Positive interest in electric vehicles but where to charge them is less obvious

Andrew Warren, chairman of the British Energy Efficiency Federation and a regular contributor to EiD, questions why EU member states – including the UK – are blocking attempts to require new buildings to be equipped with fast charge points for EVs. This article first appeared on the Business Green website.

 

EV charge points are crucial for green transport – so why are countries blocking them?

This month the Scottish government has committed to phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032 – eight years earlier than the 2040 ban announced by the UK government this July. Crucially, Holyrood is promising to fast-track the development of a Scotland-wide electric vehicle (EV) charging network.

Electric vehicles are “fueled” not by petroleum fuels, but by special batteries. These batteries are far too expensive to use once and throw away, like their household equivalents.

These batteries are far too expensive to use once and throw away, like their household equivalents.

So the key question in ensuring the universal adoption of EVs becomes: how easy is it going to be to recharge these batteries?

Obviously plugging into the household mains can do this. That is a far longer, certainly overnight, exercise than standing on a petrol forecourt for five or ten minutes, petrol pump in hand. And in the UK, only half of drivers have access to off-street parking.

Logically the answer is to install purpose-built recharging facilities that operate far more swiftly- in twenty minutes rather than twelve hours.

On October 11 the European Parliament’s industry committee will be voting on a European Commission proposal, designed to ensure that EV charging points are installed in all larger new and refurbished buildings throughout the 28 countries currently in the European Union.

But this vote will be taking place with the knowledge that a majority of Member State governments – including sadly the UK – have already given a firm thumbs down to any such requirements.

Earlier this year the European Commission proposed altering Article 8 of the existing Energy Performance of Buildings directive. (Full personal declaration: in 1999 I chaired the official EU working party that originally proposed this directive, which was originally adopted in 2002; this would be its second subsequent strengthening.)

According to the European Commission, the new Article 8 would   require the installation of EV charging infrastructure in any and every new non-residential building with more than ten parking spaces available. Crucially this requirement would also apply to any refurbishment project that after completion would include ten or more parking spaces.

This initiative was considered by the European Council of energy ministers, at their (largely unreported) formal six monthly meeting held on June 27.

To the overt ire of the climate change Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, national ministers voted this proposed new Article down. Removing in his view over 90 per cent of the potential carbon dioxide saving benefits.

The arguments evinced by opponents seemed to be largely that requiring such extra facilities might discourage property developers by adding to their costs – even though these seem to be fairly marginal. Not much consideration seems to have been given to the well-being of subsequent occupants of the buildings, or indeed the wider societal and ecological benefits that could accrue.

This rejection occurred despite strong representations from most of the western European governments with whom the UK would normally expect to be bracketed.

Whilst practically all the opposition came from the (poorer) former Communist countries in eastern Europe, their weight was added to by the UK BEIS junior minister Richard Harrington, who also firmly rejected the proposed new Article, largely because of concern for damage to property developers’ potential profits. This unequivocal opposition was presumably on the basis that Harrington had no direct ministerial responsibility for delivering the environment secretary’s electric vehicle pledge?

The latest Department for Transport figures reveal that electric car sales are increasing by 172 per cent every five years, while the current rate of supporting infrastructure development means there could be as few as one charge point for every 15 EVs on the road by 2030.

It is also evident that many of the charge point sockets currently being installed are ‘standard’ or ‘slow speed’, which can take as long as between six and eight hours to fully charge an electric vehicle.

We must hope that MEPs will end up backing the European Commission’s proposals. In their October vote under consideration is an additional proposal to extend the Commission’s requirements, by asking each government to ensure installation of a minimum number of recharging points to every public and commercial non-residential building with more than ten parking spaces – whether refurbished or not – within seven years.

They must also show support, crucially, when the trilogue discussions between the 28 governments, the European Parliament and the European Commission take place under the Estonian Presidency this November and December: this will agree the final text of the recast Directive.

After all, if you cannot easily “refuel”, I fear the average motorist may simply end up rejecting the entire electric car concept.

 

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