Scoping the role of local authorities in the provision of electric vehicle charging infrastructure

 Scoping the role of local authorities in the provision of electric vehicle charging infrastructure cover
The LGA has commissioned Local Partnerships to carry out a research project into the role of local authorities in delivering the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure

Executive summary

Introduction and context

As part of the UK’s transition to net zero, transport emissions need to be addressed.  The UK Government is committed to a transition away from internal combustion engines (ICE), with a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in 2030, with hybrids to follow in 2035. It is anticipated that this will cause a step change in uptake of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) which currently make up less than 1% of vehicles in the UK. The Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan, puts electrification of cars front and centre of the UK’s net zero ambition.

To support BEVs new charging infrastructure is required, and there is likely to be a role for the public sector in ensuring the required infrastructure is delivered, and that it meets the needs of residents. Therefore, the Local Government Association (LGA) has commissioned Local Partnerships to carry out a research project into the role of local authorities in delivering the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.

The focus of this work is on the charging of private cars and vehicles in residential areas where there is no off-street parking (i.e. on-street charging). The purpose of the work is to inform the LGA’s approach to discussions with Government and to identify any areas where it would benefit members for the LGA to provide support or guidance.

Findings

In most areas local authorities have delivered some EV charging infrastructure, although some of this is historic or legacy infrastructure dating back some years. Most authorities are planning to be involved in the procurement or deployment of public EV charging infrastructure in the future.

Currently the role for local government in the delivery of EV charging infrastructure is not clear and many local authorities feel that they lack the appropriate skills and data to make investment decisions in what is seen as a fast-paced and evolving technological landscape. Whilst the local authorities that engaged in this research did not articulate a definitive vision of what they felt their role should be, their commitment to delivering was clear, as was widespread concern that the market alone would not be able to meet the needs of all residents.

Key barriers to delivery that were raised by local authorities through the research were:

  • lack of coherent strategic direction at a national level, including no articulation of the vision for the future and lack of clarity over the role authorities were expected to play in delivering EV charging infrastructure
  • funding and resource constraints, with current funding structures too short term to allow strategic planning, and as they are based on competitive allocation do not focus on delivering where infrastructure is most needed
  • lack of data to support decision making, including not having modelling of future demand
  • difficulties engaging with DNOs on energy planning and grid connection, and as with other areas a lack of strategic approach to energy planning
  • concerns over procurement approaches, with questions over whether authorities have the right commercial skills, and whether best practice is being shared across the sector, as each authority is developing new contracts and documents
  • concerns over current market constraints and the extent to which this was driving commercial arrangements and decision making
  • questions over the appropriate technology to invest in and apprehension about future technology obsolescence.

Whilst a significant majority of local authorities we engaged with were actively deploying or planning for EV charge infrastructure, a significant minority had decided that in the absence of a mandated requirement from government, and in light of uncertainty and constrained resources that this is not a priority for them at this time. If the government does not provide a clear mandate and accompany that with the necessary resources then some local authorities will choose to take different approaches.

Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) and the role of local government

As part of an ongoing programme of engagement OZEV have recently been promoting discussion on five topic areas in relation to the role of local government:

  • improving awareness and local leadership within local authorities
  • improving capacity and capability within local authorities
  • mechanisms for sharing knowledge and materials across local authorities
  • exploring what role compelling local authorities (to provide on-street charging provision) should play
  • working with local authorities on the transition of their own fleet vehicles.

Our findings in relation to these areas are as follows:

Improving awareness and local leadership within local authorities

There is a strong perception that national leadership could be stronger. In particular clarity at a national level on:

  • the need to act
  • the scale of necessary action
  • issues around technology selection.

would go a significant distance to reducing local uncertainty, which in turn will strengthen the resolve of local leadership and increase delivery.

The majority of local authorities are already acting, whether or not they are able to access the government On Street Residential Chargepoint (ORCS) funding, seeing the clear synergies between EV charge infrastructure and their net zero ambitions or air quality responsibilities.

92% of local authorities we contacted felt that there is a role for local government across a range of activities including both planning and installation. The issues that need addressing are the specific roles for different types of authorities and the mechanism for resource allocation and the distribution of funding.

Improving capacity and capability within local authorities

Both our survey and a survey undertaken by OZEV (distributed by the Energy Savings Trust) in May 2021 identified lack of funding and lack of resources as the biggest barriers to delivery. The resourcing available is very variable and not necessarily determined by the type of local authority.

Resource constraints are driving decision making in some local authorities including a decision not to install charge infrastructure and decisions to outsource all provision on a ‘nil cost’ basis, despite the other risks this can present.

In the main local authorities are keen to work collaboratively, and those that have done so have generally found it to be a positive experience. There is potential to explore using the sub-regional transport boards (STBs) as a regional umbrella – but this is not currently supported by the majority of local authorities that responded to the OZEV survey.

We are seeing the most delivery activity amongst housing authorities (unitary authorities, and districts and boroughs), but the STBs have their strongest relationships with the transport authorities (unitary authorities and counties). Therefore, it is possible that seeking to strengthen the relationships between the housing authorities and the STBs would be beneficial if OZEV continue to identify the STBs as integral to delivery.

If OZEV want to increase the pace of delivery, then additional resources (revenue and capital) need to be provided.

Mechanisms for sharing knowledge and materials across local authorities

There are already significant knowledge resources available to local authorities, for example through both the EST and Cenex websites and this is due to be supplemented shortly by the technical guidance OZEV are procuring through the Institute for Technology (IET). What has been missing is a mechanism to signpost from a single point the best resources for particular topics and applications and it is essential that the IET guidance is sufficiently comprehensive and readable to fulfil this role.

