Who will pay for electric car parks?

The Government and local authorities will drive the huge increase needed in the number of charging points on highways and in residential areas, but who will provide them for private businesses?

The recent announcement of a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK from 2040 has spurred serious consideration about the mass use of electric vehicles (EVs) -writes telegraph.co.uk.

For years EVs looked more liike futuristic transport visions to file away with flying cars – but no longer.

The Government is going full speed towards a greener future, making these considerations increasingly pressing.

In London, vehicles failing to meet strict emission standards will also face additional charges from September 2020, marking a clear indication that petrol and diesel are swiftly becoming the black sheep of the fuel family. That said, there is no point in having an electric car without the infrastructure to support it.

Indeed, government investment will further encourage ownership of EVs (which have already had a surge in plug-in purchases of 54pc compared with last year), with more than £600m by 2020 to support the manufacture and uptake of ultra-low-emission vehicles and £38m to be spent on public charging points.

A growing number of local and public authorities are also changing to EV fleets for all their departments and installing EV charging points.

However, while the Government and local authorities will drive the huge increase needed in the number of charging points on highways and in residential areas, less attention has been paid to the role of private businesses in providing them.

E.ON are helping to smooth the process by offering comprehensive packages that provide cost-effective end-to-end solutions that rely on new technologies to reduce energy use and costs, including the turn-key solutions covering the design, installation and operation of electric vehicle charge points.

“We are seeing a number of customers who are investing in electric vehicles or who are looking into the electrification of their fleets,” says Dr Chris Horne, head of origination at E.ON UK B2B Solutions, noting that “there are some high-profile developments in this area, such as the recent announcement that Royal Mail are investing in a number of electric vehicles”.

He says: “Although there are many electric cars, the options for commercial vehicles are currently much more limited. However, in the next 12 to 18 months, a number of vehicle manufacturers are planning to launch electric vans of various sizes, all with ranges that mean they will cover a wide range of use cases. Once these are on the market, we expect to see a rapid uptake.”

Switching on to plugging in

EV charging is not only a great selling point for employers, as well as hoteliers, restaurants and retailers, but it also integrates with a broader shift to affordable green energy solutions and their many benefits.

Cambridgeshire clean tech company Geo is beginning to roll out charging points for its commuting staff. “We will be installing EV charging points in our car park this year,” says co-founder Simon Anderson.

“People can buy an EV themselves and get free charging, or they can avail themselves of a subsidised EV purchase scheme and get free charging as well.”

Geo is fully aware of the boost to its green credentials, and the benefits of companies offering EV charging at work are important for discerning talent.

Businesses that lead the way in sustainability will attract the sort of savvy and future-focused employees who are making the switch to EVs, meaning getting a head start on providing for them could also help snap up the early adopters of electric transport.

Dr Horne says that “anyone who provides parking spaces for customers and staff should be considering the installation of charging points”, as customers and employees are beginning to expect that charging facilities are available and will start to make decisions based on whether or not they can charge their vehicle.

“Installing several charging points now – or even if they only install one, carrying out the civil and electrical preparations for further points – will prepare for the rapid growth in demand in the next few years while minimising the cost and disruption caused during the installation works,” he adds.

Free EV charging does make a company hugely attractive for staff and visitors to plug in when they visit. But for businesses, the key question is what happens if every traveller needs to recharge their batteries at your expense.

Electric deal

Free charging is probably not sustainable for businesses long-term. There are costs involved up front, with the biggest often associated with running suitable electricity cables to the EV charge posts, says Dr Horne, particularly if they are some way from the nearest electricity distribution panel.

“Ongoing costs of operation are important to understand,” he says. “These will cover maintenance of the posts, annual safety inspection and tests, operation of the back-end systems that control access to the posts, end-user billing and 24/7 support.”

As more people charge their EVs away from home, it will become commonplace to charge for the energy supplied, with employees regularly charging up potentially liable for a benefit-in-kind tax liability. A reasonable fee could cover the operating costs of the charging posts and still remain low, however.

The evolution of EVs is making this a particularly pressing issue. A major benefit of owning one of the later generations of EV is that average commutes are far less than the energy storage capacity of the latest vehicles.

So at the end of a commute home it will soon be possible to use any leftover charge as a supplementary energy supply for the home itself – leading to businesses potentially having to power far more than simply journeys to and from home.

Challenges such as these mean that establishing cost-effective ways to fund vehicle charging schemes are vital and should be brought well forward in executive discussions.

EVs are the future and it is urgent that more organisations fully consider the fitting of the infrastructure and the long-term provision of the energy needed to keep all those vehicles on the road.

Ultimately, there will always be a cost for any company willing to pay for all its staff and customer journeys. But if doing so becomes a point of difference among less generous competitors, perhaps it is an investment that will pay off.

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