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Environment and Climate Change Committee

Corrected oral evidence: Electric vehicles

Wednesday 25 October 2023

10 am


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Members present: Baroness Parminter (The Chair); Baroness Boycott; Baroness Bray of Coln; Lord Bruce of Bennachie; Lord Grantchester; Lord Lilley; Lord Lucas; The Duke of Wellington; Lord Whitty; Baroness Young of Old Scone.

Evidence Session No. 6              Heard in Public              Questions 67 – 77



I: Peter Ollivere, Policy Team Leader (Spatial Policy), Durham County Council; Dr Chris Pateman-Jones, Chief Executive Officer, Connected Kerb EV Charging Solutions; Shamala Evans-Gadgil, EV Infrastructure Programme Manager, Consultant working on behalf of Coventry City Council; Ian Cameron, Director of Innovation and Customer Service, UK Power Networks.




Examination of witnesses

Peter Ollivere, Dr Chris Pateman-Jones, Shamala Evans-Gadgil and Ian Cameron.

Q67            The Chair: Good morning and welcome to the fifth evidence session of the House of Lords Committee on Environment and Climate Change on electric vehicles. Today we are going to be focusing on local authorities and how we will be able to deliver the charging infrastructure on the ground that is needed to support the Government’s targets in this area.

The majority of our members are here in person, but we have one member attending virtually. Our four witnesses are Peter Ollivere from the policy team at Durham County Council; Dr Chris Pateman-Jones, chief executive officer at Connected Kerb EV Charging Solutions; Shamala Evans-Gadgil from Coventry City Council, where she is the infrastructure programme manager; and Ian Cameron, director of innovation and customer services at UK Power Networks. You are all extremely welcome.

To kick us off, it would be very helpful to get an overview of what responsibilities local authorities have in delivering the EV transition, both statutory and non-statutory, but responsibilities nevertheless, and whether the Government’s guidance to you about those respective responsibilities is clear and well understood.

Peter Ollivere: Hello everyone; it is good to be here and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with the panel. The UK Government are clear that LAs are ideally placed to put in local charging infrastructure, with the private sector focused on destination charging. In the Government’s strategy, there is quite a clear steer.

Local authorities are fundamental to putting EV charge points in because they are the major landowners. We own highways, public car parks, street lights, areas of open space on housing estates, leisure centres, employment parks, and land related to educational needs, et cetera. Therefore, it is fundamental that LAs are at the heart of it.

There is also a lot of paperwork, as I am sure the charge point operators here will understand. Local authorities have to issue the necessary paperwork for traffic regulation orders if you want to prohibit ICE vehicles in a parking space. Licensing is required for street works, or Section 50 licences when digging underground. In terms of land ownership, licences and leases are required for charge point operators owning third-party land, as are title checks and deed checks. There is an incredible amount of paperwork that needs to be undertaken by the local authority that people are possibly not aware of, and we are absolutely fundamental to the whole delivery of this.

As well as being a landowner, we have links with town and parish councils and registered social landlords. Crucially, we also have a consultation specialism in speaking to members of the public, which we are used to doing. In addition, we have policies on spatial and air quality strategies, taxi licensing and fleet; I could go on, so stop me if I am saying too much.

In terms of national leadership, the Government have been clear in their infrastructure strategy: delivering the target of 300,000 charge points is fundamental. There is a vehicle mandate, we have the LEVI funding, and we have the ORCS. The Government have understood that local authorities are crucial to the delivery of charge points, and they are letting us crack on with it. Again, I could go on, but I will stop there and let someone else have a go.

The Chair: Shamala, would you like to chip in?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: From a local authority perspective, you need to get everybody on the same page. You have properties that do not have off-street parking facilities, and properties that do. The role of local authorities really is to make sure that the residents who do not have off-street parking facilities have somewhere to park and charge their vehicle—not the same experience, but a similar experience to those who charge at home on their drive or in their garage.

Approximately 40% of homes do not have off-street parking facilities: 26% do not have direct facilities, and the remaining 13% to 14%, such as flats and apartments, have some off-street parking facilities, but not such that they can connect a cable to their house. That creates an issue. All these people park on-street, which is part of the highway. The highway authority’s realm therefore sits under them, so the responsibility to provide this infrastructure to enable these people to transition to EV should also sit with the local authority.

The Chair: It seems from the evidence we have heard that local authorities do not have a statutory responsibility to produce an EV infrastructure strategy.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: That is correct.

