The prime minister’s plan to mandate electric car chargers across all new homes in England from next year risks making access to charge points “exclusive”, leaving behind motorists from poorer areas, industry leaders have warned.
Senior voices in the energy and motoring sectors said the plan for all new homes and buildings to be fitted with car charging infrastructure risks benefiting wealthier areas with space for off-street parking and leaving “blackspots” in areas where homes have less space.
Instead, they argue, the government should be doing more to make convenient, high-speed car charging more accessible to the public to help give all motorists a realistic opportunity to switch their fossil fuel cars for electric versions.
Guy Jefferson, the chief operating officer of Scottish Power’s energy network business, warned that the burgeoning electric vehicle market was “less likely to provide for all in our society” without deliberate action to ensure a fair energy transition.
“It’s essential that [electric vehicle] chargers are available not just in new homes, private driveways, wealthy high streets and motorway service stations, but in remote, rural and socially disadvantaged areas too,” Jefferson said.
“That’s why we’ve set out plans to build on our existing work with local councils to ensure fair access for all to [electric vehicle] charging,” he added.
Under the government’s plans, set out by the prime minister Boris Johnson at the CBI business leaders conference on Monday, new homes must be equipped with charging infrastructure from next year.
Ross Easton, a director at the Energy Networks Association, added that while the plans for more home chargers was “great news for those living in new homes” the government “must make sure access to charging points is not exclusive”.
“Charging points must be accessible to everyone. To truly ‘level up’ charging point access and deliver on the Cop26 electric vehicle pledges requires strategic planning at all levels of government, nationally and locally,” he said.
Many modern homes do not have car parking spaces, and the number of new homes built each year in the UK is so small it would take decades to make much difference by this measure alone, according to industry sources.
Sarah Winward-Kotecha, the director of electric vehicles at RAC, said it was “important to remember that a lot of new housing stock, especially in cities, doesn’t even come with any car parking at all, let alone provision for electric charge points”.
The motoring group has called for the government to make high-speed car charging available to more motorists by focusing on the roll out of rapid chargers in public areas so that
“By supplementing [charge] points already installed in places like forecourts and supermarkets with rapid chargers, drivers without off-road parking will have a realistic opportunity to go electric [and] those needing to recharge on longer journeys [will have] greater flexibility to do so,” Winward-Kotecha said.
Paul Reeve, a director at the ECA trade body for electrical and engineering firms, added that with most plans for public charging points “centred around London and the south-east” there was “still a real danger of charging blackspots in many parts of the country”.
ECA research in September found two-thirds of local authorities in the UK had no plans for public charging points. More than half said they were prohibitively expensive, and more than a third cited other constraints such as a lack of energy network capacity.
The government’s plans also overlook the fact that many new buildings are deliberately built without or with few car parking spaces, to encourage people to travel by public transport, which is better for the environment than driving electric cars.
The government faces growing pressure to address the UK’s emissions from transport and homes – which have barely budged in the past decade – in order to cut emissions and improve air quality. The efforts should includes steps to make homes more energy efficient and reduce driving overall, according to green groups.
Agathe de Canson, of the Green Alliance thinktank, said: “To cut air pollution and tackle congestion more widely we need to encourage more walking, cycling and journeys by public transport. This should be factored into planning rules to ensure new homes are not car dependent.”
Ed Matthew, of the green thinktank E3G, added that putting charging infrastructure in new homes did little to cut energy use which could lower bills and reduce the carbon associated with housing, which makes up 14% of the UK’s emissions.
“Developers make about £50,000 profit per home and they have used the threat of not building homes to slow down desperately needed regulation to build zero carbon homes that can slash emissions and cut energy bills,” he said.
A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring all parts of society can make the switch to electric vehicles, and these new regulations apply equally across residential and non-residential buildings. This means that, from 2022, whenever new homes and businesses are built or undergo major renovation, charge points will be installed.
“We are also working with councils to expand on-street charging infrastructure and providing grants to help landlords install charge points.”