The growth of the UK gasoline network from the start of the first roadside filling station in 1920 to the over 8,000 locations throughout the country now is a helpful parallel when we talk about developing EV infrastructure.
Looking at the grainy black-and-white YouTube video of Aldermaston garage around the turn of the 20th century, you can only feel the novelty and thrill of the time. Today, though, you won’t think twice about pulling and filling your automobile at a gas station. It’s so embedded in our daily lives that it’s unmistakable in all respects.
It is this “not thinking twice” feeling that we have to have in mind while mapping the growth and enhancement of the UK EV charging network. This is particularly true at the local level. It is here that drivers will witness the tangible changes that affect their behaviour and make them switch electric – whether their neighbour charges the EV on the driveway or fellow shoppers outside of the local theatre. We have to normalise electric charge in all neighbourhoods and the public area, so that drivers don’t have to think about it anymore.
This is why municipalities (LAs) play such an essential role in the implementation of a convenient and extensive EV charging network. They have a unique insight into their local population’s cycles and behaviours, and are ideally situated to customise the infrastructure to match those requirements.
While it is true that the majority of charges are done at homes or at work, a number of important loopholes have to be filled to service the wider community, many of them falling within LA. In urban locations, for example, where individuals are more likely to live in terraced homes and apartment buildings without access to drives, charging is necessary on the street – particularly now, when so many more people work from home.
Residential street ownership generally belongs to the LA, as with municipal parking, thus it is the gatekeeper for new public infrastructure in most instances. LAs are provided with government financing such as the on-street Residential Charge Point Scheme and it is important that they take use of it.
We also support the establishment of specific LA “charging officer” positions. Anyone who can be a champion and information source in the Council for EVs and EV infrastructures. Not only would point teams charge for the EV knowledge gap that exists inside some LAs and minimise the congestion facing charging points, but local team advocates might assist to boost business sector support. Also essential, they would filter all vital information down to the motorist to debunk misunderstandings about the anxiety and appropriateness of the EV market today.
LA initiatives are of course only one half of this puzzle: the government should continue to promote the deal by providing incentives like as plug-in grants and subsidies. Withdrawal of this crucial financial contribution will only weaken its message about decarbonisation and the creation of a green after-pandemic in a time when people are now beginning to reap the advantages of EVs. Rapid and decisive development demands strong leadership from above; the LAs can manage the roll-out with more trust and help private enterprises and the public do their part with efficient and easily accessible government consultancy resources.
As at Aldermaston, history unfolds before our own eyes. The future of driving is electricity – this writing is on the wall. However, if we are to allow the seamless transition to electricity by 2030 without squandering much money and disenfranchising many people in terrible charging experiences, it is important that governments and local government cooperate. We need to recognise collectively that nine years are a relatively short time – rental durations are merely two lease cycles. And demand will rise dramatically as the deadline approaches, so early planning is crucial.