The Chair: So there is no link between the Government’s targets for infrastructure and what local authorities are doing. Statutory responsibilities—as we well know in our world—come with the resources to deliver, and clearly local authorities are stretched. Do you have a view on whether local authorities should have a statutory responsibility to produce an infrastructure strategy and deliver towards the targets the Government have set?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: The LEVI fund, or the strategy, does dictate that the first thing local authorities should be doing is producing a strategy—that they have made funding available for resources such as a capability fund. However, it does not go far enough because a single person is not able to do this. Other officers and departments are crucial in providing input into not just the strategy but the delivery side, and their costs are not covered. They already have nine-to-five jobs, so they are having to do this over and above their normal duties. There is also a skill shortage: there are no officers or individuals out there with the skill set not just to produce strategies but to deliver them, or to understand local authority procedures.

The capability fund the Government have made available for local authorities is restricted to a full-time appointment, but there are no people out there for that full-time appointment. It is a chicken and egg question, and it falls to the charge point operators to educate them. Do not get me wrong: OZEV has set up a LEVI support body made up of three different organisations that local authorities can go to, and there is a depository available with lots of information, but it is still on a voluntary basis. It is not mandatory, and it is not statutory.

Legislation such as the Highways Act 1980 is not fit for purpose and is proving a huge barrier for authorities I speak to. Section 115(b) basically says that the council or the highway authority cannot install an asset on the highway, if that asset is generating revenue, without getting consent from the adjoining landowner. If you want to do this sooner, quicker and faster—and there are charge point operators who want to do this and are geared up to delivering in the thousandsyou can imagine what it is like trying to obtain consent from thousands of landowners.

At the same time the residents, if their perception is that somebody else is going to park outside their house, say that they do not want a charge point there. So you try to get consent from them, but it just does not go anywhere: there is an immediate block. Legislation like that needs to be looked at, and the consent element needs to be removed. Consultation should stay, because it is a statutory obligation on a local authority or highway authority to consult, but the consent element is creating a lot of barriers.

Lord Whitty: Are you saying that, if a charger is fitted to a lamp post, the nearby houses each have to approve it?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Yes. Section 115(b) of the Highways Act 1980 says that if you are putting in an asset on the highway that generates revenue, you must first get consent from the adjoining landowner.

The Chair: It is legislation that was set up for advertising, principally.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: It is. 

Baroness Boycott: Did you have to do that for a parking meter in the past?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Yes, but we do not put parking meters in residential streets.

Dr Chris Pateman-Jones: It is about the point of scale here.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Yes. 

Dr Chris Pateman-Jones: You were not putting a huge number of parking meters in, compared to the number of EVG charging points we are trying to provide on terraced streets. We are trying to provide charging, not quite in the same number but in the same way that people would have a home charger. We are still talking in the tens or hundreds of thousands, but when we go for approval to put charging points on the streets, we sometimes get rejections as high as 50%.

When you consider the effort of preparing the designs to put this out, and the pressure on the private sector to fund it, it is extremely costly for us. More importantly, it is extremely time-consuming. Therefore, not only does the guidance need to change but the role that councils need to play in pushing back sometimes against residents, in trying to communicate why this needs to happen, is a very difficult one. It may be a role for central government to place a more positive spin on EVs, to try to make residents understand that it is not something negative coming on to their street.

This is the chicken and egg point that Shamala raised: when people have a charging point put on their street, they typically do not have an EV—they have not bought one because they do not have anywhere to charge it. So they do not want an EV charging point because they do not have an EV, but they are not going to buy an EV until there is an EV charging point on the street. Therefore, you have to get ahead of the curve and do that hearts and minds piece.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Technology is also moving fast; it is almost running away by the time the Government make decisions. It is a very slow process. With the dissemination of funding, the LEVI funding was supposed to have been published last year, but only this year has it been given, due to the time it takes to make decisions. The latest round of ORCS, for example, was announced last week but it is only valid for that year, which finishes in March. So the timelines do not usually match.

Q68            Baroness Boycott: You have sort of answered the next question, but maybe we can try and pull it all together. Essentially, we want to know what policies and incentives are currently being deployed to support EV uptake and charging infrastructure: what is working well? You have covered quite a lot of things that are working badly so, in a way, could you try to pull this all together into the barriers you have? Also, given that the Government have pushed back the mandatory rollout, I am interested in knowing if this is affecting your rollout as well? Ian, why not kick off with this because we have not heard from you yet.