Local authorities are resource constrained and trying to operate in a market where demand currently outstrips supply. This is providing an environment where suppliers have the upper hand, and as a consequence there are risks to delivery of best value.

Local authorities need to be better armed with data and methodology to identify a clear list of priority locations. As the grid is not equal in all locations there is a need for sensible use of subsidies to avoid areas being left behind.

There needs to be more thought addressed to the decarbonisation of rural transport, particularly as public chargers in these locations may not be commercially attractive.

Identifying criteria for selecting the best technology for a particular location (which should include dumb gullies) in the forthcoming guidance should be a priority.

There are lots of areas that would benefit from knowledge sharing. The LGA and the STBs should be key players in this.

Exploring what role compelling local authorities (to provide on-street charging provision) should play

Local authorities are already resource constrained and the creation of any new burdens would need to be accompanied with new resources, both revenue and capital.

The imposition of requirements and the provision of funding might lead to faster deployment as they would provide some of the clarity that is currently lacking around the role of local authorities. However, targets would need to consider the nature of place, and be targeted at specific types of interventions, and would need to be acceptable to elected members.

Currently local authorities in some areas are experiencing difficulties in procuring EV charging equipment and contractors. The commercial market is expanding rapidly and there are currently resource constraints in the construction industry. If commercial operators are either not responding to tenders or are seeking to impose unreasonable contract conditions then now would not be the appropriate time to compel local authorities to act.

Working with local authorities on the transition of their own fleet vehicles

This question was out of scope for the work we have undertaken, however both Local Partnerships and the LGA are aware of significant activity already being undertaken in this area.

The free fleet reviews available to local authorities through EST are welcomed, although the delays currently being encountered to access the service were raised in the workshop sessions.

Recommendations

Based on the views of participants in the research and structured in line with the OZEV engagement topics there are ten asks for the LGA to address with Government on behalf of local authorities. These are:

  • to clearly articulate the national roll out strategy for EV charging and the specific role to be played by councils. This should be supported by forecasts of requirement / targets for areas
  • to provide national leadership on the issue of technology selection
  • if OZEV want to increase the pace of delivery, revenue and capital resource will need to be provided
  • to move away from the stop/start short term funding arrangement to a longer term 'outcome' based approach to funding, with the potential for this to be allocated based on predicted need, rather than competitively
  • to strengthen relationships between STBs and housing and planning authorities, if OZEV see STBs as important to future delivery
  • to provide access to data in areas including market data, location modelling, delivery model choice, procurement and technology guidance
  • in the forthcoming guidance, to identify criteria for selecting the best technology for a particular location (which should include dumb gullies)
  • to make use of the LGA and STBs to support and enable knowledge sharing.

In addition, there were a number of areas identified where local authorities would welcome more support and/or guidance, including:

  • procurement, including best practice and template documents
  • use of data, including sharing of demand models and existing local authority data sources that can be used
  • member education and training on issues relating to EV
  • use of the pavement.

Introduction

In June 2019, the UK parliament passed legislation requiring the government to reduce the UK’s net emissions of greenhouse gases by 100% relative to 1990 levels by 2050. Transport is the single largest contributor to UK carbon dioxide emissions, representing around 34% of the total emissions.

As part of its strategy to tackle transport emissions the UK Government has announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel engine cars and vans from 2030, with hybrid vehicles banned from 2035. In order to meet the overall net zero target all transport emissions will need to be eliminated before 2050; with the average 14 year life of a vehicle in the UK phasing out of petrol and diesel engine vehicles should be achieved in advance of 2050. This was followed by the Transport Decarbonisation Plan in July 2021 setting out the central role of electric cars in the government’s vision of the future.

There are currently around 36 million cars and vans on the UK’s roads, with around 1.1% (according to vehicle licencing statistics) being ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV) according to Zapmap around 260,000 are fully battery electric vehicles (BEV). BEVs comprised 6.6% of new car sales in 2020 and it is likely that significant year on year growth will be seen from now on.

Whilst a successful transition to net zero emissions will require significantly fewer vehicle miles (in smaller and lighter vehicles) there is a need for the infrastructure to support alternative fuels to be in place before users can transition.

Over recent decades motor manufacturers have experimented with alternative fuel sources for vehicles, principally based around either batteries or hydrogen. The emerging consensus is that small vehicles (cars and vans) will need to become electric, whereas larger vehicles may be either electric or hydrogen. In planning for small vehicle transition the OZEV is therefore focussed on ensuring there is sufficient electrical charge infrastructure to support a rapidly expanding fleet of BEVs.

Available and reliable charging infrastructure is a key part of the transition to electric vehicles, with around 90% of EV charging taking place either at home or at work on relatively slow charge points. A recent Zapmap survey of current EV owners found:

  • 98% have access to private off-street parking with most charging at 7kW
  • 90% of drivers use public networks at least occasionally.

6.6 million households in the UK do not have access to off-street parking. While not all of these households own a vehicle now or will need to charge an EV at home in the future, this does indicate a particular area of challenge to the scale of change that is required, and if the UK is to meet its carbon commitment this change must happen at pace.

Housing without off-street parking is often clustered into particular locations, meaning access to charging in these areas is difficult for a range of residents. In order to ensure deployment of on street charting infrastructure OZEV introduced a support package including technical support provided by the Energy Savings Trust (EST) and the On Street Residential Chargepoint funding (ORCS) - see section 2.2.1 below for more details.

