Three documents were published this week which all refer to electric vehicles (EV). Read together they start to provide us with the bigger picture for the development of the necessary infrastructure and the anticipated uptake of the new technology.

There could be up to 25 million EVs on the roads by 2035 and that could go up to 36 million by 2040 is what National Grid's Future Energy Scenarios (FES2018) anticipate. National Grid's predictions are based on the falling cost of ownership for EVs and the clear policy direction set by the UK Government. So while the increase in EVs will be partly consumer driven this development will also require infrastructure. This is where the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) and government policy comes in.

Produced by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), as advisor to the Government, the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) states that a core network of fast or rapid chargers should be installed in visible locations across the country. While the NIC states that majority should be built by the private sector (enabled by government), the Government should subsidise charger installation where the private sector will not build them, starting in the locations least likely to be delivered commercially. Government should also require local authorities to free up 5 per cent of their parking spaces for EV charge points by 2020, and 25 per cent by 2025 states the NIA.

The Government's 'Road to Zero' strategy sets out next steps towards cleaner road transport and its vision is for the UK to have one of the best EV infrastructure networks in the world. The strategy document sets out a number of policy intentions to ensure that new houses over the coming years are EV ready; to enable EV charging at home.

New developments

The Government will consult as soon as possible on introducing a requirement for necessary infrastructure for new dwellings in England where appropriate. The intention stated is that all new homes should have a charge point. There is one indication that the Government may be considering restrictions in some areas and that is contained in the statement that it will at the same time be 'mindful of its housing supply objectives'.

Local planning policies incorporate facilities for charging electric vehicles via the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the strategy document confirms. The revised NPPF is expected to be published soon and before the summer recess. We believe that the provision of electric charge points is likely to become an increasingly material consideration within the planning balance when planning authorities decide to grant permission for new residential development schemes.

Smart charging

The Road to Zero strategy would like to see all government supported charge point installations have "smart functionality" by 2019. Further the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (which is likely to receive Royal Assent very shortly), contains powers that will allow government to bring forward regulations so that all new charge points are smart. Smart charge points will mean that future EVs can become source of demand flexibility through smart charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology which will help support the decarbonisation of electricity as considered by NG in FES2018. We believe that this should pave the way for innovative supply contracts to be developed for the EV user. It should enable and deliver competition for government supported charge points.

Retrofitting

A clear policy and direction for new developments is relatively easy to define and it may be quicker to implement. What the solutions will be for existing housing stock is a question that remains. The Road to Zero does not mention retrofitting existing housing stock for EVs.

Solutions for existing housing are likely to be more complicated. The norm in many of our towns and is for households to use on street parking and often away from their dwelling. Part of the answer for existing housing may be a form of smart charging solution, perhaps installed under new permitted development rights? Gas and electricity suppliers are required by their licence to take all reasonable steps to roll out smart meters to all of their domestic and small business customers by the end of 2020. But we anticipate that this will not work for all existing houses and that significant infrastructure installation is likely to be required regardless before EVs could become ubiquitous in existing residential areas.

The Road to Zero also announced that the Government will convene an EV Energy Taskforce this summer. This will focus on smart charging and how to plan for future EV uptake and ensure the energy system can meet future demand in an efficient and sustainable way. It will be tasked with reporting to government with proposals for government and industry over the course of 2019.