A Department for Transport scheme designed to aid the roll-out of on-street charging points for electric vehicles is being largely ignored by its target audience of councils, who describe it as not-fit-for purpose.
Last week roads minister Jesse Norman and Claire Perry, who is energy and clean growth minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said they were writing to local authorities calling on them to make better use of the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme.
They said only five of the UK’s 300-plus councils were making use of the fund, which offers up to 75% of the capital cost of installing new hardware to allow electric-car owners without their own drives or garages the opportunity to charge their vehicles close to home.
Launched in 2016, the fund is overseen by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles and currently has £4.5m available to pay for new on-street charging points offering funding for local authorities to buy and install electric car charge points. But DfT and BEIS – which have joint oversight of OLEV – describe takeup as “disappointing”.
Martin Tett, transport spokesman at lobby group the Local Government Association, said that while councils supported the government’s aims of promoting zero-carbon transport modes, the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme was not seen as an effective enabler for new infrastructure.
“Councils are keen to embrace emerging transport technology for the benefits of their residents and communities, with some councils working through the planning system to ensure developers fund charging points,” he said.
“However, they cannot take on the role of replacing petrol stations. Any new responsibilities to ensure there is sufficient electric car charging infrastructure must be matched with adequate funding. Long term this must be a role for the private sector.”
Tett said councils had many competing priorities and statutory responsibilities – such as dealing with rising demand for children’s and adult social care, and tackling a £12bn backlog of road repairs, all of which came against significant cuts to their central government funding in recent years.
He added that only £1.5m in funding was made available for the on-street charging fund in the current financial year with the further £4.5m only announced in November’s Budget for allocation in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
“We support the government’s focus on environmentally friendly travel and are keen to see more detail on a long-term properly funded plan,” he said.
The fund is designed to make electric vehicle ownership a more practical option for the one-third of UK households that do not have off-street parking, and who may be discouraged from purchasing an electric vehicle because of the difficulty of charging it.
DfT said councils could use their allocations to create new dedicated charging points or adapt existing lamp-posts to provide power sources for vehicles, and suggested that thousands of extra points could be provided with the sums involved.
It said councils could choose to use public funds to seek private sector investment to match the gap between grant funding and the total cost of installation.
Guidance for the fund said that individual chargepoints could be delivered with “innovative solutions” for as little as £200-300 each, but accepts that some places will be more expensive – putting an upper limit of £7,500 in funding for each individual chargepoint.
It added that councils would normally only be entitled to a maximum of £100,000 in funding from the scheme, and provides a hefty list of conditions for applicants – including demonstrations of projected need for the points, and a commitment to operate the new infrastructure for a minimum of three years.
The guidance stated the funding should not be used for car clubs or taxi services, and should not be connected to individual domestic power supplies.