The UK government recently announced a new scheme to help businesses create infrastructure for electric vehicle (EV) charging. The ‘EV Infrastructure Grant for Staff and Fleets’ gives companies grants of up to £15,000 (US$18,000) per location to cover 75% of the cost of installation of change points and the infrastructure to support them. It can be applied for alongside the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) that offers grants of £350 per charging socket for up to 40 sockets across all sites per company. But how does it work, how does it fit into a company’s larger EV strategy and what are the potential benefits?
The UK’s EV strategy
Any new scheme that impacts EV must be seen in the context of the UK government’s commitment to decarbonise. The key to which is the plan to stop the sales of new internal combustion engine vehicles (excluding HGVs) by 2030. This will be one of the most significant changes to driving and mobility in the UK in living memory and will eventually impact and affect every business and driver of a vehicles. The government is already setting the stage for this change now, incentivising companies to create the infrastructure for all-electric fleets. Responding to this and an overall shift to EVs, Vauxhall pledged to make all of its new vehicles electric by 2028.
This grant is happening alongside the government’s commitment to build 300,000 EV chargers across the UK by 2030, increasing charging capacity tenfold. This should address concerns among some businesses and members of the public about finding a convenient charging point—although as Zap Map data shows, there are very few places in the UK where drivers are far from an EV charge point.
Details of the new EV grant
Currently in an early phase, the new EV grant has many overlapping functions with the existing Workplace Charging Scheme, but the key difference is that the EV infrastructure grant will, as its name suggests, cover infrastructure in addition to charging points. The older Workplace Charging Scheme “provides support towards the up-front costs of the purchase and installation of electric vehicle charge-points”, so if a company needed to upgrade their electrical systems or lay cable then they wouldn’t be able to receive support. It’s likely that a few of the businesses who used the WCS found that although they were able to purchase charging points cheaply, the underlying work to get them wired in was prohibitively expensive, hence the need for a more expansive grant scheme.
It is also aimed at smaller companies: applicants must have 249 employees or less. They also need to have received less than €200,000 in public support in the past three financial years—something that may be difficult for some companies if they took COVID grants and loans. As with any government grant, there are a host of eligibility criteria, a list of approved charge points and an application process that is currently paper-based (a digital service will go online later this year). The application process may be lengthy but considering the financial awards for small companies it may be very useful.
What this means globally
Because of grants like this, the UK is doing exceptionally well compared to the US, where only 4.8% of all vehicles were EVs compared to the UK’s 11.6%, but it is lagging behind the EU, where 19.6% of all new vehicles were EVs in 2021. Despite the growth in EV use, the UK is still among the world’s largest consumers of fossil fuels, representing 16% of the world’s market. The 1.5 million barrels that it consumes each day translate to billions of pounds each week for the world’s oil producers, so its decision to dramatically reduce fuel consumption in a very short time will have effects on the global market, particularly when it takes place alongside other major fuel consumers also reducing their consumption. However, a decade is long enough for the decline in fossil fuel use to be slow enough to avoid major disruptions—the current problems with fuel prices are caused by too little supply, not too little demand.
Trants schemes like these are part of a much larger and more profound transformation of society
With grants like WCS and the new scheme outlined above, the UK’s government is moving the country and indeed the world towards a very different future. There will be immediate changes to consumers’ lives in terms of how they refuel (and recharge) vehicles, to the country’s energy mix as more renewable sources become available, and long-term effects both large and small ranging from a reduction in air pollution to towns and cities being quieter. Although they may seem like a small step, grants schemes like these are part of a much larger and more profound transformation of society.
Supporting the UK’s small businesses
This grant represents another way in which UK small businesses are being supported in making a switch to EVs. However, there is also support from outside the government in the form of fuel card providers, which makes charging an EV fleet (as well as a mixed fleet as they make the transition to EV) far easier and less expensive.
Additionally, there are also innovative partnerships with app providers such as Zap-Map that help drivers to always find a nearby, cost-effective charging solution. Taken together, this means that there has never been a better time to make the switch to an all-electric fleet.
About the author: Tom Rowlands is Managing Director, Global EV Solutions at FLEETCOR