A significant stride towards a greener future has been announced, with the launch of a pioneering £70 million pilot scheme set to electrify motorway service areas, propelling the expansion of ultra-rapid electric vehicle (EV) chargepoints across England.
In a major declaration on COP28 Transport Day in Dubai, Transport Secretary Mark Harper outlined comprehensive plans to establish up to 10 trial sites in England, equipped with reinforced electrical network capabilities. The overarching goal is to future-proof electricity network capacity for a minimum of 10 years, extending support up to 2035.
While those with a positive outlook might say that COP28 signifies a critical juncture in the global battle against climate change, cynics look at the fact that it is being held in the United Arab Emirates and wonder just how hard the various ‘colours of hydrogen' – from Green to Black – are being pushed and positioned in the background.
Overall, the UK has done a pretty good job of spearheading decarbonisation – outpacing many major economies – and the UK is now committed to effectuating the swiftest reduction in emissions between 1990 and 2030, based on current pledges.
Today's announcement regarding rapid chargepoints, a constituent of the government's ambitious rapid charging fund (RCF), will subsidize a segment of the expenses linked to upgrading electricity grids at successful motorway service areas. This move aims to enable private sector expansion of the charging network and imbue consumers with increased confidence in embracing EVs.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper articulated, “This government stands by drivers, and collaborating with the private sector to fortify chargepoint infrastructure is a pivotal aspect of our Plan for Drivers. Today's announcement lays the groundwork for additional ultra-rapid chargepoints.”
He further added, “The commencement of this £70 million pilot scheme signifies our commitment to investing astutely and swiftly in nurturing the future of transportation in the UK.”
The initiative follows Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's decision to push back the UK's switch across to 100% of new vehicle sales being electric – from 2030 to 2035 – because of driver's fears that the country would not be ready. So we have the conflicting messages that, on the one hand, the Government is claiming to be “pioneering a zero-emission vehicle mandate, underscoring comprehensive government support for drivers and industries transitioning to electric vehicles” and, on the other hand, pushing back the move to fully electric personal transport.
Motorway service areas are important stopping points along major highways. Investments in these areas are aimed at establishing a highly visible and dependable network for longer-distance charging, essential for supporting drivers and expediting future EV adoptions. The pilot, executed by National Highways, aims to accumulate data to shape the structure of a complete fund. This area of development was hampered for many years by the UK's bizarre system of allocating the service areas to specific companies.
Concurrently, a 10-week consultation on the rapid charging fund has been launched, seeking input from various stakeholders, including chargepoint operators, motorway service area operators, and electricity suppliers. This consultation intends to identify the most crucial locations for chargers and the optimal design for the RCF.
This landmark development aligns with recent decisions by the House of Commons to specify the percentage of new zero-emission cars and vans that manufacturers must produce annually until 2030. These measures safeguard investments in the UK's automotive industry and protect skilled British jobs. The Government says that this reinforces and supports the Prime Minister's decision to extend the ban on new petrol cars from 2030 to 2035, supporting families transitioning to electric vehicles. Sceptics say that the Government's seemingly opposing positions on charger network development and the delay in electrification – show that they have more than one eye on the next election and want all messaging options on the table.
The government claims to have invested over £2 billion in rapidly expanding charging infrastructure already and that this shows 42% growth compared to the previous year.
Whatever your political views, it does seem that the UK will have in excess of 300,000 charging points by 2030.