Ian Cameron: From a grid perspectiveand we operate roughly a third of the distribution grid in the UK—what has worked really well is local authorities having really strong deployment strategies on what type of mix they are looking for from their communities: is it high/rapid charging with a medium/slow charging mix? What we do see is that it is variable across the country, but across the 133 local authorities we serve, it is a very big mixed bag. A good example is the work we do at TfL and GLA, which has really driven the volume of charge points in London. What that allowed us to do as a network was to provide the capacity where it was needed, to be at the table when that planning was discussed and to get on a common road map. However, it is a bit of a postcode lottery to some degree across the 133 local authorities, so there is more to do.

Baroness Boycott: What did London do that made that move so much quicker?

Ian Cameron: It set up the EV infrastructure task force, which included all the key playerscharge point operators, local authorities, boroughs, fleet operators, grid, et cetera—and we sat around a table and asked, “What is the right mix? At the start there was a good debate but actually, very quickly, you could see that we were aligning on a common pathway that we, as a grid, could support in getting the capacity, and local government could get behind some of the challenges locally around positioning. That is what really differentiated it.

We see, in some of the bigger centres where local authorities are resourced for those types of approaches, that it works well. However, in some of the local authorities where they perhaps do not have those resources, we find there is a void in terms of planning. To give you a sense of why it is so important from a grid point of view, a fundamentally different grid is needed if you have a high/rapid charging mix, because it is high power at a location, versus a dispersed/low charging mix. We can see this in London, where we use street lights to charge where we have a very high volume of chargers but a low speed of charging overnight. Therefore, the grid you need depends on the mix, so early planning is key from the grid point of view.

Baroness Boycott: Peter, how do you respond to what is working well?

Peter Ollivere: From our experience at Durham, when these funding pots started becoming available back in 2019, we formed an internal working group which had colleagues from legal, planning, transport, parking, assets, low carbon, and fleet procurement. Huge numbers of people in local authorities are involved who have some kind of input, and we met weekly to start with, for just an hour.

Secondly, we formed a partnership with a social enterprise company with expertise in rural areas, because Durham is quite a rural county. It had expertise in rolling out broadband, so it had experience, and then it started getting involved with EV charging as well.

Arguably, the most important change came once we won our first funding bid, called SOSCIScaling on Street Charging Infrastructurewhich was through Innovate UK. We received roughly £1 million to put in 100 charge points, but crucially we were able to employ somebody full-time to work on putting EV charge points in the ground. She brought a lot of time, energy, and dynamism to that, so it snowballed from there and we were able to win other pots of funding.

We won funding from the ORCS project for another 50 charge points, which are actually still going in. We also won a rural accelerator project and put in 10 charge points in a very rural village in Stanhope, Weardale. We then won some money to undertake a research project. The beauty of that was that we were able to speak to local authorities and others in the north-east, Cumbria, and Tees Valley about what is best practice, so we learned from their mistakes and what to do and not to do from their perspective. We also developed a new model for rolling out EV charge points, again, learning the lessons from the previous projects; and we came up with a new, innovative model for delivering charge points as part of the REVUP project, which enabled us to then get the LEVI pilot funding.

I am not 100% sure, but I believe we are the highest recipient of LEVI funding in the country, for which are very grateful. We have £4.375 million, but our new model is all about integrating what we do with the expertise we have in the local authority, and then working with the private sector to roll out EV charge points at scale, which we are pretty excited about. We are actually at procurement at the moment, and we are hopefully going to start delivering that in the next couple of months

Baroness Boycott: That sounds really amazing, but it also sounds like you have been very skilful in fundraising, in a weird way, to do this by looking at different pots of money. It strikes me as quite odd, given that there is a government directive to phase out fossil fuel cars etc, that you are having to apply for funds to carry out research and such like. Is it odd?

Peter Ollivere: It is odd, but it is just the way it has worked out. At Durham, we are quite lucky because we are a big unitary authority, so we do have some resources. If we can pull everyone together, we can work as a team and do decent funding bids. I think Shamala touched on this earlier: the role of delivering charge points might often fall to somebody who has responsibility for transport policy, or a highways or parking officer, at their local authority, and it is only one element of their job. We spoke with a lot of district councils, and they said they did not have time to apply for that pot of money.

Baroness Boycott: Shamala, it sounds to me like it would make your life easier if there was more direct funding that just gave you the money and said you must deliver 500 charging points, rather than having to scramble around.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Coventry has the largest network outside London; we have over 1,250 chargers. We started with the taxi infrastructure project: there was funding available under that, and we installed 39 rapid chargers. After that, I successfully applied for nearly seven lots of ORCS funding, so we have over 1,000 chargers in the city now, but the majority are on-street. They are not hubs, and they are not on green areas.

