Automated and electric vehicles are back on the legislative agenda and not before time. We take a look at the latest legal proposals and where they fit into current developments.

The government has introduced the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, which largely replicates the main sections in what was previously Parts 1 and 2 of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill.

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

Crucially, as regards automated vehicles, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill maintains the proposed “single insurer model” under which drivers will buy an automated vehicle policy which covers accidents regardless of whether or not the car was being driven by the driver or autonomously at the time. Following consultation, this was the much preferred model as it offered drivers and all road-users the greatest insurance certainty and the most efficient route for liability recovery. See our previous article: Changes to insurance for driverless cars.

As proposed before, the statutory definition of “automated vehicle” is going to be determined by reference to a designated list to be maintained by the Secretary of State. However as, under this Bill, the vehicle is only considered to be “driving itself” when it is “operating in a mode in which it is not being controlled, and does not need to be monitored, by an individual” it is likely that the Bill is confined in practice to dealing with what the CAV industry would understand to be Level 4 or above autonomous vehicles.

"The unlocking of this perceived insurance issue around the use of CAVs through the single insurer model is good for the UK CAV sector, good for drivers and good for all road-users. It also reinforces the importance of insurers in facilitating the growth of CAV development and deployment and underlines why we work closely with market leaders such as Axa on a number of CAV projects” – Chris Jackson.

Electric Vehicles

The Bill additionally reintroduces provisions for the Secretary of State to make regulations on the access and connection arrangements for public charging points (which include both electric and hydrogen refuelling points) and to mandate the installation of public charging points in particular by large fuel retailers. In respect of electrical charging points, regulations will be able to provide that they must have smart grid capability.

As before, the detail to come in regulations will be key to understanding the impacts of these requirements. However, the reintroduction of the measures is timely and they tie in with a series of gear changes for the electric vehicle industry in particular since the previous Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill including:

  • The government announcements on large funding competitions for research and development into electric vehicle technology, battery technology and vehicle-to-grid studies.
  • Government policy announcements by the UK government (and Scottish government) on the phasing out of diesel and petrol vehicles.
  • Motor industry announcements by the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and others to move increasingly towards electric vehicle technology.
  • Fuel industry announcements by the likes of Shell as to introduction of electric vehicle charging points at petrol stations.
  • Energy industry announcements by the likes of OVO as to innovative commercial models for funding electric vehicles and battery usage.

"The pace of change and investment into the EV sector has picked up with a lot of entities looking at charging points and structures. While this Bill is welcomed as a start to the government setting out clearly the shape of the sector as it sees it, the government may have a challenge to keep up." – Ross Fairley.