to its success.

The expansion of the EV charging infrastructure received a significant boost following the launch of the government’s Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund (CIIF). The CIIF allocates funding of £400 million to the growth of the EV charging infrastructure, ensuring that the UK has the capability to realise the potential of ultra-low emission vehicles in combatting climate change.

Conclusion

There is a considerable amount of optimism about the UK’s move towards a net-zero emissions future given concerns around climate change, the volatility in oil prices and the falling costs of EVs.

Part 2 of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 should go some way to ease the concerns of drivers hesitant about buying an EV, especially as the government has made clear that it is prepared to intervene by using powers in the Act if the market is too slow to deliver improvements across the network.

The operative provisions are, however, to be implemented through secondary legislation which has not yet been published therefore it remains to be seen how far the government is prepared to go to persuade consumers to shift to EVs sooner rather than later.

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Harper Macleod's Energy & Natural Resources team provides advice on all areas of the energy supply chain. To find out how we could help you, please get in touch with a member of our team.

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