Over 46% of properties in Coventry are terraced houses and do not have off-street parking facilities. We found that there was a correlation between installation of chargers and EV uptake; we saw an increase in people buying EVs the more chargers we installed. But we have made use of government funding. It was voluntary, so we had to apply for it, and forward-thinking authorities have done that, although not all authorities have done so.

LEVI is ensuring that all authorities must develop a strategy. The good thing the Government have done is set up this support body, providing the funding for authorities, but the guidance needs to be a bit clearer. There are little issues such as the Highways Act, which I mentioned. What we have done is incorporated that within our contract. So, if a resident says, “We don’t want it here, we have not put it there. It has been that simple for Coventry to move forward and deploy as many chargers as we have, so no resident can come up and say, “Well, I didn’t want it here and you’ve gone and put it there because that is exactly what this legislation says you cannot do.

Q69            Lord Bruce of Bennachie: What is emerging with LEVI seems to me a bit complicated, but it is also encouraging. It is a big scheme. It is designed to help local authorities deliver, but you come across all kinds of different obstacles. Is it being properly co-ordinated? How do you learn from each other? Are there any constraints? For example, you have all the difficulties with getting consents, but the actual difficulty is getting connections: you can fight for consent and then find the grid cannot accommodate you. Do you feel the scheme is working, and how could it be improved?

I suppose this is helping the committee do its work, but if you all had an indication of what works and what does not, it might help accelerate the process. One piece of evidence we received suggests that things are a bit delayed and complicated, and it is taking time to deliver and not keeping pace with the market. Is that fair?

Dr Chris Pateman-Jones: I will give you a private sector view and, if I may, also comment on the previous question about what is going well. Speaking as someone who deals with the barriers that are against us as an industry trying to do the right thing, it can sometimes feel quite negative, and you want to use these sessions to vent. I suppose when I reflect on what we have achieved over the last five years, the industry has fundamentally changed as well. It is wonderful that there has been the grant funding. There has been a requirement for a while that that grant funding has to be topped up. It was 75% grant funding and then it went down to 60% and—full disclosure—we have worked with Shamala in Coventry and have provided private sector funding alongside the grant-funding mechanisms for those charging points.

Over the last five years we have seen a change in contracts that has enabled the private sector to come in with funding. We have also seen Innovate UK fund projects that have led to an industry within the UK which now has an opportunity to go internationally. As a business, we are expanding into North America, and we are able to do that because of the support we have had, enabling us to build on and learn from the difficulties of deploying in the UK. Due to the wonderful old infrastructure we have in the UK, it is quite difficult to deploy EV charging, so the lessons we have learnt in the UK mean that it is far easier to deploy in other places.

To give you real clarity on your question about LEVI, again, this is not meaning to vent, but our plans for deployment have been hampered by the LEVI programme, which is completely counter to what it was set up to do. Since it has been announced, there has been a complete halting of procurement processes. All councils have understandably said, “We’ll just wait until we have more guidance on the funding that is coming out”.

I do not mean that all charging has stopped, but the scale of deployment that is required has not been met. Some councils need to be doing similar work to others. For example, one of our councils is West Sussex, and it has given us permission to deploy up to 7,000 charging points across West Sussex. Surrey has permission for up to 10,000 charging points, and Coventry is deploying thousands of charging points. That is the scale required to provide home charging for people who cannot currently home charge. LEVI is intended for that, but it has actually delayed things because of the lack of guidance.

Recently, LEVI announced who is tranche one and who is tranche two, so the allocation of funding is fantastic and very exciting, but the lack of a statutory obligation on councils to spend that money within a timeframe is a real problem, because the money has now been allocated.

On your point about there being a disconnect between central government and local government, my worry is that central government has now devolved its responsibilities to local councils without councils necessarily having the capability to deploy. There is also a slight disconnect between some councils and the private sector. There is almost a slight mistrust, which may be because of other historical infrastructure programmes—fibre, perhaps—but there is a perception that there is always a risk that the private sector is going to take advantage of grant funding.

What I would like to see more of from LEVI is more guidance on how the funding should be spent. For example, at the moment, millions of pounds is being given to various councils—we have heard quotes of how much that isbut so far there has been very little guidance on how charging points should be funded on a site-by-site basis.

