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Electric Vehicle charging – regulation that sparks a charge towards a better network

The UK government has published its Road to Zero strategy last year, paving the way for a significant expansion of both on and off-street electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities in the UK. The EV revolution is happening and the revenue streams and technologies available are driving the emergence of different business models and opportunities for the roll out of EV charging infrastructure.

All vehicles sold in the UK by 2040 must be zero carbon emissions. Although only 3-4% of all vehicles are now plug in, the demand for EVs is clearly rising. In 2011, only 1,000 EVs were sold in the UK. By 2018, this had increased to 485,000. EV sales increased 30% year-on-year to October 2018, and now constitute 5% of all new car sales.

The EV revolution also presents new opportunities. Potential revenues include direct sale and installation fees, and user charging fees. A wide range of retail revenue opportunities include vehicle to grid (V2G), vehicle to business (V2B) and vehicle to consumer (V2C) electricity off-take revenues.

Free charging may be offered in support of the host’s sustainability agenda or to attract footfall and increase dwell time. Fast charging (7-22kW) could be offered in locations such as shopping centres or car parks, rapid charging (43-50kW) is common in motorway service and petrol stations and ultra-fast (350kW) can offer 200km of range in 8 minutes.

On 15 July 2019 the government published two EV consultation papers which identified three main problems in providing EV charging infrastructure:

  1. the network is currently at a low density, at only around 15,000 charge points in the UK in contrast to 1 million EVs predicted to be on the road by 2023;
  2. EV charging at peak times could put an unsustainable strain on electricity networks and generation capacity, placing more reliance on smart charging (charging at different times of the day in response to signals such as electricity tariff information) and on V2G, V2B, V2C and utility scale battery storage to balance the demand; and
  3. without standardisation, the market will become fragmented in its development.

Without government intervention it is unlikely that the rate of transition to EVs set out in the Road to Zero strategy will be achieved. As a result, the government has proposed regulatory changes which will:

  1. require all new homes with a car parking space to have an EV charge point;
  2. set minimum requirements for EV charging infrastructure in new non-residential buildings with more than 10 car parking spaces and existing non-residential buildings with more than 20 car parking spaces; and
  3. require that private charge points comply with the British Standards Institution’s standards.

The majority of current EV charging demand is at home and overnight which allows demand on the grid to be balanced however, 30% of UK households do not have direct access to a garage, drive or car-port so for many, home charging will not be an easy option.

Key to the success of EVs will therefore be the engagement of local authorities, retailers, hotel chains, corporate landlords, property developers, the automotive industry, network providers and infrastructure stakeholders, all of whom have a vested interest in benefitting from these substantial opportunities.