In addition to the on-street charging challenge there is a need for rapid and ultra-rapid charge hubs focussed along strategic transport routes, this is an area which has been a key focus for the commercial charge point providers as it offers both premium pricing opportunities and delivery at a commercial scale.

Government Funding Support and Target Milestones

In the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution (Ten Point Plan) the government announced a £ 1.3 billion funding package to accelerate the roll out of charging infrastructure. This support is directed at five key areas:

  • ensuring there is sufficient electrical capacity on the strategic transport networks to deliver rapid charging
  • grants for home charge points
  • grant for workplace charge points
  • roll out of on-street residential charge points (supported by ORCS)
  • ultra-low emissions taxi infrastructure.

In addition, to the above the Ten Point Plan set out the following target milestones:

Date Milestones

2021

  • Publish a Delivery Plan setting out key milestones to deliver the new phase out dates.
  • Publish a Green Paper on the UK’s post EU emissions regulations and the car and van phase out dates, as well as launch a consultation on the phase out of new diesel HGVs

2030

  • The network of charge points on England’s motorways and major A road to be extensive with more than 2,500 high powered charge points that can charge your car so it can drive over 100 miles, all in the time in the time it takes to have a cup of coffee.
  • End of sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans

2035

  • All new cars and vans will be zero-emission from the tailpipe leading to cleaner, greener vehicles on UK roads.
  • England’s motorways and major A roads will have around 6,000 high powered charge points

 

On-Street Residential Charging Scheme (ORCS)

ORCS was introduced in 2017 and backed up in 2018 with a tailored local authority support programme delivered by EST.

To date ORCS has helped just under one third of English local authorities to deliver around 4,000 EV charge points. The nature and scale of projects varies widely, and some authorities have accessed up to three rounds of grant funding. Of the 84 local authorities responding to our survey less than half had accessed ORCS funding.

The number of schemes funded by ORCS has increased each year since its introduction. A survey undertaken by OZEV in May 2021 indicated that nearly 90% of respondents had heard of ORCS, although less than half of respondents had accessed the funding. A further £ 20 million funding has been allocated to ORCS for 2021/22.

The ORCS scheme has been updated to reflect user feedback and now provides a larger contribution to capital costs and allows a wider range of schemes (including car park schemes) to be eligible for grant funding.

Our workshops indicated some frustration from local authorities with the ORCS funding process, in particular the levels of bureaucracy / detail required and the timescales between application and obtaining funding.

OZEV are keen to see a higher level of take up of the ORCS funding and wider use of the EST support service to facilitate a faster roll out of on street EV charging infrastructure. Workshop feedback is suggesting that there can be significant delays in accessing the EST support with a queue of around three months currently being experienced.

OZEV engagement with local authorities

OZEV are keen that local authorities take a role in delivery of EV charge infrastructure and are in the process of providing guidance authored by The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for the sector. OZEV have been running sector engagement for nearly 12 months including a number of ‘round table’ sessions, engaging stakeholders in the production of the IET guidance and the publication of a survey in May 2021 which was responded to by 48 local authorities. Where appropriate we have included outputs from this survey in our report commentary.

In particular OZEV have most recently been promoting discussion with stakeholders around the following five topics:

  • improving awareness and local leadership within local authorities
  • improving capacity and capability within local authorities
  • mechanisms for sharing knowledge and materials across local authorities
  • exploring what role compelling local authorities should play
  • working with local authorities on the transition of their own fleet vehicles.

Project objectives

In April 2021, the LGA commissioned Local Partnerships to undertake a research project to understand the role local authorities feel they should take in the delivery of EV charging infrastructure needed to enable the UK to transition to EVs. The focus of the study was infrastructure for the charging of private EVs and small vehicles, largely in residential areas where there is no off -street parking (rather than destination or rapid charging). This is in line with emerging thinking from OZEV around the role for local authorities.

Through the work the LGA is seeking to identify the role that councils feel would be most appropriate for them with regards to EV charging and to identify barriers that prevent them undertaking a more proactive role at the current time.

The outputs of the study will be used by the LGA to support discussions with Government relating to the forthcoming spending review, and ongoing funding schemes such as the ORCS. The findings will provide an evidence-based approach to defining the support that councils need and ensures that the LGA undertakes these discussions accurately reflecting the views of its membership.

Methodology

The approach to this work had three stages:

Figure 1: Three stage methodology

Mapping local authority involvement

The team undertook a desktop mapping exercise to identify the relevant roles that the local government sector has in enabling a transition to EVs through the provision of charging infrastructure. The outputs of this are included in section 3.

Sector engagement

Sector engagement took the form of a discussion session with the LGA’s Environment, Energy, Housing and Transport Board, a series of four workshops, structured interviews and an online survey. More detail about each of these activities is in APPENDIX 1, with a list of the authorities represented in the interviews and workshops provided at APPENDIX 2.

Reporting

This report sets outs the finding of the research. It will be accompanied by a webinar to present the findings.

Current state of involvement and awareness

​​​​​​Local authority involvement

There are currently no targets in place for delivery of EV charge infrastructure, nor specific powers or duties for local authorities in relation to the provision of EV charging.

Across our survey and workshops, we have seen variable responses from local authorities. Some are working proactively to install significant numbers of charge points, whereas others have taken a deliberate decision not to engage with delivery at this stage in the process, preferring instead to prioritise statutory functions. In the absence of specific duties, powers, targets or resources all approaches are valid.

