Clean, Green, Driving Machines: Charging the ULEV Revolution (Part Two)
There is often a perception among interested observers that the UK is adept at making policies, but not always good at implementing them. Good at identifying issues, but then not taking decisive action to tackle them. It is also apparent that technology is moving at a pace that regulation and policy frameworks are struggling to cope with. There are challenges ahead in order to deliver the goals around low carbon transport and deployment of ULEVs. The task now is to be part of the solution, to overcome the challenges and be part of delivering – not just talking about it.
There is a very broad church of stakeholders with a role to play – from governments and public bodies to car manufacturers, utility providers, DNOs, energy developers, business owners and property owners, residential developers, charging-point developers and installers, lenders and investors – not to mention professional advisors (yes, including lawyers). We have had discussions with several clients and contacts who are active in this area, and who are giving detailed attention to seeking out the right opportunities and project partners to take things forward.
Technology is improving all the time (for example in the capability of batteries and the related charging facilities); car manufacturers are finding and will continue to find ways to reduce costs and bring the acquisition of a ULEV closer to the mind of the consumer, and as time passes the hope is that the population will pay more credence to the environmental benefits than simply the bottom-line impact on their wallet (albeit of course levels of support and subsidy may be required to set things on their way).
The public nature of the charging network, particularly in Scotland, will not of itself be sufficient to meet the demands of the future. It is great that initiatives are being run by local authorities in cities looking to be at the forefront of advancements in this area – but for the scale of the movement that is required, private sector input is a must. We have seen initial moves by various players – but at this point, more time and money is being spent on the vehicles themselves than the infrastructure to back it up.
Solutions also need to be developed for those with no access to off-street parking. The appropriate answer may depend on each location but there is an opportunity for each of local authorities, residential builders and developers, charging infrastructure providers and property owners to consider how they might make best use of their projects and landholdings to put in place or be part of a network that is more accessible to those with no driveway.
Might this be addressed by designated public charging / re-fuelling areas in every new development? The introduction of public charging hubs in city-centre areas, or increased charging facilities at business parks, shopping centres, leisure centres and workplaces? And will there be a need for a roll-out of charging / re-fuelling hubs in place of petrol station forecourts?
For those who have existing energy-generating installations, advancements in this area may open the door to initiatives that neatly align the need for improvements in the required grid and charging infrastructure with the existing project.
Private sector investment will be critical, and with the current level of interest in this area there is little doubt that many different types of investors will be considering how they can get involved. Certainly equity investment seems more likely in the short term, however with the range of innovative models that have been developed in other sectors, we believe that many lenders are keeping a close eye on this space and are keen to support initiatives.
It is clear that this is a market that is on the move – and what is required is for the opportunities to be seized to avoid this being labelled as a classic example of a positive policy lacking in implementation.
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