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UK govt’s EV charge point funding is fair and generous

BY MATTHEW TREVASKIS, ECODRIVE. The recent announcement by the UK government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles, that it will provide a further £37m (US$55m) to support the expansion of an EV charging infrastructure, is a huge opportunity for enthusiastic regions to promote EVs.

The recent announcement by the UK government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles, that it will provide a further £37m (US$55m) to support the expansion of an EV charging infrastructure, is a huge opportunity for enthusiastic regions to promote EVs.

Under the new plans, four strands will provide capped 75% funding for installing home charging points, on-street charging and rapid charging for the key strategic road network with separate funding for government facilities and railway stations.

Funding for domestic charging points will support more than 20,000 installations, taking the sting out of the £800 (US$1,200) needed on top of the vehicle purchase price for a 240 Volt tethered cable home unit – normally supplied via an existing electricity supplier or the vehicle manufacturer’s partner utility company. This should also remove the spectre of drivers using ‘Mode 2’ charging from standard domestic sockets with inevitable extension cords, which causes not only thermal overload but also grounding concerns – particularly when the vehicle is outside due to UK installation conventions.

Whilst the likelihood of using domestic sockets for EV charging will now be lessened, most manufacturers still supply a domestic Mode 2 cable

Although universally recommended by vehicle manufacturers, such a dedicated supply is not currently required by regulations and take up has been low. Vauxhall was the first brand in the UK to pledge the remaining 25% funding for purchasers of the Ampera. Renault has since followed suit, effectively providing customers with a free dedicated charging point, removing the so-called postcode lottery which had previously meant only some regions received free home charging points.

Whilst the likelihood of using domestic sockets for EV charging will now be lessened, most manufacturers still supply a domestic Mode 2 cable. Since all new public infrastructure will use Type 2 (Mennekes) outlets, it seems wise for all OEMs to follow Renault’s example by supplying a Type 2 cable as standard.

This fund, although ring-fenced and available only until 2015, is not restricted to vehicle owners, so even those with only occasional use of a vehicle – via their employer or a car club for example – or simply someone considering an EV purchase will qualify. Although the positive impact on vehicle sales will be difficult to quantify, the safety factor will be significantly improved as the UK moves beyond the circa 3,200 EVs registered to date.

On-street charging points should not be dismissed altogether: they may be a viable strategy in areas with very little private parking and could be more socially equitable

Funding for government facilities will enable more effective use of fleet vehicles since it will extend to providing ‘semi quick charging’ of circa 22kW, encouraging the public sector to continue to lead fleet EV uptake by working vehicles harder and getting a good daily duty from them.

However, on-street charging points are likely to be resisted by many local authorities, although they should not be dismissed altogether: they may be a viable strategy in areas with very little private parking and could be more socially equitable. The fund is also shared with providing rapid charging points (50kW DC/43kW AC) for the strategic road network. Local authority bids for this funding are due by the end of April 2013 and, while the short deadline will be difficult for many to hit, the funding should not be exhausted in the first tranche and further calls for applications will continue throughout 2013/14.

Finding commercial partners to host, and fund by 25%, 50kW Rapid Chargers costing up to £50k may be difficult for local authorities but there is a strong case for accepting more cost effective but slightly slower charging in many instances. No funding scheme is perfect but this one seems fair and generous – especially where an enthusiastic local authority can rally support from the community.


The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd

Matthew Trevaskis is the Director of Ecodrive Ltd, www.eco-drive.co.uk, an independent EV consultancy working with OEMs, fleets and infrastructure providers in the UK and Europe. He has been an EV user since 1999 and has around 90,000 miles’ personal experience. Publications regarding the issues associated with charging from domestic sockets in the UK can be found at http://eco-drive.co.uk/downloads.

The AutomotiveWorld.com Comment column is open to automotive industry decision makers and influencers. If you would like to contribute a Comment article, please contact editorial@automotiveworld.com.

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