106 days later: DfT yet to send councils pavement charging guidance
The latest news from Britain's EV sector
Hello, I’m Tom Riley, and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
Top stories in today’s edition… The government is still yet to clear up confusion on cable gullies (despite promising to in October), Sainsbury’s launches a network, and the King’s chargers get delayed by NIMBYISM!
As ever, if you have any thoughts or feedback, do get in touch via my contact details below or reply to this email.
Key EV plank of ‘Plan for Drivers’ not completed by DfT
Background: It’s estimated that a third of households do not have access to off-street parking, meaning they will be unable to benefit from a home charger that uses their cheaper domestic supply – instead having to rely on public charging which is much more expensive.
However… One solution for non-driveway owners is for gullies to be cut into pavements, meaning cables can neatly cross the public highway from people’s homes. This simple innovation was first trialled by Oxford back in 2017 and was even featured in the UK’s EV Infrastructure Strategy in 2022 as a solution that could “enable people parked on-street to run a cable from their house to their car, without causing a trip hazard.”
Popular idea… Cable gullies are a popular innovation amongst non-driveway EV owners – they often come up in forums. Previously, even The Times critic Giles Coren told me they are “definitely a good idea” to help people with charging.
The challenge is… For those who want them, councils continue not to budge. At present, out of hundreds of councils across the UK, it’s believed only 12* are testing this technology. Most others have no guidance on gullies at all. An analysis I completed of London’s 32 boroughs – where few people have driveways – found only one (Bromley) that was exploring the solution – and even they have made it nigh on impossible to locate the right page.
The impact… A lot of EV drivers continue to take the law into their own hands and, despite being a potential offence under the Highways Act 1980, they trail their cables across the pavement without gullies - instead using cable protectors. In nearly every case, councils have published guidance against EV owners who do this. However, what choice do people have if there’s little on-street charging provision or the council won’t offer these gully solutions?
In a recent example… One Yorkshire resident posted online about making a request to their council asking for a gully. The council responded by quashing any thought such a solution would be viable, saying: “There are no approved solutions to enable cables to be safely taken across, through, or over the pavement.” This rings similar to when Kensington and Chelsea's council told me in 2021, rather comically, they’d never be able to build gullies because their footpaths are “paved in attractive, high-quality York Stone”. Rah, darling!
The situation is a mess. The government clearly needs to give direction. Thankfully, in October 2023, they committed to the gully approach within a highly publicised ‘Plan for Drivers’. Specifically, the Department for Transport promised “to provide guidance on the use of safe cross pavement solutions, and best practice to local authorities on relevant legislation, permissions and how to consider applications.”
The government added in their plan… “regarding permitted development rights and guidance on cross-pavement solutions, the government will expand our Electric Vehicle Chargepoint Grant to trial support for safe cross pavement solutions.” All of this was welcome news for people without driveways.
But, where is the guidance? Despite having had three months (or 106 days) to provide local authorities direction, the government is still yet to provide the promised advice. When I approached DfT yesterday, a spokesperson told me: “We are committed to ensuring all drivers can access electric vehicle charging infrastructure and are working with local authorities and other stakeholders to develop best practice guidance for cross pavement solutions.” So it’s still a work in progress, meaning much more council confusion to remain…
* As an FYI, the 12 councils with trials ongoing I believe are… Surrey, Oxford City, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Nottinghamshire, Durham, Milton Keynes, Reading, West Berkshire, Hartlepool, Bromley, and Cornwall (which just started with Kerbo Charge). Are there others? Let me know!
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Top EV news…
🚑 The London Ambulance Service has added its first all-electric ambulance to its fleet, with the vehicle having recently made a maiden voyage onto London’s streets during New Year’s Eve. The ambulance has been built by Ford and will be the first of 12 that NHS England is piloting. The EV is believed to have enough range to cope with a 12-hour shift. Read more.
👍 The FT’s Lex has published a mythbusting column stating that to think we have an EV charging crisis is wrong. In the piece, the FT reveal the UK ranks well in international comparisons (our ratios are ahead of Germany, the US and Norway) and that we’re on track to hit the government’s 300,000 charger target by 2028 – two years early at the present rate. The FT rightly acknowledge it is in fact the cost of EVs, not charging, which is the challenge. Read more (paywall).
Speaking of the FT, you can now buy early bird tickets for their Future of the Car event in May.
🥕 At the end of last week, Sainsbury’s officially entered the market for EV chargers by launching its own network. The new brand is called ‘Smart Charge’ and will see the roll-out of 750 rapid 150kW devices across more than 100 Sainsbury stores. Sainsbury’s already operates several chargers at its sites in the UK. Read more.
🏢 Speaking of the power of commercial enterprises in charging provision, Property Week has published the five reasons why EV chargers can be a boon for businesses. Learn more.
🚗 It seems GWM Ora has dropped the name ‘Funky Cat’ and instead renamed its small EV the ‘03’. If you Google it, the website still comes up with the Funky Cat name, though when you click through it’s nowhere to be seen.
💷 InstaVolt has received a new capital injection from its owner, EQT Infrastructure, so it can continue to deploy new chargers. No figures have been declared but the amount is believed to be sizeable. “InstaVolt has plans in place to install 11,000 chargers in the UK and Ireland, 5,000 across Spain and Portugal, and over 300 in Iceland,” it said in a statement. For context, InstaVolt currently has 2,000 chargers in the UK. Read more.
⚡️ Trojan Energy, the charger firm that builds devices directly into the pavement so they are flush, has this morning raised £26 million from BGF and Scottish National Bank.
⛽ Honda believes that hydrogen fuel cells have a role to play in the future of passenger cars. In a new interview with Autocar, Inoue Katsushi, senior executive at Honda, explained his vision for the future of hydrogen cars saying: "What I have in my mind is that the [battery] EV era comes first, and the next phase is fuel cell cars.” Honestly, these Japanese carmakers do not give in do they? No surrender!
🔌 The waste collection company, Veolia, has just completed a large vehicle-to-grid trial which was able to deploy 110kW of power back to the grid from two of its large electric waste vans – which have a battery around six times larger than a typical car. This technology could be a real gamechanger for energy management in years to come. Read more.
📉 BMW has said the carmaker and others have now passed peak demand for internal combustion. Read the story (on GB News no less!).
💲 The rental company Hertz, that went big into Tesla some years ago, announced last week it would sell a third of its EV fleet – which is about 20,000 cars. That’s a huge reversal. Read more.
⚓ Big news this past week is the US/UK attacks against Iranian-backed rebels off the coast of Yemen – who have been attacking passing cargo ships. The Red Sea is an important trade route (12-15% of global trades uses it according to the BBC), and as a result the world’s biggest shippers are spending 12 days longer going around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. The reason this matters to you is, in the UK/Europe, we still rely on a great many imports, including gas from Qatar (which has suspended sending ships through the sea). The fear is all this commotion could lead to fresh inflation of goods and of energy from April (when the price cap changes) if not rectified. Read more. More reasons for us to build renewables!
His Majesty’s EV corner…
💂 First piece of news related to His Majesty King Charles is that Poundbury, the town developed by the Duchy of Cornwall, has recently added several new Osprey chargers. Read more.
🤴 Secondly, the Royal household has submitted plans to install six EV chargers at Windsor Castle (two within the castle itself and four others in the nearby park). However, the local Indiana Jones has warned the council the chargers would fall “within an area of archaeological significance”. The council is reviewing. I do find it slightly reassuring that even the King has to deal with red tape NIMBYISM! Read more (paywall).
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