Of the respondents to the OZEV survey 91.6% (equating to 40 authorities) had already installed some charge points. Our workshop discussions would agree that most local authorities have been involved in some EV charge infrastructure deployment. To support that activity less than half of the Local Partnerships and OZEV survey respondents had received ORCS funding, indicating that a significant proportion of local authority activity is not supported by ORCS funding. This conclusion is consistent with the overall ORCS support reaching under one third of councils.

Workshop participants reported that the focus of their delivery was on charging hubs and destination charging, rather than on providing on-street charging infrastructure. This is backed up by data from the recent OZEV survey which indicated that 85% of local authorities were interested in providing car park charging infrastructure as opposed to 71% expressing an interest in on street provision. A significant minority of local authorities did not feel that on-street parking was the appropriate location for charging infrastructure, citing such issues as tension with local residents who lose access to scarce parking spaces and liability for trailing cables. Overall, there was stronger support for creation of charging hubs in the local vicinity. The pressure for this type of arrangement has already been accommodated to an extent by OZEV with the relaxation of eligibility rules for ORCS funding.

Of the local authorities who attended either a workshop or the EEHT Board meeting, the views were mainly supportive of local authorities having a role in the delivery of EV charge infrastructure, with some notable exceptions. Overall support for involvement appears to be greater in authorities who have responsibility for housing than with those who only have transport authorities. Concern was also expressed by a number of respondents about how the role local authorities take in EV charging should provide for social housing and owned stock.

A number of authorities had installed EV charge points in the past but had not provided any more in the last five years, with early involvement not being followed up.

Workshop participants discussed the variety of approaches that they were seeing being taken across the country, and some expressed concern that this would lead to a ‘patchwork’ of different infrastructure availability. Parallels were drawn between EV infrastructure, and the broadband roll out, with participants identifying the need to act now to prevent non-commercial areas losing out and prevent a postcode lottery in provision.

Figure 2 shows the objective respondents were seeking to achieve through their involvement in EV charging infrastructure. The most common objectives were a reduction in carbon emissions (97%) and addressing issues of poor air quality (77%).

EV fig 2 What objectives are you trying to achieve

Provision of such infrastructure is for many councils a logical decision given their statutory and/or management powers over the street scape.  These are summarised in Table 2 below.

 

Powers / responsibilities related to EV

Strategies / funding related to EV                           

Highways authorities

(all types)

  • Highway Authority
  • Responsible for street works licencing.
  • Responsibility for managing parking on roads.
  • Ownership of street lanterns.
  • Transport planning.

 

 

Highways authorities

(unitary)

  • Taxi and Private Hire vehicle (PHV) licencing.
  • Operation of retail and leisure destinations.
  • Housing authorities 
  • Air quality plans.

 

Non-highways authorities

  • Taxi and PHV licencing.
  • Ability to set planning policy for EV for new development.
  • May be the parking agency (under parking agency agreements).
  • Operation of retail and leisure destinations.
  • Housing authorities  
  • Local parking plans.
  • District transport strategies.
  • Air quality plans.

All authorities

  • Car Park ownership
  • Can apply for Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) funding through the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS).
  • Staff travel plans.
  • Climate / sustainability strategies.
  • Net zero targets.

 

Ownership Models

Our workshops and the OZEV survey indicate the adoption of a wide variety of ownership models for EV charge infrastructure. This was shown consistently across both the Local Partnerships and the OZEV surveys. Nearly half of the local authorities were owning and operating their own charge points, with the balance being split between external operators and concession agreements.

The workshops did indicate that the avoidance of costs (either capital up front or ongoing revenue) was a driver for external delivery models. Concerns were expressed by some participants about the offers available in the market and the terms on which some of these are being offered. In particular there was concern about the length of some agreements, exclusivity provisions and what might happen at the end of the agreements.

Future Intentions

Only 3% of authorities’ who responded to the Local Partnerships survey did not intend to be involved in the procurement or deployment of public EV charging infrastructure in the future (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Does your local authority intend to be involved in the procurement

Drivers for Charge Point locations

The OZEV survey asked about the priorities local authorities were considering when choosing locations for charge points. The top three priorities were:

  • availability of the land (e.g. council owned car parks)
  • accessibility to a wide range of users
  • future demand based on forecasts of future EV uptake.

The strategic placement of infrastructure e.g. to aid public transport take up or avoid congestion was ranked significantly lower.

Summary

Most local authorities have deployed at least some EV charging infrastructure, although less than a third have had access to ORCS funding to do this and overall numbers installed are relatively low. Local authorities clearly recognise the cross over between EV charging infrastructure and other policy priorities such as climate emergency and air quality.

Local authorities generally are more inclined to install infrastructure on car parks they own than on street, or at strategic transition points as they view this as more straightforward. There is no significantly predominant commercial model for delivery.

There are also local authorities, in the absence of clear targets, who have taken a decision that this is either something that they do not need to do, or something that they do not need to do at this point in time given the absence of targets and current levels of technological and commercial uncertainty.

Leadership

National Leadership

During the Local Partnerships workshops we polled participants on the extent to which they felt there was a clear national strategy for the roll out of EV charging infrastructure and whether there was clarity from Government about the role expected from local authorities.

Figure 4 below indicates that only 9.3% of survey respondents (six) believed there is clear national leadership, and the role of local government is clear.

Figure 4: Do you feel there is national leadership on providing EV

Polling during two of the workshops went further with 67% of Districts and 94% of the Counties attending feeling that the role for local government was unclear.

Certainty is a key driver to delivery and the uncertainty over the intended role for local government will act as a barrier to action.

