How local authorities can help kickstart the EV revolution

Tiffany Cloynes, partner at law firm Geldards, looks at what funding is available to local authorities to install easy electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure and some of the challenges that continue to face a widespread increase being implemented.

Central government announced in August 2019 an extra £2.5m for local authorities to install more than 1,000 additional charge points which can be built into existing structures. This funding is to support the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme launched in 2017 (‘the Scheme’).

To date, statistics indicate 16 local authorities have installed more than 1,200 charging points by reference to the Scheme.

However, at least a quarter of local authorities have, according to a report by the Guardian in March 2019, slowed down their expansion of charging networks.

Eight local authorities responded to FOI Requests stating that they had no appropriate locations for installing new charging points, 107 said they had no plan to increase the number of charging points and 122 had a plan in place to increase the number.

There is, as we know, no duty on local authorities to provide electric charging points; it is for them to decide based on local priority. However, ‘range anxiety’ is an increasing phenomenon.

Infrastructure

The Scheme enables local authorities to apply for funding to install infrastructure. The Scheme is administered by the Energy Savings Trust and its purpose is to encourage low emission vehicles and increase the availability of on street charging points where off-street parking is unavailable.

The funding covers 75% of the capital costs of procuring and installing the charge point and an associated parking bay (if applicable). The maximum funding per chargepoint available is £7,500 but costs are coming down and all funding must be applied to new points only.

A local authority must secure a minimum of 25% of capital funding via its own funding or sources other than the fund.

The Scheme indicates it may fund innovative schemes including charging points which the local authority has also made commercially available.

In addition to residential streets, the Scheme also includes funding the provision of chargepoints in local authority owned car parks if they are nearby to residential areas which lack off street parking and where charging of vehicles could take place during the day and night for free ie no additional car parking fee is rendered.

Value for money

Local authorities will, of course, need to demonstrate how the project will deliver value for money and ensure compliance with procurement and state aid.

In addition to being accessible to local residents, the charging points must meet the technical specifications imposed by the scheme.

Any chargepoint must be maintained in a serviceable condition for three years from the date of installation and any chargepoint location should be looked at in the context of both current and anticipated future demand.

If the local authority wishes to designate an EV only parking bay, it will not be able to draw down its final claim under the Scheme until a traffic order is in place if it wishes to claim for any of the capital costs of the order.

If the local authority isn’t the relevant highway authority it will need to provide evidence of the Highway Authority’s consent as part of the application.

A local authority will, of course, need to consider its local transport plans, environmental policies, energy policies and health protection policies to ensure alignment with the development of its EV charging infrastructure. This should enable a local authority to ensure it has a realistic and deliverable plan to support the advance of ultra low emission vehicles.

Future proofing

New technology enables rapid charging which may be incorporated in street light column charge points as opposed to on street residential EV bays. Parking management policies should include provisions for management of EV charging points / bays where appropriate.

Issues, in addition to highway orders and timing, include:

  • Local authorities adopting different strategies, resulting in different experience of procurement and management systems;
  • Dealing with the changing pace of technology;
  • Differences of approach to responsibility for maintenance;
  • Some planning policies not dealing with EV charging.

In Wales, several areas could see an increase in charging points for electric vehicles, as a result of the award of funding from the UK government.

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has announced funding for the local authorities in Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen and further announcements are expected about funding for Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Powys and Swansea.

Clearly then, there will be a lot of requirements for local authorities to satisfy, as well as their legal obligations generally, but the ability for them to encourage the use of electric vehicles could lead to considerable environmental benefits for their areas.

Photo Credit – Pixabay