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Electric Vehicles: Infrastructure

Volume 663: debated on Thursday 18 July 2019

We are consulting on all new build homes in England being fitted with charge points, and we want all new public rapid charge points also to offer pay-as-you-go card payments from the spring of 2020. Our grant schemes and the £400 million charging infrastructure investment fund will see the installation of thousands more public charge points, adding to the 20,000 already installed.

I am grateful to the Minister of State for that reply. At sea, Lowestoft is at the forefront of the transition to a low-carbon economy—the world’s largest offshore wind farm is being built just off our coast—but the town also wants to be in the driving seat on land. Will the Minister outline the initiatives that have been put in place to ensure that electric vehicle charging infrastructure can be rolled out quickly and early in Lowestoft, and that the work will not just be focused in large cities?

With my hon. Friend as the Member for Lowestoft, I believe that it is doing very well indeed on land, at sea and in the air. We have to remember that the majority of electric vehicle drivers charge their cars at home overnight or at the workplace. We want people across the country, and especially in Lowestoft, to switch to electric vehicles, and we want to leverage private sector investment to provide a self-sustaining public network that is affordable, reliable and accessible. As my hon. Friend knows, the market is best placed to identify the right locations.

That was slightly more pointed than I expected. At the moment, there is very little provision of electric car charging points in my constituency of Northampton South; I have only been able to find one in the whole constituency. What schemes does the Minister have planned for urban constituencies such as mine, and his?

I am very familiar with my hon. Friend’s constituency, which neighbours my own. I am pleased to say that in February this year Northampton Borough Council was awarded £45,000 under the Government’s ultra low emission taxi infrastructure competition to deliver two rapid charge points dedicated to electric taxis and private hire vehicles. He is right to focus on this issue, but we have a number of schemes that can be accessed by electric vehicle drivers across the country, including in Northampton South and Northampton North. The electric vehicles home charge scheme is just one of them; the on-street residential scheme is another. Local authorities are receiving significant funding to install recharging points, including with these new technologies.

23. E-bikes will offer enormous benefits for transport, health, wellbeing, the environment and green business growth, especially if Government funding is made available to support them. What steps is the Minister taking to incentivise the use of e-bikes? (912047)

I have recently been on an e-bike, and it was very good on hills. E-bikes are of great assistance to people with health and mobility issues. We want to encourage their use, and we are doing just that. We are also investing vast sums in cycle lanes and road infrastructure improvements, and we are focusing on safety. There is more to be done, as always, but we have done an awful lot more than Labour did in this area.

It is very interesting to learn of the personal experience of the Minister, but all that I can say at this stage is that he is challenging our vivid imaginations. I was going to call Mr Stringer. Are you still interested, sir? Get in there.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was surprised to find that the charging sockets are not standardised, either on cars or on charging points. Would it not make sense to regulate to standardise them?

Of course, the market has been leading in this area, and we now have 20,000 publicly accessible charging points, but I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. We know from the charging of other devices that we use every day that they do not all share the same fixtures, but the fact of the matter is that we have an advanced system in this country. We are growing it, and we will be providing more funding in this area and looking to do more.

Contrary to popular myth, most particulates do not come from modern diesel engines, but from wear between the vehicle’s tyres and the road. Given that electric vehicles tend to be heavier than their conventional counterparts owing to the weight of the batteries, which increases tyre wear and road wear, does the Minister have any concerns that the increased use of electric vehicles may lead to increasing levels of particulates?

And what a good impression it is, Mr Speaker. The reality is that we all know that electric vehicles are tremendously advantageous to the economy and, frankly, to the environment, and there is work to be done. My hon. Friend is quite right to mention particulates, and we are looking at that issue, but electric vehicles provide massive benefits to the environment.

It is a sad day, because rumour has it that this is the Secretary of State’s last outing at the Dispatch Box. He is the gift that keeps on giving, but that is not funny because he has cost the country billions. Earlier this month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders announced that sales of low-emission cars in the UK have fallen for the first time in two years. The SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, described the decline as a “grave concern” and blamed the Secretary of State’s confusing policies and premature removal of purchase incentives. Will the right hon. Gentleman finally apologise for his political blunders that have cost the taxpayer £2.7 billion?

As usual, I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. The fact is that the Secretary of State has been leading the way in this area, and the Department for Transport is also a world leader. Some 200,000 ultra low-emission battery, electric, and plug-in hybrid vehicles are registered in the UK, and we are the second-largest market for ultra low emission vehicles in the European Union, so the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong.

How will it work for houses that do not have a driveway or reserved on-street parking, and what does the Minister mean by the term “en suite”?

Did I say “en suite”? We are investing in technologies and supporting innovations in on-street architecture—[Laughter.] We might invest in “en suite” architecture as well, but that would not be for my Department. Fixtures have been fitted to streetlamps, for example, and there have been innovations in contactless charging. Businesses around the country are working on various mechanisms, and this Department is supporting many of them with funding to help them to invent new technologies.