Midlands Connect hosted a panel of local government representatives on Tuesday 1 March to discuss how local authorities are preparing for an electric vehicle revolution.
On the panel were Shamala Evans-Gadgil, Coventry City Council’s program manager for the rollout of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, Adam Clarke, Deputy Mayor of the City and Environment and Transport of Leicester City Council, Matthijs Kok from developer Electric Mobility in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands and Paul Jewell, system development manager for Western Power Distribution.
The session was chaired by Giles Perkins, Head of Profession and Future Mobility at WSP.
Coventry City Council said it has already installed 468 chargers in the area and by June 2022, 660 chargers will be in use.
When asked if there is a risk of a disparity between those who can have private chargers installed in their driveways and those who will have to use public charging points due to the lack of off-street parking, Evans- Gadgil said Coventry was committed to regulating the charges. through concession contracts.
The council has set a tariff for the first two years of operation of a charging station. She also said the rate will then be aligned with the rest of the West Midlands and private operators are unable to raise rates to match London for example.
She said “regulations will come” but it takes “a different model from central government and working with the public and private sectors to make it a level playing field”.
In Leicester, Clarke said the city needed to level the playing field by balancing social fairness.
He added: “On terraced streets the air quality is likely to be worse and occupants are less likely to be able to afford an electric vehicle and will then have to pay more as there is no off road parking available.
“Many taxi drivers in Leciester live on flat-fronted terraces. Electric vehicle infrastructure could cause a real boom for taxi drivers and contribute to shared mobility.
Evans-Gadgil described the need for collaboration between local authorities and the local distribution network operator to facilitate net zero bonds – in the case of the West Midlands, this is Western Power Distribution (WPD).
“You have to understand what capacity there is and what the cost will be, so collaboration is needed early on,” she said.
While working with WPD, Coventry City Council installed 39 3-4kW fast chargers, which is a “heavy” demand for WPD.
WPD says it wants to embrace the shift to EVs and heat pumps and be on track to implement them in the 7.9 million homes and businesses it already powers.
To meet the 2030 goals, WPD says it needs to add 2,000 low-carbon connections per day, but its current model doesn’t allow for that. Therefore he tests the energy needed at MotoServices at the M5 in Exeter, but squeezes the energy that would power a small town into shipping containers, due to a need for huge capacity as customers want to quickly recharge cars .
Jewell himself is an electric vehicle driver and says recharging it is cheaper than petrol, regardless of the rising cost of electricity. Signing up for a flat rate, he said he knew what his electricity cost would be but would not know how fuel prices would fluctuate over the next 18 months.
However, the goal of WPD is to bring all players together to bring about change.
Jewell said: “There are 130 local authorities trying to figure out what their long-term goals are.
“We’re building assets that will still be there 50 years from now, so we want to make sure that’s good and not something that’s going to be redundant.”
There are two discussions that WPD has had with local authorities, which are; strategic – where the discussions describe what the authority wants by 2050 and also tactical discussions – on where the authorities want the charging stations to be.
Kok, the keynote speaker, echoed the thoughts of other speakers on the importance of collaboration, especially when it comes to forecasts that help local authorities to strategize and also grid managers to plan. .
He helped the city of Utrecht in its development of a data-driven charging infrastructure.
1150 EV chargers have been installed so far during Kok’s 10 years of work on the project.
With seven members on his team, Kok said, “Cities can run themselves, but small municipalities don’t have the capacity to do that.
“In the Netherlands, it’s organized at regional level with strategic plans and concessions. You can’t expect small local authorities to handle this.
Charging stations in Coventry and Utrecht are run by private operators, but Evans-Gadgil and Kok said systems were in place to ensure cities could still benefit financially.
However, Leicester is recruiting consultants on its long-term plan for electric vehicles and is considering a workplace parking charge.
He turned his attention to current issues in the region as the country begins the shift to electric vehicles.
Across Leicester, 50% of households have no off-street parking, Clarke said, creating huge demand for public charging stations.
There are also issues of network capacity, the range of vehicles available, the cost of creating connection points, lack of equipment, delays with materials, technical skills and knowledge, and increasing parking pressure. in the city center – everything Leicester City Council needs. to be addressed in order to achieve the objectives.
Additionally, says Clarke, as part of the net zero obligation, local authorities must prepare, which is causing a huge debate about how to prepare in the community.
He said: “Even a small number of charging stations in two communities created residential complaints and concerns as people felt their space was taken away from them.”
Clarke advises that local authorities need the skills and ownership of enforcement officers who really understand; where the charging stations should be installed, for whom and when.
Coventry’s next steps, however, are to continue installing charging stations on off-street parking.
Evans-Gadgil said Coventry “will add the chargers whether or not there is a demand or whether it is an affluent area or not”, with the aim of encouraging take-up of electric vehicles.