Andrew Cook, Executive Director from our Cirencester office, gives us some food for thought, in Place North West’s latest COP26 podcast series – on various aspects that we need to consider regarding electrical vehicle (EV) charging and its infrastructure in the UK.

Listen to the podcast to find out more, and for more insights from Andrew take a look at our article below.

Andrew Cook

There are lots of considerations with regards to EV charging points, one of which is how the EV charging points will be powered?

“You would expect them to be connected to the grid, but electricity in the grid can come from a number of sources, including nuclear and fossil fuels. It may seem a sensible thing to do in terms of decarbonising and changing our usage of cars, however we need to think carefully about its source and to be truly environmentally friendly the electricity to power those points should be coming from renewable energy sources.

“Wind and solar are the top ways we generate renewable energy in the UK and that is the electricity which should be fed into the EV charging stations.

“Where should the EV points be located? On streets, car parks, supermarkets – we also need to think about our highways infrastructure ensuring we have suitable infrastructure across the highway network.

“If there is no grid on the location of the charging unit(s), we need to think about how we’re going to get electricity there? One way of doing this is having renewable energy sites that are located on or near the site in order to get electricity there – this usually affects more remote locations.

“In these instances we need to secure planning permission for a solar farm or wind turbines near the EV charging station, to power the EV points, which will not be connected to the grid. Something we need to consider is if a significant surplus amount of energy is generated, you often need battery storage units to store this energy for when solar power might be less for example.”

So is grid or private wire better way to go?

“Private wire will ensure that electricity source is truly renewable. Some energy companies are providing EV charging stations and they have contracts which specify that their energy must be coming from renewable energy sources.”

Are solar panels a good choice to be fuelling EV stations?

“From a planning perspective it is easier to accommodate solar farms than it is wind energy. If you have a high density urban environment and you want to bring renewable energy to that facility there is little opportunity to locate a wind turbine, whereas with solar you have a range of opportunities where you can use those by superimposing them over an urban area, e.g. roofing – office blocks, warehousing etc. Car parks could also have solar panels over car units so it’s a solar farm superimposed over an existing car park.

“In the countryside it may be easier to accommodate wind turbines without the same constraints you might have in an urban area. Similarly solar panels can be installed over fields being used for farming. You can do this without harming the landscape and whilst maintaining the agricultural function of the fields.

“There is a whole range of opportunities to introduce EV charging stations, however, you should avoid having a station in a location that is inconvenient to the motor user, they shouldn’t have to make a special journey to charge their vehicle. To avoid unnecessary travel – they need to be convenient.

“Domestically, you can have an EV port at home and this is increasingly being brought in to new developments now. However – what is the next best opportunity if there is no space domestically? We need to think about urban street scenes, e.g. lampposts. We have existing electrical infrastructure that can be utilised. For example, we could have a dual function with lighting columns where vehicles can be plugged into, with this in mind consideration needs to be given on how this would be managed.

“Generating renewable electricity at source and on site is the most sustainable and environmentally friendly way of providing EV charging points.

“The Government have set very ambitious targets in terms of decarbonisation and the move to electric vehicles, which is a great idea, however, in terms of the overall electricity generated in the country this is of a certain quantum. When we decide the entire private car usage in the country is going to be powered by electricity this is increasing the amount of electricity that needs to be produced dramatically and most of it is still coming from fossil fuels – so this is a significant problem in terms of decarbonisation.

“We need many more solar and wind farms to meet this demand.”

Thinking about the public sector and what needs to be done, what do you think needs to happen?

“All of this infrastructure and energy allowance needs to be within the plans of the local councils for this to work. The majority of the councils now have climate emergency strategies and objectives but they need to deliver on those objectives based on the decisions made. If they are resisting change that comes along with these associated renewable developments by refusing schemes then those objectives will not be met. Local planning authorities need to step up and deliver if we are going to meet the government targets and aspirations.”

In some parts of the country funding has been applied to make this happen, do our government need to spend more?

“Policy and targets needs to be followed up with financial incentives to ensure the private sector takes up these schemes.”

I want to be as green as possible, what should I do to be as sustainable as I possibly can be?

“It’s important to establish that the electricity coming into the charging station is renewable. The cleanest approach would be to ensure that the electricity is being produced is located as close as possible to the charging unit to ensure there is not as much wastage. Also, don’t travel to charge your car, make sure it’s located somewhere convenient you are already going to or passing.

“You can’t think about any one aspect in isolation, it’s how everything works together. And importantly, we do not need to reinvent the wheel. We can be considerate with regards to how spaces are currently used, whether in urban areas such as roofing and carparks, or green spaces where we have farming land. Renewable energy generating developments can be created which work alongside its existing use not instead of. It is only by creating more renewable energy sources that we are going to be able to move closer to decarbonisation.”

This podcast was first published on Place North West. For more information on the contents Andrew covered in this podcast, please contact us.