Virgin Media Park & Charge
Working with project partners Liberty Charge, Innovate UK and several other consortium organisations, during the first half of 2022 we successfully coordinated and completed the rollout of 654 on-street electrical vehicle (EV) charging sockets across 170 sites in six local council areas.
The project uncovered many significant learnings that are set to help shape the national rollout of public EV charging infrastructure in Britain for years to come.
According the latest statistics obtained by the Electrical Contractors’ Association:
- Almost half of UK local authorities do not currently operate any EV charge points
- Two thirds have no plans for charge points
- 60% have no funding allocated to deploy charge points
- 40% of UK households do not have access to private, off-street parking at home – meaning that they now or will likely need to rely on public charging infrastructure in the near future – and the huge challenge facing the public rollout of EV charge points nationwide is abundantly clear.
- The majority of UK households are in towns and cities where air pollution and the need for EVs and low carbon transport is highest.
To address these EV infrastructure challenges, the Virgin Media Park and Charge (VPACH) project was set up with funding by Innovate UK and the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) with the objective of developing and demonstrating a model to deliver on-street residential public charge points at scale in partnership with several local authorities.
The project consortium – consisting of SMS plc and Liberty Charge as project leads, alongside Innovate UK, Cenex, Loughborough University, DETA, Green TV, and Ginger (in partnership with councils in Croydon, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, and West and North Northamptonshire) – set out to show how effective public-private partnership could bring to bear private sector infrastructure funding, the large-scale deployment capabilities of a national telecom’s operator, and a deep understanding of local requirements and grid constraints.
Outcomes and Lessons Learned
Location, location, location
Within the VPACH project a geo-spatial planning tool was specifically designed by Loughborough University to identify optimum areas for on-street charge point deployment. Use of the tool is then followed by a rigorous nine-step site approval process taking account of grounding requirements, other street furniture and under pavement ducting, trees, parking requirements, grid connectivity and costs, potential resident issues etc.
In areas where there is the highest uptake of EVs, and hence charge point needs, private sector funding is readily available presenting zero cost solutions for local authorities. Depending on the location attractiveness and length of concessions, local authorities can also benefit from parking bay fees or profit shares schemes, but this should be balanced against the impact on end prices for the residents. Government funding can be effectively combined with private sector funding to expand into areas where perhaps there is less EV uptake today and to support use of car clubs or other forms of shared transport in these areas.
This doesn’t happen overnight and for local authorities just starting on this journey they should expect lead times of 12-18 months between first planning to deploying charge points and those charge points becoming operational. The process will often include a formal tender, contract negotiation and legal review, submissions for government funding if required, site planning, resident consultations, and so on.
“The VPACH project has established the playbook and tools which will benefit many other forward looking local authorities keen to begin their EV charge points journey and address the climate emergency that faces us all. In providing a solution for the issue of limited on-street, residential EV charge points, it is hoped that the model put forward will not only assist local authorities with their goals, but also encourage more residents to adopt and benefit from electric vehicles sooner, serving a large segment of the UK population who may have otherwise found it difficult consider an EV without ready and convenient access to public charging bays in their local area.”
Guy Bartlett, Managing Director at SMS plc (Energy Services)
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