Electric vehicles: Aspirations not yet meeting expectations

(Title Image: Wikipedia via Mariordo and Creative Commons Licence BY SA 2.0)

Economy & Infrastructure Committee
Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure (pdf)
Published: 3rd October 2019

“The switch from petrol and diesel to electric vehicles is a fast-moving area, and we wanted to be sure our emerging thoughts were in step with the evolving world. Earlier this year, we took the unusual step of publishing a draft report and making it available for stakeholders to comment and reflect on what we’d seen so far. As a result, we’ve been able to ensure the voice of those who use electric cars, and those curious about doing so in the future, has been heard.”
– Committee Chair, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery)

See also: Minister doesn’t believe a law is required to speed up transition to electric vehicles

1. Welsh Government policy is heading in the right direction

First, the good news. The Welsh Government is starting to take electric and low-carbon vehicles more seriously, with transport accounting for 13% of all of Wales’ carbon emissions. There’s a policy aim for the public sector vehicle fleet to be ultra-low emission by 2025.

A new transport strategy is due to be published in the first half of 2020 and electric vehicle infrastructure is expected to be a key part of those plans. The Welsh Government believes that Transport for Wales could lead the development of an electric charging network, with lessons learned from the experiences of the Superfast Cymru programme (don’t over-promise, communicate effectively and make sure public investment results in a share of private profit).

2. Current charging infrastructure is insufficient

Despite all of the policy goals, electric vehicle charging is still in its relative infancy. While part of this is down to the vehicle manufacturers themselves (membership schemes, cards, apps and a lack of standardisation of power sources was said to be confusing), the Committee believes current infrastructure would struggle to cope with a major increase in the number of electric vehicles on Welsh roads.

The Welsh Government expects the private sector to take the lead on rolling-out infrastructure, aided by a £2million fund committed over two years as part of a budget deal with Plaid Cymru, which ends in the current financial year. The Economy Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), said the alternative would be for the taxpayer to foot the bill for what would be quite expensive infrastructure.

The Committee’s headline recommendation is that the latest planning policy is updated so that a requirement for new non-residential developments to install charging points in at least 10% of available parking spaces is extended to new residential developments. They also recommended the Welsh Government encourage local authorities to bid for UK Government on-street charging point grants.

3. Significant barriers remain regarding electric vehicle take-up

The main barriers identified during the inquiry are the high price of electric vehicles, “range anxiety” (fear of running out of power due to a lack of recharging infrastructure) and the ability of the National Grid to support a large increase in electric vehicles.

Some witnesses said “range anxiety” was unfounded as electric vehicle owners are well aware of how far they can go, while the National Grid were confident they could cope with an increase in electric vehicles (without specifying how much of an increase they could cope with) – though they stressed the importance of making sure rural areas weren’t left out.

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