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The market for electronic cars is gathering pace. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders evidence average monthly electric car sales in the UK rising dramatically in the last few years - from around 500 per month during the first half of 2014, to 4,800 for the same period in 2018. Future sales productions released by charging infrastructure provider Chargemaster earlier this year go on to suggest that UK roads could host one million electric cars by 2022.

October 2018

The government has announced its plans to make the UK the best place in the world to build and own an electric vehicle. As well as addressing environmental concerns, however, the key to fully unlocking this burgeoning market is surely building consumer confidence that opportunities to top up electric or hybrid car batteries will become as ubiquitous as the chances to fill up a tank of petrol or diesel. The question at this stage is how, and exactly what, the government will do to ensure future drivers can plug in.

EU Directive drives ahead

Paving the way for the spread of electromobility infrastructure throughout Europe, the EU released its new Directive (EU) 2018/844 this summer, which effectively amends existing directives on energy performance and efficiency in buildings, and gives a major boost to the industry by mandating the circumstances in which charging points are installed in buildings. In practical terms, once this Directive is transposed into the national law of each Member State (and there is a deadline of 10 March 2020 for this):

  • all new or renovated non-residential buildings (with more than 10 car parking spaces) must have at least one recharging point as well as sufficient ducting infrastructure to allow for the installation of electric vehicle recharging points for one in every five spaces; and
  • all new or renovated residential buildings (with more than 10 car parking spaces) must have sufficient ducting infrastructure to allow for the installation of recharging points in every space.

UK risks Brexit stall

With Brexit looming, there is no guarantee that this Directive will be transposed or replicated onto the UK statute book given it takes effect after we are set to leave the EU, but the onus is firmly on the government to ensure that we provide an accessible market for our automotive industries, and maintain global competitiveness when compared to consumer demand on the continent.
Back in July, the government revealed its Road to Zero Strategy. This suggested in broad terms a commitment to invest in trials of wireless charging technology; and that (where appropriate) new streetlights could be fitted with charging systems to enable roadside charging. It also promised a consultation on overhauling building regulations to require external chargepoints to be installed by developers outside houses, flats and offices (where appropriate).

The strategy was greeted with some enthusiasm but we are clearly still behind the EU. We are waiting to see more details of exactly how the government will follow through in line with its announced intention to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in accordance with its air quality plan by 2040. In the meantime, whichever direction it takes, the future proofing of recharging infrastructure must be a priority.

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Electric car
Clare Harman Clark

Clare Harman Clark

Clare Harman Clark looks at what the government is doing to ensure future drivers will be able to plug in.

"The future proofing of recharging infrastructure must be a priority."