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How to boost public sector charging provision

Liberty Charge’s Neil Isaacson offers advice on how local authorities can deploy chargepoints at pace and at scale, and deliver a UK-wide publicly accessible EV charging infrastructure network

Neil Isaacson
01 August 2022
Neil Isaacson

 

As more and more local authorities address the urgent need to accelerate the electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure roll-out, clarity and straightforward objective advice on how to plan, implement and maintain a local charging network is in short supply.

Supporting local authorities is essential if the government’s ambition to install 300,000 chargepoints by 2030 is to be met, when the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will cease.

1. Raise awareness of benefits to residents

Members of the public who don’t yet own an EV, don’t tend to want charging infrastructure outside their homes. They don’t want what they don’t yet know they will need, and without positive reinforcement of the benefits that the EV charging roll out will bring, resident push back is likely to remain.  

Local authorities should and do use public consultations to promote the benefits of the EV charging rollout, such as reduced noise and air pollution. However, some local authorities lack budgets and resources to create the necessary hard-hitting campaigns. Local businesses can help by electrifying their fleets and providing at-work charging. But the shift in attitudes in favour of owning and maintaining an EV should sit with national government.  

Indeed, in the Local Authority Insight Report, Transforming the delivery of local charging networks across the UK, many councillors echoed this sentiment, believing that more support was required from government to shift driver attitudes away from polluting petrol and diesel vehicles.  

2. Understand the timescales

While 2030 is more than seven years away, creating the necessary policies and strategies, undertaking the required due diligence, conducting public consultations, and chargepoint build and deployment can take 12 months and sometimes as long as three years.  

And 2030 is not the deadline. We need infrastructure to be in place to instil consumer confidence to make the switch. We also need to accommodate the growing demands for charging from the increased volume of EVs. When looking at timescales of years not months, the time has to be now to change that. 

3. Use data to identify the right locations

It can be challenging for local authorities to identify and prioritise public chargepoint locations, often with an incomplete picture of local demand to work from. While the current needs and wants of residents is important, taking an objective, scientific approach that also considers the future adoption of EVs and anticipates demand, will ensure supply meets both immediate and future requirements.

Liberty Charge has a proprietary data-led solution which provides insights on which residents will be reliant on on-street charging, as well as logistical data on pavement width, planning regulations and power supply, to inform local authorities of the number and the exact on-street location of chargepoints required. 

4. Attract private sector funding

There is growing appetite from the private sector to invest in EV infrastructure. However, some sites continue to present challenges, often due to high installation costs or lower forecast levels of demand.

Given the significant growth in the number of public chargers required over the coming years, and the limited amount of public funding available, a key role for councils will be to ensure they attract sufficient levels of private funding to deliver this vital infrastructure.  

In order to do this, local authorities will need to make sure what they bring to market is commercially viable, for example with sufficiently long contracts for chargepoint operators (CPOs) to be able to recover their investment. An effective approach to achieving this is for the local authority to offer a portfolio of sites to the market as a concession contract, including a combination of sites with mixed commercial viability. 

5. Avoid exclusivity clauses  

Exclusivity clauses are obviously beneficial to the winning CPO, but rarely a good thing for residents or local authorities. While they may offer some short-term contractual benefits, the trade-off is less competition in a local area, which in typical market conditions often results in higher tariff costs and a poorer service. Lack of competition is also less likely to incentivise CPOs to compete to achieve better reliability when maintaining and future-proofing the local network.  

If exclusivity clauses are agreed, then there should be provision in the contract for local authorities to introduce an additional supplier if the original supplier falls short of a stated uptime of at least 95%. It will be this risk that keeps CPOs that were awarded exclusivity focused on on-going delivery. 

6. Carefully assess a CPO’s credentials  

As the marketplace matures and the private sector takes on a greater role in delivering much needed EV infrastructure, public-private partnership contracts are likely to be long-term: ~15 years. Due diligence is essential to ensure partners are capable of meeting the needs of their residents. Asking the right questions in a tender process is only the start; it’s about creating partnerships built on trust.

We strongly advise that local authorities scrutinise investors, funding, business plans and supply chains of potential suppliers and speak to existing customers to learn first-hand how they have performed, and how easy they are to work with. All credible suppliers should be willing to provide you with at least three contacts.

Visit the local authority EV Infrastructure Hub to access further advice.  
 
Download the Local Authority Insight Report: Transforming the delivery of local charging networks across the UK to find out why have one-third of local authorities not even developed a strategy or a plan? How are they resourcing the work with countless other priorities to manage? What will drive the significant change of pace required in EV infrastructure roll out? 
https://www.libertycharge.com/local-authority-survey/

Neil Isaacson is chief executive of Liberty Charge

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