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Robin Haycock, Head of Transport reviews new UK Government plug-in vehicle strategy

Date
30 June 2011
Robin Haycock, Head of Transport reviews new UK Government plug-in vehicle strategy

LONDON: Today the UK Government has released a new plug-in vehicle infrastructure strategy document, Making the Connection: the Plug-In Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy, which clarifies policy and shows leading businesses and stakeholders that momentum is building within Government for electric vehicles (EVs).

Robin Haycock, Head of Transport, The Climate Group, reviews the new strategy.

The Climate Group welcomes the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) document. Its pragmatic approach is commendable, as EVs are still an emerging technology, and although the document is not radical in its opinion, this useful strategy document will certainly help catalyze business opportunity and drive a Clean Revolution in the EV industry

The document clearly outlines how costs can be reduced by targeting installation of charging infrastructure in suitable end-user locations for home, workplace and public areas, such as car parks, supermarkets or retail parks, which is essential for a more optimistic view of this emerging market. After all, an EV that has been hastily bought on a green marketing budget will remain at the back of the parking area unused, providing bad press and publicity for EVs.

Judging EVs on a total cost of ownership model, or where the duty cycle is sometimes better than for an existing vehicle, is a positive way forward. It also allows for the targeting of infrastructure with lower infrastructure costs in the early years.

The document also features an extensive list of small but important changes to workplace charging infrastructure, which is crucial as many of our members, that say any barriers often mean fleet managers will put EVs aside unless they’re personally committed to the case! We definitely need a drive from business leaders, but if the fleet managers aren’t on board, it won’t happen - so this detail is invaluable.

Also highlighted is the fact that if fleets drive EV uptake and install supporting infrastructure, they could take over Government initiatives within the Plugged-In Places (PIP), which would be an economic way forward for the public purse, and offers a potential profits for fleet managers

The early history of OLEV and PIP has centered around publicly accessible slow chargers and charging over long periods. I recognize that this is potentially better for grid management, but only if we consider that intermittency has to be blended with demand. If we start to consider ‘decoupling’ supply and demand through energy storage or other smart grid options, then we can consider the business case for the ’10 minute’ time slot. 

It’s evidently business sense to create fleet and business-owned rapid chargers in towns, cities and highways that are decoupled from intermittency. Electricity could then be resold to end customers as an optional extra. 

The strategy talks about reinforcing the grid, but this could also be achieved through storage, which would mean we wouldn’t need to focus so much on off-peak charging, or expensive smart grid solutions linked to taxation and tariffs.

Allowing electricity to be sold through charge points will have a big impact on emerging business models around fleet operations, and as the strategy acknowledges, is a far better solution than using a Regulated Asset Base (RAB).

Although some areas of the strategy, such as planning and building regulations, need to be considered in more depth, this will probably be covered by an update likely to be published in early 2013. And similarly so for the less comprehensive charging standards section - work on charging standards should really be falling to the Institution of Engineering and Technology, an institute which is already doing great work in this area.
Take-up for the plug-in car grant has not been as high as first anticipated, so OLEV should look into expanding this, focusing on business fleets - but OLEV’s on-going review should highlight this opportunity too.
Overall, it’s a great strategy and shows the continuous leadership in this space from the OLEV team. To have a government willing to publish this work at this stage of market deployment is refreshing and much-needed.

Read the full strategy document  - our UK work on fleets with one of our leading members in this field, TNT, is referenced on page 37.

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