The EV transition: Do it once, do it right and do it for all
Graeme Cooper, head of future markets at National Grid explains what considerations a business must make when looking to transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and the benefits these can bring on the road to net-zero.
In the UK, transport accounts for 27% of carbon emissions, representing the country’s largest emitting sector. The clean transport transition is vital to helping reach global net-zero and clean air ambitions, and the clock is ticking to get the right infrastructure in place and build confidence amongst consumers and businesses. The signs of progress being made are positive and highlight a strong ambition for a revolution. But key gaps need to be addressed if this transition is to be done once and done right in a way that is both economic and efficient overall.
The recently published EV infrastructure strategy announced a number of actions; it set out a mosaic of charging solutions for on-street, hub, and home; it helped provide certainty and confidence to consumers and businesses on how this transition will become a reality; and in many ways, it sets in motion the ability for government, industry, and networks to move from planning to delivery.
The strategy was also swiftly followed up by a raft of additional transport decarbonisation roadmaps and documents. These included the EV Energy Taskforce report which pointed to five key conditions that could help achieve a successful transition, and a consultation on ending the sale of new, non-zero emission buses and minibuses. Combine all of that with clear dates to end the sale of diesel cars and vans, and a date to end the sale of diesel trucks by 2035/2040 to be announced following recent consultation, and it’s clear the pieces of the transport decarbonisation puzzle are coming together.
In terms of next steps, vital areas need to be fleshed out to turn intent and ambition into a reality. Having clear timeframes for phasing out internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is key as it enables the market to take low risk action now. This includes investing in energy infrastructure ahead of need, planning the deployment of infrastructure in a way that ensures long distance trucks can charge or re-fuel enroute, and aligning investment with other projects such as the EV rapid charging network.
Both distribution and transmission network owners have a critical role to play in this transition, and we’ll be working closely with government, industry and regional networks to map out where critical grid capacity is needed. National Grid is ready to move at speed to put the right wires in the right place to futureproof the network for the clean transport revolution.
There’s a real opportunity to get started and build before need, ensuring there is enough capacity for sufficient chargers to be scalable just ahead of ramping demand. Achieving this requires coordinated action from energy, infrastructure, automotive groups and government on a national and local level, to meet targets set for 2030, 2035 and beyond.
However, recent findings from the FairCharge campaign shows that more than seven in 10 councils haven’t published EV transition plans, highlighting the important action needed from government and local authorities to provide chargepoints. While there are some challenges to overcome including resource and skills on a local level, the EV infrastructure strategy has ringfenced cash (£50m) to address this – and once this funding has been deployed to local authorities, we should see more plans and action to get chargers in place to benefit all.
The £950m Project Rapid fund is also an important part of the transition and will be key to achieving government ambitions to decarbonise road transport. We now need to see action that makes best use of the available funding, and collaboration between transport and energy networks to deliver the most economic and efficient network solution. Establishing the Delivery Body to deploy the Rapid Charging Fund is crucial to map out key routes which will need fast, reliable chargers. This must include charging points at motorway service areas and on the strategic road network which will be a critical investment that gives people confidence that they can make longer journeys around the country.
And all this planning and action can’t just focus on cars and light vans. If we want to get the transition right across all road users, there needs to be a holistic approach which considers the whole transport system. This means we need a plan in place for the deployment of adequate and futureproofed charging and/re-fuelling infrastructure which can be scaled up to support the decarbonisation across larger vans, buses, coaches, trucks, and HGVs. This could be done by expanding the scope of Project Rapid to encompass these forms of transport rather than just cars and light vans.
Having access to adequate charging facilities that are reliable and fast will no doubt speed up the shift to electric vehicles and help accelerate progress towards decarbonisation and clean air goals. But to get a national viable network of chargers in place in a way that is futureproofed, energy companies, automotive groups, industry, local authorities and government must work together to address these gaps and take responsibility for their role in making this transition a success for everyone.