The Road to Zero report (PDF) describes the government’s approach to the shift to low carbon transport. This includes funding research projects and supporting the acquisition of electric vehicles while relying on industry and the market to lead on the development of the required infrastructure, with support from the forthcoming £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund.

The report confirms that the government views smart charging, battery storage and V2G technology and new business models as key elements of developing sustainable electric vehicle propositions. The government has also announced a number of new measures including consulting on making electric charging points mandatory in new developments.

In The Road to Zero the government sets out its targets for low carbon transport. These include:

  • wanting 50% of new car sales and 40% of new van sales to be ultra low emission by 2030
  • expecting that by 2040 “the majority” of new cars and vans sold will be 100% zero emission with all new cars and vans having “significant zero emission capability”.

To develop the infrastructure to deliver the shift to low carbon transport, the government continues its approach of promoting change by a combination of facilitating collaboration, making a defined amount of grant funding available and limited regulatory intervention. Other than mandating broad concepts such as requiring the inter-operability of charge points the approach does not impose technical or commercial solutions.

How will the government implement electric charging infrastructure?

The government intends to take powers through the forthcoming Automated and Electric Vehicles Act to mandate the introduction of electric charging infrastructure through major fuel retailers in the event the market fails to deliver the necessary capacity. However, its preference is to work in partnership with industry, including through the newly-announced EV Energy Taskforce and the forthcoming Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund, providing match funding of up to £400 million.

The Road to Zero expects the Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund to be technology neutral and capable of supporting a wide range of projects, including software development, grid upgrades and battery storage solutions. Local authorities continue to be expected to lead on residential charging though the Go Ultra Low programme with Highways England retaining its target of a rapid charging point within twenty miles of 95% of the strategic roads network.

What initiatives will support the transition to low carbon transport?

Among the new initiatives announced to support the transition is a consultation on requiring electric vehicle charging points in new housing developments. This is welcome and no surprise but it has certainly grabbed the headlines. In Burges Salmon’s own report on housing infrastructure published earlier this year our industry survey revealed that 60% of respondents believed that EV charging points should be compulsory in all new builds.

Other new initiatives include £40 million funding for wireless and on-street charging technology, and a requirement for new lampposts to include charging points. The government’s report also confirms continuing government support for hydrogen vehicles as part of a mixed use case solution. The government will review progress towards the development of EV infrastructure in 2025.

There will be those in the EV community who will be disappointed that the targets are not more challenging and that the government is not putting more structure on the evolution of UK EV infrastructure. Overall though this means that there is still a significant opportunity for market players to define the approach. The report recognises that the electric vehicle solution will need to fit into the wider evolution of mobility services and it is clear that solutions and value chains will need to link up industries and sectors that have traditionally been separate. This includes the complex ecosystem for related mobility concepts such as intelligent transport systems and connected and autonomous vehicles.

Battery storage, vehicle to grid technology, blockchain, remote generation and retail and development opportunities will also have key roles in the new business models required. Participants in the transition will need to have, and will expect their advisers to have, in-depth cross-sector, multi-disciplinary expertise in order to take full advantage.