In the Queen’s speech the government reiterated that we are committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This is welcome and necessary, but where government policy is going to create demand for more sustainable transport options, local authorities must ensure they can supply the infrastructure to support them. Electric vehicles (EVs) are the future and their increasing dominance has a massive part to play in reaching that 2050 goal.
Local authorities are already bound to electrifying their own fleet, big companies such as Centrica have also volunteered to do this by 2025 and a recent report estimated that Cardiff alone needs almost 10,000 more EV charging points by 2025.
Central government’s focus on increasing charging points has centred on home installation. However, this won’t cut the mustard going forward.
Councils need to consider how journeys by electric vehicle can be practical in rural areas so people do not suffer from range anxiety, and how to reassure those undertaking long distance trips that they will be able to access enough charging points.
Local authorities also need to release land to create space for larger scale EV charging stations, and working with the private sector to deliver this will be key.
The second crucial issue is to ensure we have enough grid capacity to run such charging stations. There is broad consensus that as much as possible, power for EVs should come from renewable sources, with solar being the obvious lead.
Space for battery storage facilities will also have to be allocated so that captured solar energy can contribute more effectively to the national grid. Additionally, land for solar arrays will have to be sourced; solar panel technology has made great strides and they are now excellent at harvesting the maximum power they can. However, simply siting them at electric vehicle charging stations will not be enough.
Many local authorities are already looking to the future concerning renewables and transport and some have very innovative proposals involving tidal and wind power. I even know of one authority which is exploring how a network of abandoned coal mines can be used as a geothermal heat store and provide renewable heat to power modern district heat networks.
I am excited to see EVs take over our roads but in order to make the government’s rhetoric on this translate into reality, local authorities must start creating the necessary infrastructure today.
Tim Byles is executive chairman of Cornerstone Assets