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Electric Vehicle Charge Points

Volume 818: debated on Wednesday 26 January 2022


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why they have removed the requirement for there to be an electric vehicle charge point in all existing non-residential properties with more than 20 parking spaces; and what assessment they have made of the implications of this change for their net zero target.

My Lords, we believe that a more ambitious and tailored approach is needed for existing non-residential car parks. We have already progressed this policy and are currently analysing feedback from a further consultation on the future of transport regulatory review. The noble Lord asks why proposals have been removed. I am unclear as to where he feels they have been removed from.

My Lords, I got this information from the Government’s Consultation Response: EV Charge Points in Residential and Non-residential Buildings, dated November 2021. The executive summary says:

“The Government will not introduce the proposed requirement for one charge point in all existing non-residential properties with more than 20 parking spaces.”

To me, that means that they have cancelled the need to put charging points in existing car parks. Maybe they do not think charging points are necessary; maybe we do not need electric cars. It is a bit of a confusing policy.

I understand why the noble Lord might have been a little confused by that sentence. It is not the case that we are not going to do it at all; rather, we are not going to do that specific proposal. The feedback we received from our original consultation back in 2019 suggested that the proposals were not ambitious enough and that details on the implementation and the impact were unclear. We agreed that perhaps we could be more ambitious. That is why we consulted again on the future of transport regulatory review, which closed on 22 November. It sought further views on this topic. Proposals in this area are absolutely still under consideration; we just want them to be as ambitious as possible.

My Lords, sequentially over the past 10 years, I have been the owner of two hybrid cars but I am anxious to buy an all-electric car. I have yet to find one that can get to and from my home in Wiltshire without having to be recharged. What plans do the Government have for installing electric charge points within the Palace of Westminster and particularly Royal Court?

Oh, my Lords. I am well aware that several noble Lords have repeatedly requested EV charging facilities at your Lordships’ House. The Government clearly cannot direct the powers that be in your Lordships’ House to install a charging point, but this member of the Government is disappointed by the lack of leadership.

My Lords, public charge points often do not work. There is a multiplicity of apps and payment methods; tariffs can be opaque. Does the Minister accept that EV charging needs to be as seamless as buying petrol? Will she accept that the Government must urgently bring much-needed order to our chaotic public charging system?

I do not quite accept that the system is chaotic. It is definitely growing and it is incredibly innovative, but that is why the Government consulted on things such as opening up public charge point data; improving the reliability about which the noble Lord speaks; streamlining payment methods, which is incredibly important; and increasing price transparency, so that people know how much they are going to be charged. We will publish the response to this consultation very soon, and we will lay legislation this year.

My Lords, only last Saturday, I was standing in a car park trying to download yet another app, only to discover that the EV charger was not working—again. Achieving net zero requires all drivers to switch to EVs, not just those of us with space to install our own charging points. SMMT figures show that only one new public charger is being installed for every 52 new electric vehicles registered, and that ratio has been getting worse. What urgent plans do the Government have to improve this record and to ensure that charge points are properly maintained and accessible with an ordinary credit or debit card?

I will not repeat what I have said about the consultation. Certainly, payment and reliability will all be parts of our response to that. The noble Baroness will know that 80% of charging happens at home; the Government are therefore supporting people to put in their own chargers at home where they are able to. For those who are unable to, we are very much focused on on-street charging near homes and offices, and we are providing funding for that to happen.

My Lords, I discovered to my surprise some time ago that Westminster did not charge for charging. Is there a system whereby all local authorities and providers can be organised to render appropriate charging?

I apologise to my noble friend—I was not aware that Westminster did not charge. That may be an anomaly and not something that can go on for ever.

The noble Lord is stretching my technical knowledge at this point. I am sure that those things are being considered. Obviously, the Government are working closely with the industry on the design of charging points, because we want to make sure that they are accessible and do not obstruct the pavement—and we have seen much innovation in the area.

It is good that the Minister acknowledges the problem of reliability, which is a particular issue on the motorway network. Does the suite of her responses include increasing fines for companies when their charge points are out, which is all too common? They need a greater incentive to comply.

That, of course, is a very serious consideration: we need to make sure that companies do not just stick up a charge point and then leave it there unmaintained and, therefore, unreliable. We will be considering all options as we respond to the consultation.

The Minister has mentioned on-street parking and not on-pavement parking. Is any advice given to councils, because an awful lot of them put the chargers on pavements, which obviously makes life harder for pedestrians?

The noble Baroness raises a very important point. I do not know what guidance exists on the siting of EV chargers. I shall take that back to the department and write to the noble Baroness.

My Lords, further to the question from my noble friend Lord Geddes about these premises being non-residential and having at least 20 car parking spaces, I realise the difficulties, but I wonder—particularly given that, as the Minister will know, we are a little hard up at this end—whether in her beneficence she might be able to ask her department to assist with the financing of the necessary chargers for their Lordships.

I would be a little cautious about that. It may look as though the Government were feathering the nest of Parliament, and I do not think that would be a good idea.

The Competition and Markets Authority reported last July and urged the Government to intervene in the electric car charger market to prevent what it described as “charging deserts” and increase availability in locations outside London that remain underserved. As I understand it, across the UK there are huge regional inequalities in the number of available charging points. In London, there are 80 charging devices per 100,000 people, but in Yorkshire, for example, there are fewer than 20 per 100,000. What steps are the Government taking to support new charging points in areas that are currently lacking? If the answer is “not very much”, it just shows that the Government’s levelling-up slogan is just that—a slogan—and no more.

The Government encourage every local authority to look at its local needs. We have a fund of £20 million per year to which 135 local authorities have already applied. That fund is there to put chargers in local areas where there are fewer publicly available chargers and there will be a local EV infrastructure fund launching soon.

Will the Minister return to the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that this is a retrograde step? If we are talking about levelling up, we need to level up the relationship between the electric motor and the petrol engine. Will she tell us again why what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, says is happening and why she is saying it is not happening?

It will be happening! The original proposal, we felt, was not good enough; indeed, stakeholders agreed it was not good enough, so there will be proposals for existing non-residential car parks. We will consider carefully how we can make those as ambitious as possible and make sure they have the impact we want to see.