The role for local government

Throughout the research there was a lack of clarity as to the role of local government in the delivery of EV charging infrastructure. Few workshop participants or interviewees were able to articulate a clear vision of the potential role of local government, focussing instead on their current activity, and the barriers to doing more.

The survey asked respondents to identify the role for local government (Figure 5). Only 8% felt there was no role for local government, with a role relating to policy and strategy selected most frequently:

  • putting in place policies to encourage / enable the delivery of EV infrastructure (83%)
  • including EV charging infrastructure in local transport planning (75%)
  • supporting infrastructure delivery to enable safe home-charging on-street. (58%).

Figure 5: Which of these best describes the role you think that Local Government should play

Participants linked EV infrastructure with wider strategic objectives for local government, including decarbonisation, sustainability, and active travel. There was concern that the current approach was failing to address the wider strategic picture of the need for lifestyle changes, reduced car mileages and modal shift. Some participants were worried that the current approach to EV charging infrastructure risked ‘locking in’ car use into the future and compromising current active travel projects.

However, it was felt that there was a need for the public sector to intervene in delivery of EV charging infrastructure in some way, with some but not all, believing that the market would not solve the issue in a comprehensive or fair way. Most participants in the research were keen for local government to do more, however it was recognised that for this to be possible more resource and more clarity was needed. Polling during the workshop found that 53% of organisations did not have an EV charging strategy.

The clearest articulation of a role for local authorities in the roll out of EV charge infrastructure came from the STBs, however the /OZEV survey found that fewer local authorities felt the STBs should be responsible for making strategic plans and setting targets, than either individual local authorities or ‘regional collaboration’ being preferred.

The OZEV survey found that 52% of respondents had found collaborative working on EV charging infrastructure to be either very effective or moderately effective.

Leadership Barriers

A significant minority of participants in the workshop sessions expressed concerns over whether now was the right time to act. Whilst some of this was focussed on resources and competing priorities there were also concerns expressed about technology selection, relating to both fuel type (hydrogen v battery) and type of charge infrastructure.

Concerns over potential technology obsolescence, with reference to ‘VHS Vs Betamax’, were raised, with some feeling it was too risky for local government to ‘gamble’ on one technology or another without appropriate guidance and support, and in the absence of a clear mandate or national strategy.

Member engagement

In the workshops, participants described varying levels of member engagement with, and support for, EV infrastructure. While some members were keen to see infrastructure delivered in their area, others were more sceptical with reasons cited including:

  • not agreeing with the need to transition transport to zero carbon alternatives
  • uncertainty that BEVs are the technology that will be dominant in replacing ICE vehicles, as opposed to hydrogen fuel cells, or another technology
  • not seeing a role for local authorities in the delivery of EV charging infrastructure, as local authorities take little or no role in providing fuel for existing means of personal transport
  • concern over the financial implications of EV charging infrastructure deployment
  • lack of understanding of the issues relating to EVs and EV infrastructure
  • apprehension as to when to invest in a constantly developing, technologically dynamic sector.

It was suggested by participants in the workshop that support to educate, develop awareness and understanding of members on EV infrastructure was an area where it would be helpful for the LGA to intervene.

Leadership Summary

There is a strong perception that national leadership could be stronger. In particular, clarity nationally on the need to act and dealing with issues around technology selection would go a significant distance to reducing local uncertainty, which in turn will increase delivery.

92% of local authorities we contacted felt that there is a role for local government across a range of activities including both planning and installation. The issues that need addressing are the specific roles for different types of authorities and the mechanism for resource allocation and the distribution of funding.

Capacity and capability

​​​​​​Barriers to delivery

Figure 6: What barriers are there to your authority taking on the role

In our survey (Figure 6), the most common barriers were lack of funding (85% of respondents) and lack of resourcing (76% of respondents). Our workshops illustrated these issues for example:

  • local authorities have limited resources and the application process for ORCS is bureaucratic and resource intensive, resulting in a significant proportion of available resource being used to service the grant application process

  • rural local authorities expressed a concern that the current funding offer (for on street charging) did not address the issues faced by their residents, who typically have higher transport emissions per capita.

The OZEV survey had similar findings with access to funding and lack of team resource being the biggest constraints, however connection costs and grid constraints were also identified as major barriers.

Funding

In relation to funding, many research participants identified that they had a lack of resource to deliver EV infrastructure, and that as it was not a statutory requirement to do so this limited the finance available, with many authorities having to deliver ‘cost neutral’ projects (regardless of whether this was the best long-term approach). However, 18% of survey respondents were not trying to generate income from their EV infrastructure (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Which position best describes your commercial view

Participants also reported concern that EV infrastructure would be a cost to the council as a result of:

  • ongoing maintenance costs
  • liabilities associated with decommissioning
  • loss of parking revenues.

Some participants also mentioned the future national revenue impact (in terms of road, vehicle and fuel taxes) as an area for concern.

Currently, the main source of funds provided to local authorities for the provision of EV charging infrastructure is through the ORCS scheme. Two areas where participants felt the funding approach could be improved were in relation to the funding timelines for ORCS, and the competitive approach to funding in general.

It was noted that many councils had difficulty in delivering within the original timeline demanded by the funding, and that this has now had to be increased from one year to two. Participants felt that significant time and resources is spent in releasing funds pending detailed analysis of charge point locations and extensive dialogue with the fund's technical administrators. The value of this level of scrutiny was queried by many councils who had been through the ORCS process.

