The UK Government has committed to the UK achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
This mission involves a wholesale reform of the UK's energy, transport, residential and business properties, which collectively account for well over 50% of UK emissions. Each sector presents its own challenges, and this article discusses the latest efforts in relation to the transport market.
The Government has previously announced that as of 2030, no new purely petrol or diesel (internal combustion engine or "ICE") cars can be sold in the UK. Post 2035, no new hybrids, only 100% electric cars may be sold. Given there are over 30 million petrol or diesel vehicles on the road, this will be a huge challenge. For most buyers, there are three principal concerns about buying an electric car:
- The cost – an average family saloon or hatchback costs £40,000 or more.
- The range – some electric vehicles (EVs) struggle to cover 100 miles on a charge although the market leaders are now approaching 500 miles, more or less equivalent to an ICE vehicle.
- The availability of charging points, especially for those living in non-urban areas.
As production volumes increase and battery costs reduce, the first issue is likely to be addressed by the market. Government grants are also available in many countries. Likewise, as battery technology advances and motors become more efficient and lighter, range will improve.
The third issue, however, remains problematic, with most charge-points currently found in London, or at motorway service stations. To address this issue, the Government has now announced that it intends to bring in revisions to the UK building regulations to require specified new and refurbished residential and non-residential properties to have EV charging facilities. Specifically, new rules will mandate that:
- Every new home with associated parking within the site boundary, including those created from a change of use, must have an EV charge point;
- Residential buildings undergoing major renovation that will have more than 10 parking spaces within the site boundary after the renovation is complete must have at least one EV charge point for each dwelling with associated parking within the site boundary and cable routes in all spaces without charge points;
- All new non-residential buildings with more than 10 parking spaces within the site boundary of the building must have a minimum of one charge point and in addition to this, cable routes for one in five of the total number of spaces;
- All non-residential buildings undergoing a major renovation with more than 10 parking spaces within the site boundary after the renovation is complete must have a minimum of one charge point and in addition to this, cable routes for one in five spaces.
These new rules will clearly add to the costs of new and refurbished building projects. However, access to such facilities will increasingly be seen as a real value-add, if not a "must have" in the same way as access to the internet has become. It is therefore possible that the Government's new rules are simply bringing forward what will become a commercial reality in any case.
This policy adds to a number of existing initiatives to encourage the uptake of EVs, specifically:
- Rishi Sunak's 2020 Budget allocation of £500m to support the rollout of new rapid charging hubs so that EV drivers "are never more than 30 miles away" from a charging point;
- National Highways' plans to invest £11m in battery energy storage systems at service stations to aid uptake of EV charging points in areas where supply constraints impede installation;
- The Competition and Markets Authority's findings that Gridserve's exclusive arrangements with motorway service stations were anti-competitive and that other operators should have access to service stations; and
- The Department for Transport's impending announcement to make public charging points more accessible for those wishing to charge away from home.
Charging stations are also increasingly found at rail station car parks, local authority-run car parks and larger retail centres.
Reliable, cost efficient and accessible EV charging infrastructure is essential if the UK is to meet its COP26 targets. As the technologies develop to allow for ultra-fast, sub-10 minute charging, the ultimate goal of ensuring that ownership of an EV is no more (or less) troublesome than an ICE will begin to become a reality. For those who already have their own garage or off-street parking and an EV with a 400 mile plus range, that reality is surely nearly here. The Government is sure to bring in further measures and funding to stimulate further investment in this growing market.