Accelerating the ban on carbon-emitting cars demonstrates the UK’s commitment to tackling climate change – now the hard work creating a national charging network begins, says Maria Connolly, partner and head of clean energy at UK law firm TLT.
The drive towards an electric vehicle (EV) future has just stepped up a gear, with the Government’s recent announcement that it will bring its slated ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars forward from 2040 to 2035, with hybrid vehicles now included as well.
It’s an ambitious target which sends a clear signal to the world that the UK is taking its commitment to national carbon neutrality seriously and that it is prepared to take bold and decisive steps as it leads the way in the transition towards “clean” transportation.
Such commitment from policymakers is essential, as auto-manufacturers, investors and a growing number of consumers are already embracing the electric vehicle as a twin engine to propel the auto industry forward while striving to reduce carbon emissions.
However, Government must now put words into action and create the conditions necessary to facilitate a wholesale shift to electric vehicles to happen.
What is initially needed is a full, nationally rolled-out car charging infrastructure programme. This is something that will require a huge amount of investment and strategic planning to implement over the next decade.
Currently, not only are many more charging points needed across Britain to meet forecast growth in demand, genuine standardisation and interoperability is still missing on the ground (despite being inscribed in law).
As a result of this fragmentation, EV owners may not be able to use all available charging points – clearly a serious barrier to adoption.
The Government’s promise last autumn to invest £1 billion into the auto industry and £400 million in electric vehicle charging infrastructure was a positive move, but more can and must be done.
In order to develop a charging network that provides those much-needed industry-wide standards and reduce costs through economies of scale, it is vital that Government partners with industry.
It may need to consider changing rules to allow vehicle-to-grid connectivity and clarify whether charging infrastructure can be directly connected to transmission networks.
Incentivising public-private partnerships (PPP) to promote the development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, notably for kerbside and “destination” plug-in points (i.e. in town/retail/leisure centre car parks) may well also be needed.
After all, for the EV revolution to be truly successful, potential vehicle owners must feel confident about the convenience and reliability of the UK’s charge-up network.
With supply and demand for EVs increasing, a well-designed national charging infrastructure is the missing link to connecting and powering a world-leading decarbonised vehicle transportation system.
The UK Government has a critical role to play as an enabler as well as a driver by settling these outstanding regulatory questions and working with the private sector to make a success of vehicle transformation.
It has set the agenda – now the hard work of putting those pledges into practice begins in earnest.