October 23, 2017

Electric Car Momentum Gathers Pace

Electric Vehicles Get A Boost From Government’s Automated And Electric Vehicles Bill

Earlier this year the government announced that it planned to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans, including hybrids, from 2040 amid fears that rising levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) posed a major risk to public health.

The commitment was part of the government’s clean air plan which was needed because of the unnecessary and avoidable impact that poor air quality was having on people’s health, Ministers said.

The government believes that poor air quality poses the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, costing up to £2.7bn in lost productivity in one year alone.

The future’s electric

The direction of Britain’s future mobility then seems firmly set in one direction, and one direction alone.

But the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK to date has been minimal at best, and there is clearly still a long way to go in achieving the government’s target.

Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that, although battery EVs have increased sales by 51% this year, this adds up to just 9,030 vehicles, a disappointing result in a new car market totalling more than 2 million new vehicles in the first nine months of this year.

So what’s holding back sales of EVs and how is the government going to achieve its objective of phasing out the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2040 – just 23 short years away?

Barriers to electrification

Most experts agree that the greatest barrier to increased electrification in the UK is ‘range anxiety’ exacerbated by the lack of readily accessible recharging networks.

However, new measures contained in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill this summer require the installation of charge points for electric vehicles at motorway service areas and large fuel retailers across the UK, operating to a set of common technical and operational standards.

These new charge points will be required to be smart points, capable of interacting with the grid in order to manage demand for electricity right across the country and the new move will ensure charge points are convenient to access and work seamlessly throughout the UK, believes the government.

Is home charging an option?

There has been much speculation as to whether the UK’s electricity grid can cope with the numbers of EVs necessary to meet the government’s 2040 target.

An EV can more than double the demand on the local electricity network when charging at peak times from home. If many homes in a local area adopt EVs and all charge at peak times, this could have a significant impact on the local electricity network.

The costs to reinforce such local networks, by replacing cables, overhead lines or substation equipment, have been estimated to be at least £2.2 billion by 2050.

However, it is expected that such costs could be avoided by the widespread adoption of smart chargers, which can facilitate managed charging at times of peak demand, as well as providing added functionality for electric car owners.

Government support for EV charging

The government has a number of grant funded schemes in place to incentivise the wider installation of EV charge-points throughout the UK.

For example, to encourage the installation of more home charging stations, the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) provides grant funding of up to 75% towards the cost of installing EV charge-points at domestic properties across the country.

There is also the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS), a voucher-based scheme that provides support towards the up-front costs of the purchase and installation of charge-points for eligible businesses, charities and public sector organisations.

Local authorities, meanwhile, can take advantage of the On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS) which provides grant funding for LAs towards the cost of installing on-street residential charge-points for plug-in EVs.

Growing EV infrastructure in London

There are similar incentives in the capital. Transport for London (TfL) recently announced that almost £4.5 million has been allocated to London boroughs to install EV charging infrastructure on London’s streets.

A total of 25 boroughs, each receiving up to £300,000, will install up to 1,500 standard-speed on-street charging points in residential areas, bringing Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s long-term vision for zero-carbon transport in the capital another step closer.

The new funding will provide residential charge points to assist those without access to off-street parking to make the switch from polluting vehicles to zero-emission vehicles. They will be in addition to the network of rapid charge points TfL is installing by the end of 2020.

The charging initiative is part of the Mayor’s draft Transport Strategy, which aims for all taxis and private hire vehicles to be zero-emission capable by 2033, for all buses to be zero emission by 2037, for all new road vehicles driven in London to be zero emission by 2040, and for London’s entire transport system to be zero emission by 2050.

EV implications for fleets

So what should those involved in fleet management make of all this? Clearly, there is still a long way to go before the government’s 2040 target even stands a chance of being reached.

In the interim, diesel is likely to remain the mainstay of many working fleets, particularly those that require long distances to be travelled and bearing in mind that Euro VI-compliant diesels with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems can offer emissions that are typically 90% NOx free.

However, in some urban situations where range is not an issue and where clean emissions are required to avoid prohibitive penalties, there are many electric options available now to meet fleet needs – most of which offer highly attractive tax and fiscal benefits.

Interested in Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs)?

If you are considering how alternative fuel vehicles could work for your business, check out our series of guides that will give you a great starting point in understanding what the pros and cons could be. We’ve also been researching the attitudes of drivers towards these vehicles and the new technology over a 12 month period – discover the findings in our report.

Click here to view our AFV guides.