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Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

Volume 700: debated on Thursday 9 September 2021

It is very appropriate that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) has asked this question because today is World EV Day. We are investing £1.3 billion in accelerating the roll-out of charging infrastructure over the next four years. On average, over 500 new chargers are added each month.

When I speak to the people of South Ribble, they are keen to do their bit to cut carbon emissions and also to get the benefits of cheaper travel from electric vehicles, but the thing that is constraining us and the problem we face is a lack of accessible charging points, not only commercially in the centre of town but in order to charge at home, across pavements and so on. Given that today is World EV Day, will my hon. Friend assure me that the Department will do everything it can to put the infrastructure in place to encourage more electric vehicle use?

I heartily commend my hon. Friend’s constituents for the transition to electric mobility. We are already supporting the roll-out of over 25,000 publicly available charging devices, including more than 4,700 rapid devices—one of the largest networks in Europe. I am delighted that South Ribble Borough Council is one of the 137 local authorities that has applied for the on-street charge point scheme, which has awarded funding for 16 chargers. I am happy to work with her to get further infrastructure rolled out.

I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that it was brilliant to see earlier this week figures showing that ever more electric vehicles than petrol or diesel ones are being sold. She has talked about the on-street charging points. It is vitally important that we get those in place and that these vehicles are accessible not just to those who have driveways and private parking. Will also she talk to her friends in the Treasury about the distortion that vehicle excise duty can create, because electric vehicles tend to be more expensive than their petrol and diesel versions, sometimes pushing them into a higher excise duty bracket?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the popularity of electric cars. In fact, one in seven cars sold so far this year has a plug. He will know that vehicle excise duties are obviously a matter for my friends in the Treasury, but he will be also be aware that we are continually supporting the up-front purchase of electric vehicles via a very generous programme of grants, and that is set to continue.

I warmly welcome the transport decarbonisation plan, particularly the requirement that all new homes and offices have electric vehicle charging points, which is a theme that I expounded in a ten-minute rule Bill. Will my hon. Friend give me an update on the timing of legislation?

I thank my hon. Friend for all the hard work she has done on her ten-minute rule Bill, which addresses a vital issue. We in Government are going to act. We have heard her calls and those of her residents. We will publish our consultation response on requiring all new residential and non-residential buildings to have a charge point, and we intend to lay legislation later this year. We have also confirmed our intention to mandate that home and workplace electric vehicle chargers must be capable of smart charging.

The continued roll-out of electric vehicles and the 25,000 charging point milestone is to be welcomed, but how confident is the Minister that the investment in charging points, particularly in remote and rural areas, will meet the scale of the challenge when committed investment is still a twenty-fifth of the £1 billion earmarked from the far from carbon-neutral HS2?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that his constituents in Scotland, like those across the whole country, are benefiting from the UK Government’s funding support: £1.3 billion is being spent on grants, charge point infrastructure, installation, and tax breaks on electric vehicle motoring. That is a significant sum and it is benefiting his constituents in Scotland.

When the Minister talks about electric vehicles, she just talks about cars. In York, we talk about e-scooters, e-bikes and e-Motability vehicles. What is she doing to ensure infrastructure for such vehicles so that people can go further on the cleanest form of transport and have the dual function of charging for active travel too?

I thank the hon. Lady for her support for active travel. It is one of the Government’s key priorities, which is why we have committed £2 billion to roll out cycling and walking infrastructure across the country. Some of those schemes are already being rolled out very safely, and many local authorities up and down the country, including York, are benefiting from them.

Residents of Regatta Point, a block of flats in Brentford, want to install electric charging points in their 60-space basement car park. They are coming up against huge logistical difficulties over transmission and getting the electricity down there for overnight charging, and a huge cost of roughly £1,500 a space. What is the Minister doing on the roll-out of EV charging for overnight charging in apartment blocks to address the financial and logistical hurdles they face?

The hon. Lady has raised an important point. The Government’s intention is to ensure that wherever people live—whether that is their own home, a terraced home without parking, or, as she says, an apartment building—they have access to overnight charging, because that is the most convenient way for people to charge. We will be setting out more details in our infrastructure strategy, which we are publishing soon, but we are looking closely at the challenges of installing charge points in car parks and blocks of flats.

I declare an interest, as I have an electric car. Local charging is obviously important, but on Saturday I will be using my car to go from Sheffield to Plymouth to watch Sheffield Wednesday play and hopefully win. It is quite a challenge to find rapid charging points on the journey to get there and back in reasonable time. One of the concerns is that people get to a rapid charging point and it does not charge rapidly. Apparently there is a problem with the grid in many places not consistently providing the level of charge needed for these rapid chargers. Could the Minister have a look at that problem, because I think it is quite a serious one?

I wish the hon. Gentleman a good journey. I hope his football team is successful. He has raised some vital issues, and I assure him that they are all ones we are addressing in our infrastructure strategy. We are also addressing reliability in our consumer experience consultation. We intend to lay legislation later this year to deal with many of the issues he has raised.