Thursday, 30 June 2011

UK EV charging strategy announced: controversy

The UK OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles) issued today The Plug-In Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy, a well written document outlining its vision for EV charging in the UK.

It's key pronouncements:

- EVs are expected to account for roughly 6% to 8% of new vehicle sales by 2020.
- EV charging must be convenient, targeted and safe.
- majority of charging should take place at home at night.
- NOT a 'charging point on every corner' strategy
- home charging should include smart metering.
- new housing should facilitate EV charging.
- work charging will become a Permitted Development Right (no planning approval required)
- businesses caught under the Carbon Reduction Commitment can discount electricity for
  EVs from their total consumption.
- encourage local authorities to mandate businesses to install charging points in new
 workplace developments under the National Planning Policy Framework.
- establish a National Chargepoint Directory for manufacturers and operators to make
 information available in one place.
- support a common standard for plug-in vehicle smartcards issued by the Plugged-In Places
 to access their infrastructure, making it easier for users to access more than one scheme.
- promote Type 2 charging connectors (the IEC62196-2 Type 2) in public places (and
 therefore ending support for the current 3-pin J1772 connectors used by the G-Wiz and other
 first generation EVs).
- install 50 rapid chargers at key locations to facilitate long journeys.

The  Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ Electric Vehicle Group, the Energy Retail Association and the Energy Networks Association are tasked with specifying how back office functions for recharging infrastructure will operate and ensuring recharging occurs off-peak.

No doubt some commentators will say that this represents a climb down by the government in terms of its commitment to electric vehicles as a result of the tough financial state of the economy. This is undoubtedly correct and It may result in a slowdown in EV adoption. But it shouldn't.

The truth was always that most charging will be done at home and at work. Petrol stations with the best locations can be adapted to fuel EVs and we will have everything that we need. A relatively small number of charging stations will be required on major roads, in city centre car parks, parking bays and in supermarket car parks - representing a good commercial opportunity for private enterprise. We just need to collectively accept that we do not need a huge network of public charging stations before we buy EVs and not allow ourselves to get stuck in a chicken-and-egg situation with regard to electric vehicles and EV charging infrastructure.

The biggest barrier to EV adoption is not charging infrastructure but the high price of electric cars. OEMs need to learn how to build affordable EVs. The government needs to mandate for an 'Urban M1' class of vehicle (as I have written previously on this blog).

What is also urgently needed is a concerted programme of education by government and EV industry explaining why a widespread charging infrastructure is not required before you buy an EV. Confusion reigns currently and explanations not incentives are the solution.