Some workshop participants felt that the current approach to awarding funding based on a competitive process risked exacerbating the potential for a patchwork approach to delivery, as it meant authorities without an interest in providing EV infrastructure, or without the resource to undertake the funding application were far less likely to deliver. In the survey 60% of respondents said that funding for EV charging infrastructure should be distributed based on an area’s population (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Where funding is provided for EV charging infrastructure

Team Structure

15% of authorities had a dedicated team for delivering EV charging infrastructure, with the majority reporting that either the responsibility was held as one of many team responsibilities (48%) or was resourced on an ad-hoc basis (37%) (Figure 9). There was no correlation between the type of authority and the resource it had in place to deliver EV.

Figure 9: What people resources does your authority have

Discussion with the STBs also showed a mixed picture in terms of activity being undertaken. Overall, there was an ambition to support regional integration and provide data to inform decision making, with the STBs having the potential to be the bodies that drives the delivery of an integrated public sector approach to EV charging infrastructure.

Collaboration

Throughout the workshops participants described the importance of collaboration and partnerships to deliver infrastructure to support the EV transition. This included the need for work across local authority borders on spatial planning and delivery, and the need for public and private collaboration to effectively and efficiently deliver infrastructure.

The research included a workshop with a county and the majority of the districts in an area, who were collaborating on procuring a concession contract for EV charging and has also successfully aligned their planning policy on EV charging. Factors that had enabled this collaboration included:

  • understanding of the benefits (more market power) of working together
  • alignment of priorities and objectives
  • alignment of timescales for delivery
  • alignment of resource constraints, and therefore agreement on the solution
  • good communication.

Areas where partnership with the private sector may be particularly required included for destination charging and tenanted residential property.

A workshop was held with the sub-regional transport boards (STBs). This session was particularly lively and engaged and produced the most coherent content on the role for local government in the delivery of EV charging infrastructure. Of the six STBs present at the session two already had a strategic relationship with their local DNO and all appeared to have a clear view on what was likely to be necessary in their area. The STBs expressed a view that they had stronger relationships with local authorities who are responsible for transport than with those who do not have transport responsibilities.

Summary

Both our survey and the OZEV survey identified lack of funding and lack of resources as the biggest barriers to delivery. The resourcing available is very variable and not necessarily determined by the type of local authority.

Resource constraints are driving decision making in some local authorities including a decision not to install charge infrastructure and decisions to outsource all provision on a ‘nil cost’ basis, despite the other risks this can present.

In the main local authorities are keen to work in collaboration, and those that have done so have generally found it to be a positive experience. There is potential to explore using the STBs as a regional umbrella, but this is not currently supported by the majority of local authorities. Delivery activity is stronger amongst housing authorities, but the STBs have their strongest relationships with the transport authorities; it is possible that seeking to strengthen the relationships between the housing authorities and the STBs would be beneficial if OZEV continue to identify the STBs as integral to delivery.

If OZEV want to increase the pace of delivery, then additional resources (revenue and capital) need to be provided.

Sharing knowledge and materials

Areas for guidance and knowledge sharing

In the survey, very few respondents felt that guidance was ‘not required’ across of the areas suggested that the LGA could ensure provision of guidance (Figure 10), and in discussions most local authorities felt that much more guidance was required on EV charging.

Figure 10: For the following areas of EV charging infrastructure please indicate whether you would welcome support

OZEV are in the process of publishing technical guidance for local authorities. Our research indicates that this needs to cover all of the topics identified in Figure 10 above.

Based on the workshops and surveys the following areas were identified as priorities for the provision of guidance, knowledge sharing and/or signposting by local authorities:

  • procurement, including best practice and template documents
  • use of data, including sharing of demand models and existing local authority data sources that can be used
  • member education and training on issues relating to EV
  • use of the pavement.

​​​​​Data

Through the workshops we found that local authorities were concerned that they lacked an understanding of likely future need and demand for EV charging infrastructure. This also included a perceived lack of awareness of the ‘consumer experience’ and how this will influence demand in the future. This led to cautiousness due to concerns about installing inappropriate infrastructure, or infrastructure which would not be well used.

There were some examples of really good uses of existing data sources, for example using parking permits to identify where EVs are based or looking at parking app data to see how car parks are used. However, these approaches are not consistent or widespread. Some STBs are seeking to plug this gap by developing data modelling to support strategic discussions, but this is not the case in all regions.

Many workshop participants felt that there was a need for national data and forecasting to enable joined up local delivery and suggested that this could form the basis for a fairer funding settlement (see 5.1.1 Funding). Some in the workshop suggested that nationally held data and forecasting could also be used to create local delivery targets, which could be rewarded with funding through a similar mechanism to the New Homes Bonus.

Energy planning

In line with the OZEV findings that grid connections were a barrier to deployment we found that local authorities were experiencing difficulties in energy planning and managing grid connections and grid availability. Local authorities reported not having a strategic relationship with their district network operators (DNOs) where the strengths and deficiencies of the local energy network could be discussed at senior level and outside the statutory connection process. Only two of the six STBs who attended our workshop had such a strategic relationship with the DNOs in their region.

Local authorities reported difficulties in working with their DNOs, describing processes that were bureaucratic and taking a long time to complete. Concerns were also raised 

regarding the lack of cost certainty in the process, with anecdotal evidence provided of connection costs which were three times that of the original estimate. There was also evidence of a lack of local authority expertise in managing grid applications and the complexity of some of the associated land rights.

Participants were also concerned that conversations on EV infrastructure delivery, exposed a lack of a strategic overview of energy and grid needs in the context of changing lifestyles and the transition to net zero, and that instead discussions were on an ad-hoc project-by-project basis.

