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FUNDING WARNING: Shortage of electric vehicle charging points

FUNDING WARNING: Shortage of electric vehicle charging points

Labour's former candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, Jessie Joe Jacobs pictured with an electric car and charging point, Image: Ian Cooper/Teesside Live

A councillor has warned of a one-size-fits-all approach to funding electric vehicle charging points after research suggested a “black hole” shortfall in the devices amounting to nearly 250,000 over the next decade.

Councillor Louise Westbury, cabinet member for climate change and the environment at Redcar and Cleveland Council, said the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in largely rural boroughs like hers was far more expensive than in more populated areas.

She said the council had taken it upon itself to provide charging infrastructure, despite no additional money previously being made available to do so, as it had a “moral responsibility”.

The research on behalf of UK100, a network of mayors and local council leaders who are pushing for a 100% switch to clean energy by 2050, said there were eight times as many electric vehicle charging points in London than the North-East.

charging point

A close up of a charging point for an electric vehicle, Image: East Riding of Yorkshire Council

It said 136 local council areas had five or fewer rapid charging points and would struggle to keep up with demand for them.

The Government is banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 and it is anticipated that about 18 million battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will be on the road by that stage.

About 22% of the UK’s carbon emissions currently come from the transport sector.

In a report UK100 said that at the current rate of growth of public charging points there would be 76,849 chargers by 2032, a shortfall of almost a quarter-of-a-million (248,151) that were needed to meet expected demand.

The Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles has conceded that there is an uneven geographical distribution of charging devices within the UK and while some local councils have bid for Government funding, others have not.

Latest DfT figures show that in the Tees Valley Hartlepool has the fewest number of public charging devices (11), followed by Middlesbrough (30), with Stockton having the most (85).

table

A table showing the number of electric vehicle charging devices in each local authority area in the Tees Valley, Image: DfT

Cllr Westbury said her council had provided electric vehicle chargers at seven locations across the borough for public use, as well as at three council depot locations.

She said: “These were fully funded by the council, including the grid connectivity works.

“We know that usage is not particularly high at the moment, but that demand is increasing.

“We also know that the quality and extent of the provision in the borough needs to improve and we have plans to expand both within the next 12 months.”

Cllr Westbury said the council faced “challenges” over funding and the capacity of the grid which supplies electric vehicle chargers with power, which had a huge bearing on what could be achieved.

She said: “In cities and next to motorways, connectivity is relatively straightforward.

“In less population-dense and rural areas such as Redcar and Cleveland, connection can be extremely challenging, if not completely prohibitive because of the costs involved.

“These connection costs can vastly outstrip the costs of the charging points themselves.”

Cllr Westbury added: “Councils are not currently required to provide any electric vehicle charging infrastructure, but the moral responsibility we feel means that we are doing so, despite no additional funding being available to facilitate this.

“Having to apply for contributions towards installations is not the same as having direct additional funding to enable councils to just get on with things including the all-important grid connection.

“This cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach.

“The simple facts are that the installation of electric vehicle charging in less populous and rural areas is far more expensive and therefore should be funded accordingly.

“Doing our part to tackle climate change is a top priority for Redcar and Cleveland Council and we want the momentum created by the COP 26 climate change summit to improve the availability of funding and support for councils like those in the Tees Valley.”

‘Watch this space’ 

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said his Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) was investing up to £2m to pay for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, money which is being made available to local councils.

He said: “As our region continues to lead the way in the UK’s clean energy ambitions, we are working hard to make our area cleaner, healthier and safer in many ways.

“This can be seen in the huge investments coming from low-carbon industries, the thousands of jobs we are creating in these innovative sectors and our status as the UK’s hydrogen transport hub.

“But we’re also driving change in the short-term, on a more personal level, by encouraging local people to look at cleaner ways to travel around our region.

“To that end, we’re investing up to £2m to address the lack of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in public car parks across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool and to make it easier, smoother and more convenient than ever to drive an electric vehicle here.

“A study is well under way to determine the best spots for these charging points and we’ll have more good news on this project soon, so watch this space.”

TVCA said existing electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the Tees Valley had evolved over time and was located on a variety of sites including local authority car parks, businesses, petrol stations, supermarkets, hotels, schools and colleges and health care facilities.

But there were several issues with the current level of provision since the infrastructure had been put in place by lots of different providers and there was no consistency to it.

It also said some of the infrastructure was now outdated, had been poorly maintained in some instances and may even not be functional.

UK100 said local authorities needed to be given greater funding, along with powers to force energy companies to install new electric vehicle charging points in order to enable a seamless vehicle charging network across the UK.

It cited a report by the Climate Change Committee, an independent statutory body which reports to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the impact of climate change – which said that while charge point grant programmes have been rolled out there was the “absence of an overarching strategy” to support local councils to ensure that the required number was available on a timely basis.

Polly Billington, chief executive officer of UK100, said: “Our research shows that the UK’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure is going to creak under demand with a ‘black hole’ of a quarter of a million chargers.

“We need a coherent plan to massively accelerate our investment in the infrastructure that will enable us to meet net carbon zero pledges.

“Consumers are willing to do the right thing, but only if they have confidence the networks are in place.”

 

Words: Stuart Arnold, Local Democracy Reporter


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