Petrol and diesel car ban to help drive EV charging infrastructure?

Can initiatives to replace petrol and diesel cars help drive EV charging infrastructure?

Don Dulchinos, Director, Market Facilitation and Rolf Bienert, Managing & Technical Director, OpenADR Alliance

The Biden Administration has recently proposed ambitious plans to meet the country’s climate goals, with proposals to ensure that two-thirds of new passenger cars and a quarter of new heavy trucks sold in the U.S. are all-electric by 2032. This presents a big challenge for automotive manufacturers.  Just 5.8% of new cars and less than 2% of new trucks sold last year were all-electric.

In the UK, the Government also plans to push ahead with a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel engine cars by 2030. Sales of cars with combustion engines will become illegal in seven years, while the sale of hybrid cars and vans will continue to be sold until 2035. This is despite an EU decision to allow the sale of new internal combustion engine cars that only run on ‘e-fuels’ to continue after 2035.

With the ban on sales, drivers are being encouraged to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) as part of the UK’s effort to help reduce emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050. But there is a lot of work to be done, not least in having an infrastructure fit for purpose that can support the accelerated growth in EVs.

Two years ago, research by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded that the UK would need 10 times more EV charging points by 2030 if it is to meet its net zero emissions target.

At the time, there were a recorded 25,000 charging points in place, and that while some charging facilities, like shopping centres and offices, were doing well, the report highlighted concerns over the reliability of public charging points and pricing, as well as a lack of on street and rural charging. The suggestion was that concerns over being able to charge a vehicle was putting people off buying EVs.

The CMA recommended a plan of action, which included making charging points easy to find, with up-to-date information on availability, clear pricing structures and accessibility. Additional recommendations included a national charging strategy involving regional authorities supporting local authorities with the roll-out of on-street charging, and opening competition between electricity providers at charge points.

Since then, the Government has published is Electric Vehicle infrastructure Strategy, with a confirmed £1.6bn of public funding for charging points. £950m will be made available through the Rapid Charging Fund to install rapid charging points across the motorway network through to 2035, while £500m is to be used to create a Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Fund (LEVI), under which local authorities will be able to bid for funding to install charging hubs and on-street charging points.

National Grid’s head of future markets said at the time, “research shows that once people feel confident there’s a viable network of charging points in places they need them, they’ll be encouraged to make the switch.” But added, “we now need to see action that makes the best use of the available funding, and collaboration between transport and energy networks to deliver the most efficient network solution.”

It's worth noting that charging networks can be participants in flexibility markets with distribution network operators (DNOs). This participation significantly improves the economic return on investment in charging networks. In the U.S., charging corridor developer Electrify America recently reported that it has installed onsite, behind-the-meter battery energy storage systems (BESS) at over 140 DC fast charging stations around the country.

These systems in total have more than 30MW of energy storage capacity. These assets not only provide utility rate/tariff savings from demand charges that can inhibit the economic viability of low-load factor DC fast chargers, but also can support the wider system through grid services. Electrify America participated in nearly 200 demand response (flexibility0 events to date to support vehicle-to-grid integration (VGI) – shifting over 125MWh of on-peak energy to lower carbon intensity off-peak hours.

So where are we right now? According to figures from Zap-Map, at the end of March 2023, there were 40,496 EV charging points in place across the UK – not including charge points at homes or workplaces (an estimated 400,000), which is well short of the proposed figures needed over the next few years.

If goals for vehicle electrification are to be met, whether in the UK, the U.S. or other markets, talk of plans will not be enough. A commitment to wholesale fast accessible public charging that can match expectations is needed, with investment, creative partnerships with DSOs, DNOs and others – and action – to meet these deadlines.


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