Procurement

Many workshop participants expressed concerns about procuring EV infrastructure, and overall, there was a perception that some authorities lacked the skills / expertise to consider a variety of commercial arrangements including concession arrangements. The need for cost neutral delivery, described at 5.1.1 above, appears for some to have been a key driver of procurement decisions. Some county authorities expressed concern that some of the districts in their areas may sign up to inflexible, long term arrangements that might not deliver their long-term objectives as they changed and developed with time.

Potential issues that authorities foresaw in the procurement of EV infrastructure related to:

  • the length of contracts and potential technology obsolescence within the contracted period
  • exclusivity provisions, and these would prevent the future roll out required to achieve the necessary scale and pace of change
  • forms of contract / concession arrangement and a myriad of approaches and contracts in use across the sector.

Some authorities also described an emerging lack of supplier interest in local authority contracts and subsequent conversations with Cenex. confirm that demand is outstripping supply with charge point operators cherry picking the best locations and demanding long concession periods and exclusivity. There are also plenty of opportunities outside the public estate for charge point operators including supermarkets and car parks which may be more attractive to the market than some local authority sites.

Concerns were also raised that there may be further skills or supply chain constraints that will need to be addressed in the future, although this is currently an unknown. Supply chain issues are a significant issue across the construction sector (pandemic and Brexit related) at present and it is unlikely that charge point materials will be unaffected.

Procurement was an area where there was a clear request for sharing of guidance, good practice and template documents from the local authorities taking part in the research.

Technology

A concern that was raised repeatedly throughout our research was that local authorities would risk making a long-term investment in technology that quickly became obsolete. This concern was driven by the pace of change in the sector, but a perceived lack of guidance, support and expertise in weighing up the different options available.

Local authorities’ anxiety regarding the technological aspects of EV charging was expressed in a number of areas. A small minority, predominately rural councils, were concerned that electric vehicles themselves would prove not to be the most appropriate technology in remote, hilly areas. Other vehicle technologies such as Hydrogen could be adopted therefore rendering any EV charging infrastructure unnecessary.

The majority of concerns however were associated simply with fast moving charging technology and exposure to the risk of not backing what becomes a dominant technology. A number of references were made to the historical rivalry between analogue video recording technologies, VHS and Betamax. There were also anecdotal examples of early EV charge infrastructure becoming obsolete and being removed or vandalised.

Use of the pavement

In discussing on-street EV charge points many participants raised issues related to the use of the pavement.

While not the focus of this study, local authorities articulated a clear need for further support and guidance on how they address the issue of trailing cables, and how best to manage accessibility requirements with the demands of EV charging on public highways.

Trials are underway in a few locations of ‘dumb gulley’ systems which allows a household to safely trail a cable to a vehicle. There is some interest in this as a potential cheap solution, but it is reliant on the vehicle being able to park outside the resident’s property and would not be suitable in high density locations.

Summary

Local authorities are resource constrained and trying to operate in a market where demand currently outstrips supply. This is providing an environment where suppliers have the upper hand, and as a consequence there are risks to delivery of best value.

Local authorities need to better armed with data and methodology to identify a clear list of priority locations. As the grid is not equal in all locations there is a need for sensible use of subsidies to avoid areas being left behind.

There needs to be more thought addressed to the decarbonisation of rural transport, particularly as public charges in these locations may not be commercially attractive.

Identifying criteria for selecting the best technology for a particular location (which should include dumb gullies) in the forthcoming guidance should be a priority.

There are lots of areas that would benefit from knowledge sharing. The LGA and the STBs should be key players in this.

The potential role of mandatory targets

​​​​​​The creation of new burdens

The transition to EVs may require central government to take stronger action over the coming years. Councils are keen to do more to promote EV charging infrastructure but as we have already highlighted there are significant barriers. It is important that these are addressed before central government considers any mandatory targets. If central government creates a new burden for local government or includes a new provision within the statutory requirements for local authorities, then an assessment needs to be made of the burden this places on local authorities, so that additional resources can be provided to deliver the new burden.

During the workshop sessions a series of polls were run, including one relating to whether or not local authorities should be mandated to provide EV charging infrastructure. The outputs from the polls are shown in Figure 11 below. From a total of 28 respondents across all workshops only 1 did not feel there was any role for mandatory targets. Of the remainder the overwhelming majority felt that mandatory targets would only be workable if they were accompanied by additional resources. This is however a view of officers charged with transport responsibilities and may not be fully reflective of elected member views.

Figure 11: Poll response - Should the Government provide a clear role for local government

During the workshops there was also a view expressed that providing local authorities with a delivery bonus might also incentivise delivery.

Summary

Local authorities are already resource constrained and the creation of new burdens would need to be accompanied with new resources, both revenue and capital.

The imposition of requirements and the provision of funding might lead to faster deployment as they would provide some of the clarity that is currently lacking around the role of local authorities. However, targets would need to consider the nature of place, and be targeted at specific types of interventions, and would need to be acceptable to elected members.

To impose strict targets at the present time is likely to exacerbate current issues around low response rates to market tenders and could lead to poor decision making which prioritises quantity over quality.

Recommendations

Based on OZEV’s five areas of engagement in relation to the role of local government, based on the challenges identified by local authorities in the delivery of on-street EV charging, and the wider context of likely future need, the LGA may want to consider undertaking activity which makes requests of central government as set out below.

