24 April 2022 Company News, Energy Infrastructure, EV Charging, Innovation, Public Sector

SMS contributes towards rollout of 654 on-street EV chargepoints across six local authorities

On-street EV charge point

With the successful rollout of 654 on-street electrical vehicle (EV) charging sockets across 170 sites in six local council areas, the Virgin Media Park & Charge (VPACH) project has officially ended.

As joint project lead, SMS – alongside Liberty Charge (a joint venture between Liberty Global and Zouk) and other consortium partners including Innovate UK, Cenex, Loughborough University, DETA, Green TV, Ginger, and six participating local authorities – played a key role in carrying out this first-of-a-kind innovative project.

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.

In this blog, we reflect on the important outcomes of VPACH, including delivering on its ultimate objective to demonstrate a sound model that can deliver public ‘on-street’ EV charge points at scale.

Addressing the challenge of public EV charging infrastructure

A recent Freedom of Information request by the Electrical Contractors’ Association discovered that almost half of UK local authorities (of those who responded) do not currently operate any EV charge points, whilst close to two thirds have no plans for charge points and 60% have no funding allocated to deploy them.

Add to this the fact that approximately 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. And if these statistics are alarming, they become increasingly so when you consider the majority of UK households are generally in towns and cities where air pollution and the need for EVs and low carbon transport is highest.

Therefore, in 2019 the Virgin Media Park and Charge (VPACH) project was set up with funding by Innovate UK and the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) to tackle exactly this challenge, with the objective of developing and demonstrating a model to deliver on-street residential public charge points at scale.

The project consortium (in partnership with councils in Croydon, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, and West and North Northamptonshire) sought to demonstrate 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 constraints and other expertise from a range of subject matter experts.

The key role of SMS in delivering VPACH

Whilst Liberty Charge would own, operate, and maintain the charge points (without requiring any local taxpayer support), SMS was the joint programme lead for VPACH, leveraging its 25-years of market experience of delivering complex electrical infrastructure projects to help coordinate the programme and manage the grid connection process for new charge points.

More than two years since the start of the pandemic-delayed project, and many lessons have been learnt in the delivery over 650 ‘fast’ on street charge points with dedicated EV parking bays for the benefit of local residents.

VPACH project: key lessons learned

Chair of the VPACH project, Jason Simpson, recently outlined some of project’s main takeaways compiled by the consortium:

  • 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.

  • Commercial models

    : 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.

  • Timing:

    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.

VPACH summary: an EV charging infrastructure solution to address our climate goals

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.

Visit the EV Infrastructure Hub guide, created by Green TV for the VPACH project, to help local authorities through each step of the EV charge point installation process.

SMS recently launched our end-to-end EV charge point infrastructure solution for local authorities through the Crown Commercial Service. Find out more.

You can find out more about Liberty Charge’s work with local authorities at www.libertycharge.co.uk