In this article, we look at why these regulations are needed and what smart charging means. We also look at opportunities for landowners and summarise relevant planning rules, policies and other provisions relating to EV charge points.
EV charge points draw a lot of power from the grid, potentially creating huge spikes in demand and even possible failure of distribution equipment. Currently distribution network operators (‘DNOs’) do not take EV charge points into account when calculating the reinforcement their network will need for a new estate connecting in to it. There are concerns that DNOs are under-estimating their nominal maximum loading requirements in order to give developers a more competitive price for a connection but this approach could be storing up problems for householders as more people switch to EV vehicles. The government is working with the electricity market, OFGEM and industry to ensure that the existing network will be ready for the transition to large-scale EV ownership. It has also taken steps to mandate smart charging.
Smart charging is intended to help balance the grid by shifting the time of day when an EV charges to off-peak periods when electricity demand is low, or by modulating the rate of charge at different times, to slow down the charging rate when overall demand is high. The Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021 set out rules for new charge points. The majority of charge points sold after 30th June 2022 will be required to:
However, peak charging is not being banned and drivers can, if need be, choose not to accept the factory pre-sets and override deferred charging times or reduced outputs, although it is not clear how often they will be able to do so.
ON-STREET AND OTHER PUBLIC CHARGE POINTS
The new regulations will not apply to public charge points, as these face slightly different challenges in terms of grid supply. 40% of car owners and up to 70% of van drivers do not have access to off-street parking and our large stock of Victorian terraced housing will present a challenge as EV ownership rises in the UK. The On-street Residential Chargepoints Scheme provides grant funding for local authorities towards the cost of installing on-street charge points for households that do not have off-street parking. However, the uptake from local authorities has been lower than anticipated, with only 68% of the total budget used to date.
The larger supermarket chains, led by Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, have already started installing EV chargers to encourage shoppers who will be able to top up on energy while they shop.
One potential obstacle to the widespread use of EVs is “range anxiety”: people’s fears about the distance EVs can travel between charges. Highways England has been allocated £15m to ensure that there will be charge points (rapid where possible) every 20 miles on 95% of the Strategic Road Network by 2030. Whilst the general number is increasing, there is still a wide variation in the number of devices between local authorities. Some of the investment will go towards providing energy storage systems at service stations where grid constraints currently make it difficult to install rapid charging infrastructure.
Fast charging (7-22kW) reduces charge times to around half that of a slow charge so that the time for a full charge is typically 3 to 4 hours. Most commercial and many public on-street chargers use this technology but not yet enough. At the start of this year, the UK had some 48,757 connectors in 18,202 locations but of these 7370 are slow (taking 8-10 hours to recharge), 16,285 are fast (3-4 hours) and only 3951 are rapid (30-60 minutes) so there is much work to be done over the next few years.
As demand for public charging infrastructure grows, the government wants to encourage private sector investors to build and operate self-sustaining public charge points. It is asking local authorities to explore all commercial options available when planning EV infrastructure. This will bring opportunities for landowners looking to capitalise on the rising demand for charge points. Strategically-placed offices, retail sites, estates and plots of land adjacent to main road networks are potentially ideal for EV charging development. Properties with EV charge points are likely to command higher rents and more tenants and therefore increase the value of real estate assets.
New developments will need the ability to connect into an electricity supply. Commercial sites use significantly more electricity than residential developments and the DNO may require a new electricity substation. The DNO will specify the location and landowners may need to collaborate with neighbours for rights to lay cables across their land.
The National Planning Policy Framework states that:
‘Applications for development should… be designed to enable charging of plug-in and other ultra-low emission vehicles in safe, accessible and convenient locations.’
Long term planning strategies must incorporate policies that facilitate the transition to EVs through, for example, planning conditions and new parking standards in local plans. Local authorities can construct EV charging points on public highways without planning permission but third parties may need to obtain planning permission and engage with the relevant highway authority to agree other consents, such as a section 278 agreement (Highways Act 1980) to carry out works to a public highway or a section 50 street works licence (New Roads & Street Works Act 1991), which gives developers a licence to install and maintain apparatus under a public highway.
The installation of wall mounted electrical outlets or upstanding EV charge points now benefit from permitted development rights, provided they meet certain safety conditions set out in Schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order 2015. Express planning permission is still required for properties within a site designated as a scheduled monument or the curtilage of a listed building.
Any business can apply under the Workplace Charging Scheme for up to 40 charging points and get a 75% contribution towards each point, up to £350 each. The introduction of charging point leases on an estate or development may affect both the service charge and the services offered by a landlord. Charging leases may be attractive to occupational tenants but landlords need to be aware of existing lease obligations.
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