Improving awareness and local leadership within local authorities

  • The vast majority of councils are fully aware of the need for the medium to long-term transition to EVs, and the need for on-street charging. They are also aware of the opportunity that ORCS provide. However, some remain concerned about the commercial, technological and bureaucratic and funding barriers to delivering this infrastructure.
  • It is vital therefore that OZEV and government understands these local barriers and should therefore provide national leadership to articulate the national roll out strategy for EV charging, with supporting data as well as addressing the practical difficulties for local authorities and providing suitable levels of supporting resources.
  • National leadership should also specifically address the issue of technology selection to provide confidence to local government.

Improving capacity and capability within local authorities

  • Lack of funding and lack of resources are the biggest barriers to delivery and are driving behaviour. If OZEV want to increase the pace of delivery, then additional resources (revenue and capital) need to be provided.
  • It would be beneficial to move away from the stop/start short term funding arrangement to a longer term 'outcome' based approach to funding, with the potential for this to be allocated based on predicted need, rather than competitively.
  • If OZEV sees STBs as integral to delivery, then activity should be undertaken to strengthen the relationships between the housing authorities and the STBs.

Mechanisms for sharing knowledge and materials across local authorities

  • Local authorities need better data (including market data, location modelling, delivery model choice, procurement and technology guidance), which could most efficiently be provided at a national or regional level to reduce the risk of them being out manoeuvred by suppliers.
  • Identifying criteria for selecting the best technology for a particular location (which should include dumb gullies) in the forthcoming guidance should be a priority.
  • There are lots of areas that would benefit from knowledge sharing (see below). The LGA and STBs should have a key role in this.

Exploring what role compelling local authorities should play

  • Local authorities are already resource constrained and the creation of new burdens would need to be accompanied with new resources, both revenue and capital.
  • The imposition of requirements and the provision of funding might lead to faster deployment as they would provide some of the clarity that is currently lacking around the role of local authorities. However, targets would need to consider the nature of place, and be targeted at specific types of interventions, and would need to be acceptable to elected members.

Guidance

As set out in section 6.1 the following areas were identified as priorities for the provision of guidance, knowledge sharing and/or signposting by local authorities:

  • Procurement, including best practice and template documents.
  • Use of data, including sharing of demand models and existing local authority data sources that can be used.
  • Member education and training on issues relating to EV.
  • Use of the pavement.

It may be helpful for the LGA to support the provision of best practice in these areas.

Appendix 1: Detailed methodology

Workshops

Five facilitated sessions were undertaken with:

  1. LGA Economy, Environment, Housing and Transport Board
  2. Highways authorities (with representatives from 15 different authorities)
  3. District and borough authorities (with representatives from 21 different authorities)
  4. The highways authority and district and borough authorities in a single area (with one county council and six of the seven districts in the county area)
  5. Sub-national transport bodies (STBs) (with representatives from six bodies)

Sessions 2-4 used polls and structured breakout sessions to understand attendees’ views and experiences in relation to:

  • current activity being undertaken by local authorities
  • the future role of local government in delivering on-street EV charging infrastructure
  • barriers and support required to meet the challenge of EV charging.

The attendees at the sessions were from a range of areas across England and included representatives of both rural and urban authorities. Attendees self-selected through responding to a request made to all authorities in England to participate via a range of email channels.

Survey

The survey was open between the 4and 20 June 2021. 63 respondents fully completed the survey, with a further 21 partial completions that have been used in the analysis, meaning that there are up to 84 responses for each question.

Of those respondents who provided information about themselves:

  • 68% (32) were district or borough councils, 19% (9) were county councils, and 13% (6) were unitary authorities
  • there was a range of regions represented, with the largest proportion of authorities from the South East and the smallest from the East Midlands (Figure 12)
  • based on DEFRA rurality classifications, 38% of the districts, boroughs or unitary authorities that responded were urban areas (Figure 13)
  • 82% of those completing the surveys were officers (rather than members).

Figure 12: Region of respondent local authorities
Figure 13: DEFRA rural-urban classification of respondent districts, borough and unitary authorities

 

Appendix 2: Workshop attendees

Sub-national transport bodies

  • England’s Economic Heartland
  • Midlands Connect
  • Peninsula Transport
  • Transport for the North
  • Transport for the South East
  • Western Gateway

Highways authorities

  • Bath and North East Somerset
  • Black Country Transport
  • Brighton and Hove
  • Gateshead
  • Hertfordshire
  • Kent
  • Norfolk
  • North Yorkshire
  • Staffordshire
  • Tunbridge Wells
  • Worcestershire
  • Wiltshire
  • West Sussex

District and Borough Councils

  • Ashford
  • Bolsover
  • Broxbourne
  • Carlisle
  • Folkestone Hythe
  • Hart
  • Hertsmere
  • London Councils
  • Medway
  • Mid Devon
  • Mid Kent
  • North East Derbyshire
  • North Hertfordshire
  • North West Leicestershire
  • Tendring
  • Uttlesford
  • Watford
  • West Suffolk
  • Welwyn Hatfield

Contact details

Jo Wall, Strategic Director, Local Partnerships

Email: jo.wall@localpartnerships.gov.uk

Tel: 07770 702 386

Disclaimer

This report has been produced and published in good faith by Local Partnerships. Save as to any specific contractual agreement that states otherwise, Local Partnerships shall not incur any liability for any action or omission arising out of any reliance being placed on the report (including any information it contains) by any organisation or other person. Any organisation or other person in receipt of this report should take their own legal, financial and/or other relevant professional advice when considering what action (if any) to take in respect of any associated initiative, proposal or other arrangement, or before placing any reliance on the report (including any information it contains).

Copyright: Local Partnerships LLP 2021