Last week BP led an industry statement, issued in conjunction with National Grid, Centrica and Siemens (among others), calling on the UK Government to work with industry in setting out a vision to significantly improve ultra-fast charging technology and ultra-rapid charging infrastructure – fresh off the back of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change comments on the need to support the necessary changes to the network to facilitate the adoption of zero emission vehicles.

There has been a lot of discussion, interest and increased focus in this space over the last 12-18 months, with many businesses positioning themselves to seek to take advantage of the opportunities that exist. But as technology continues to develop at high-speed, and funding models are considered for the infrastructure work required, this statement shows that additional support and focus is still required to achieve the targets that have been set. Our previous blog posts refer to the government ambitions on phasing out new fossil fuel cars and vans, and how questions over infrastructure (amongst other things) have to be answered as part of the strategy to deliver that.

Although the industry statement relates to the position south of the border, the principle equally applies in Scotland, and Scotland of course has a more ambitious target date for the phasing out of fossil fuel cars and vans. The Scottish Government has its own agenda and proposals and has issued various papers that relate to or include a focus on low carbon transport.

Charging infrastructure

There certainly has been movement on the required charging infrastructure – we have seen various installers taking steps to install additional charging points and increase their own network across the country, and more are being installed at workplaces and public facilities such as shopping centres and service stations.

RBS and Landsec, for example, have recently committed to the EV100 - with RBS saying it will install a further 450 EV chargers across its estate by 2025 and take its total charge point stock past 600 by 2030, and Landsec pledging to have at least 300 charging points installed across its UK portfolio by the end of 2019. We’ve also recently seen the launch of the “Project Charge” £8.5m EV charging project collaboration between SP Energy Networks and Smarter Grid Solutions, which will seek to develop solutions for issues such as charging at home without off-street parking, looking particularly at how smart technology can be utilised in EV charging.

That being said, the launch of the proposed £400m Charging Infrastructure Fund by the UK Government is still awaited – although Zouk Capital were named preferred bidder in February this year as the proposed manager of the fund (which will see £200m of government funds matched by at least £200m of private investment).

Remaining challenges

One of the critical challenges remains the issue of those with no off-street parking. Dundee leads in Scotland in embracing a transition to zero emission vehicles, and has installed a few charging hubs designed to assist EV drivers with no means of having their own charger. It will be interesting to see how such a model may be further developed as demand increases across the UK.

In addition to infrastructure issues, it’s worth briefly touching on behavioural aspects in the drive to promote the uptake of low emission vehicles. It is clear there has been a shift towards people (individuals and businesses) looking to do their bit towards decarbonising transport – but moving to an EV (for example) is a big decision.

A particular focus should be (and is) educating and informing consumers by showing them how the technology works, explaining the practicalities of charging and encouraging people to try the vehicles for themselves. Work is also being done in developing smart charging solutions and providing flexible incentives (e.g. via smart charging tariffs) to both incentivise adoption and lessen demand on the system going forward.

We expect further focus and discussion over the coming months, and a real hope of that being matched by more positive action towards the delivery of tangible results.