If we are going to charge up Britain in an electric vehicle revolution, we need to cut the red tape surrounding charging infrastructure.
I was glad that the government's Powering Up Britain plan included an ambitious Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, encouraging manufacturers to move away from petrol and diesel and towards electric vehicles.
However, with up to 11 million EVs due to be on UK roads by 2030 and less than 8,000 rapid chargers currently installed, we need to remove the roadblocks to EV charging as manufacturers step up production.
Firstly, outdated byelaws that inhibit the ability for on-street charging, by preventing cables from running across pavements need to be changed or removed. Thirty-eight percent of households do not have a driveway and will require public chargers or on-street charging solutions.
We cannot expect this proportion of the population to rely solely on public chargers, especially as the growth in the number of EVs on the road continues to outstrip the number of new chargers being installed. However, in many local authorities across the country, byelaws restrict EV charging at home by preventing individuals from trailing cables across the pavement between their home and their car.
Of course, there are safety and public liability concerns with the trailing cables from a house to a car. However, there are solutions aplenty to this, through installing cable gullies, as successfully trialled in Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire, or other protective measures such as pavement cable protectors - the kind used by contractors when working on either side of a pavement. After all, every day across the country, utility companies can dig up or trail cables across our pavements. Why should a homeowner not be able to do the same, using safe methods, to ensure they can charge their car? In my constituency of Wimbledon, I have been campaigning for these byelaws to be changed, allowing EV owners without a driveway to safely trail a cable across the pavement outside their house. However, we need action from the Department for Transport (DfT) and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to ensure local authorities across the country change the planning presumption to allow on-street charging.
We should make on-street charging infrastructure, whether it be an upright EV charger outside our home or installing a gully, permissible under permitted development rights. With up to 250,000 extra chargers needed in the UK, if every one of these is required to go through the planning system, planning officer inboxes will quickly be overloaded with on-street infrastructure applications.
By liberalising the planning system, allowing cable gullies to be installed under permitted development rights, and easing the process for on-street chargers to be installed, we could see a rapid expansion of the charging capacity across the country. Controls would not be scrapped altogether, but just as permitted development allows home EV chargers to be installed within building regulations, gullies could be installed so long as they meet pavement regulations.
Finally, those without a driveway, who utilise public or on-street charging, currently pay four times as much VAT than those who charge off-street at home. At present, off-street charging is subject to tax at only five per cent, whilst on-street and public charging is taxed at 20 per cent. For drivers who do not have a driveway and are required to utilise on-street or public charging, this difference in taxation equates to an extra £555 per year. For those looking to switch to an EV, this could pose a significant financial barrier, preventing the further uptake of EVs in areas without private parking spaces.
If the government were to equalise the VAT between off-street and on-street charging at the five per cent rate and getting rid of the ‘pavement tax' it could send a strong signal to those considering the move but unable, or unwilling, to pay a premium for on-street charging that switching to electric is the way to go.
With the ban of petrol and diesel vehicle sales quickly approaching and the cost of electric vehicles consistently falling, we now need to overcome the barriers to charging up Britain. As the number of EVs on the road increases, demand for chargers will continue to rise. Therefore, we shouldn't worry about installing too many too soon, as getting the infrastructure in place will only accelerate the transition to EVs.
We must make it easier for EV owners to charge at home and ensure that there is not a ‘pavement tax' preventing EV adoption. We need to charge up Britain.
First published by BusinessGreen. Stephen Hammond MP (Wimbledon) is a member of the Conservative Environment Network.