I am fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of my time working with local authorities in the UK. While some are floundering with plans and strategies to improve the uptake of EV, some are doing a simply amazing job, implementing policies and trying new things.  In this blog, we will explore what some councils are doing with EV charge points.

Intro to the Problem

The local authorities are focussing their efforts on two main issues which in many respects are directly linked. The Climate Emergency and Air Pollution.  For this blog, we will be concentrating on the transport sector and the efforts that are underway to address pollution from transport.

  •       Roadside air pollution in the city stunts lung growth in children by 14.1%
  •       Living near a busy road in Oxford increases your risk of hospitalisation for stroke by 7.4%

Those are just two statistics from a recent report http://www.erg.kcl.ac.uk/research/home/projects/personalised-health-impacts.html from kings college London. 

Whatever you may think about the climate emergency, the facts relating to air pollution are indisputable. As a nation, we need to do all we can to improve air quality and stop the adverse impacts on the young and vulnerable by dirty vehicle emissions.

So why charge points

There is a train of thought that goes… If we put in public charge points then more people will buy electric vehicles, and while the approach has had some success, its also been in many ways a great way of wasting public money and has not had the hoped-for impacts

Should Councils Spend money on new EV charge points

This is a long-running debate, and certainly, I cannot go into all the details here but what I can say with absolute certainty is:  Much of the charging network installed to date is just wrong.

The reasons can vary from charge point to region but historically:

  •       they are the wrong types of chargers, in other words, they are too slow and not worth using
  •       they are in the wrong places; some are locked away for most of the day
  •       they are in locations that provide really poor access.
  •       they have complicated and have restrictive ways of using them, such as needing a rfid card
  •       they are expensive to use
  •       they are really expensive to install, so quickly use
  •       they are free to use but expensive to run so are only supported for a year then turned off
  •       they have been handed over to a private company who has not done a very good job
  •       they are poorly maintained and often not working
  •       they are more often than not ICED, ie an internal combustion engine vehicle is parking in a way that stops you using them.

The key message is that millions of pounds of often public money have been spent on charge points that are just not fit for purpose. 

Also, do they have any real impact? if you look at the proliferation of public charge points over the last few years and the percentage increase in EV sales, the installation of Charge Point’s is increasing quicker than EV sales.

What you will often find is that some charge points have near 100% utilisations and others have given almost no electricity to cars in their entire existence.  The data is freely available you can google it yourself

So if you are a local authority and you have installed charge points, and they have not quite worked out how you though, don’t worry, we forgive you, you are not alone.  But don’t keep making the same mistakes.  This is not a matter of if you build it, they will come. There are other ways to spend your money.

So what other strategies are out there.

My favourite strategy and a strategy we have helped some councils to implement is so straight forward. I am surprised everyone is not doing it.  It involves working closely with the larger local businesses in your region in kind of ChargePoint EV adoption collaboration.  The steps are simple:

  1. Think about the local businesses in your neighbourhood, think about who is employing the local community and then think about what they do.  Think about the likelihood they or their employees could be using vehicles today.  Ask yourself a bunch of question that makes them more or less likely to have requirements for EV, use this list of questions to refine your list to companies most likely to need charge points and EV
  2. Do they employ a team of engineers or salespeople
  3. Is there an office/admin function where employees are expected to commute.
  4. Do they have a car park
  5. Do they use a public car park
  6. Do they deliver things
  7. Do they have a depot
  8. Do they have sign written vans or cars
  9. Get in touch.  Now you could find out who in the council has a connection but to be frank, you are in a unique position, if you call up and ask to speak to the CEO about helping them with their Electric vehicle uptake, I would suggest you will be pushing on an open door. Set a meeting.
  10. Sit down and chat.  Explain you have some money to spend on EV chargers, explain that placing a couple of rapid chargers in the town centre is an option, but you don’t know if it’s the best option.  Far better would be to help local businesses to adopt EV and be able to see the tangible impact it will make.
  11. Ask lots of questions such as:
    1. Do they have any EV’s
    2. Do they have any chargers
    3. Who in their company uses cars, not only the job need drivers but the guys and girls who commute all-day
    4. Do they have an EV policy
    5. Would they be interested in collaborating (sharing costs) to provide charge points to their employees that could also be used by the public when not needed? Could the logistics of this work.
  12. Undertake a fleet review; we can do this for you, and the process is explained below.  The aim of the fleet review is to find drivers that could benefit from owning an EV, prove to them the benefit and then to help their employer put the right infrastructure in place to optimise the uptake.
  13. Come up with a plan; it may be you assist in some way helping the business to put a policy in place that helps to improve the uptake of EV. It could, however, result in a local business helping to cover the cost of charging infrastructure, and what’s more, being active in promoting EV. It’s tangible, it’s measurable, and it works

How a CleanCar fleet review works:

Prequalify the opportunity:  In this stage, we spend some time working with the company, to find the quick wins.  This is the low hanging fruit opportunity where we feel that electric vehicles could make a perfectly valid alternative to the current ICE vehicles.

  1. Data Capture: We place either a small plug and play GPS device or a smartphone app in the hands of the driver.  Both options will automatically record GPS data that build up a profile of the vehicle usage, i.e. the types of trips and the profile of parking. (NOTE: Only the driver gets to see individual trip detail, so privacy is protected)

    With the pattern, we can prove;

  1.     If a driver is suited to an EV
  2.     Which EV would best suit their needs
  3.     The potential cost benefits of making the switch
  4.     If a company is looking at several EV’s, we also show the ideal charging requirements.
  5.     A report is provided to both the driver and the employer outlining the benefits and the plan.

Summary

In summary, if you want to increase the uptake of EV in your community, speak to the local employers and see if you can find a way of working together to convert their employees to EV and then put in a charging infrastructure that is also available to the public.

The benefits are many, but in short, it means your money goes further, there is a tangible return on investment, and there will be a good news story.