On your earlier question on how these sites are being funded, to be clear, whether it is grants or applications, there are huge numbers of charging points out there which require no grant funding at all. But, under the historical methodology, we could go with a council to central government and say we would like grant funding for a site, and it could be a fantastic site or a terrible one and we would get the same amount of funding. At the moment, LEVI is not providing guidelines on how you differentiate between one site and the next. We would love to see more guidelines on allocating funding on a need basis, because that is really important. The £450 million that is currently being provided could go an awful lot further if you applied it to the sites that need funding, rather than those that do not.

Lord Bruce of Bennachie: Can our local authority representatives comment on that, because that is an interesting take?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: What LEVI—the government, public fund; the intervention—is really meant for goes to what Chris was saying: there are locations where the private sector is absolutely fine to fully fund it; but there are locations where the return on the investment is just not there. There are a couple of reasons for this: it could be the actual area itself from a utilisation perspective, or possibly the cost for the grid connection. These are the locations where public funds should be used. Chris is right: there is no guidance saying where it should be used, but the support body is there to advise local authorities. There are a handful of local authorities who know how they should be using this fund, but the majority have not even made a start on installation of chargers.

Lord Bruce of Bennachie: This is a classic dilemma of wanting to use local knowledge effectively but achieve a national rollout. From what you are saying, it is very uneven and patchy. If you have a national plan, the danger is that it finishes up with local authorities not having the local knowledge and flexibility. If you do not have a national plan, some local authorities will do it and some will not, so you will not have a national network.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: LEVI is supposed to be trying to bridge that patchy network. Although it is not voluntary, the mandatory element is there because the funding is being made available to all local authorities. The capability fund, the resource fund, is also being given to all authorities, but, like I said earlier, it is for one person. The requirement is that you need permanent staff, or contract staff, just to do this piece of work. If you do not have that skill set available, consultants will have to come in and do the strategy for you and kick-start the projects. I do not believe that something like that is part of that capability fund. It should be done in an authority-based way according to what the requirement is for each authority. At the moment it is being done in a blanket form; certain matrices have been put together that you need to follow.

The Chair: Peter or Ian, do you want to come in on this, briefly?

Peter Ollivere: I have just a couple of points to add to what Shamala said. It is right that one of local authorities’ big responsibilities is to fund and provide charge points in areas that are not commercially viable to the market. For example, we have a lot of rural areas in Durham. Durham is not the richest of counties, so there is not a high EV uptake. One thing we are focused on is putting charge points in less viable areas.

When I was talking earlier about how wonderful it was that we have so much grant, what probably did not come across is that LEVI is very much about maximising private sector investment. So, although we have received good grant, through our latest model for rollout we are showing that it can be self-sustainable in terms of private sector finance.

The model is called the STEP model. It is affectionately known as the Womble model, from the Wombles of Wimbledon, because, broadly speaking, the infrastructure is put between the underground and the overground. As a local authority, we have a lot of expertise in the underground infrastructure. We have highway workers who can dig the trenches, put in ducts and feeder pillars—although feeder pillars are technically above the ground, so the Womble model does not work quite as well. Overground, we put a socket, effectively, in the ground and leave it to the charge point operator to come in. They put in their nice bit of technology, which is up to date. They also deal with all the customer interfaces and take all the finance, and we are left with the underground asset that we can use. When that first contract is finished, we can then go out to procurement again.

Traditionally, local authorities have the funding but not the expertise, and have given it all to the private sector to do. They say, There’s a 15, 20-year contract; we’re not bothered. As long as it’s a nil cost to us, we’re happy for the charge point operators to come in and deal with everything—the DNO and all the paperwork, etc”. We think we have a model that could be a long-term revenue maker for the council, but it is also very attractive to the charge point operators because, effectively, they only have to sort out the bit above the ground that they are real experts at. Because we will go on to a shorter contract, they can renew that technology quite quickly as well. We are pretty happy with our model, and we think OZEV likes it, which is why we were given the award. However, it is not just a grant; it shows that the model is going to be a financially viable long term, and we hope that can be replicated in other local authorities.

Ian Cameron: The positive with LEVI is the requirement to have a charging strategy as a condition of application. The recommendation, the improvement, could be an obligation on local authorities to engage early as part of that strategy. A good example is home grants for chargers that involved a condition to notify the distribution network operator. That worked really well in providing capacity in a timely manner.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: I am still a bit confused about what makes it obligatory for local authorities to go with LEVI. Can they just sit there and say, “Well, actually, we’re useless and we’re not going to do anything with this at all”? What forces them to engage with the LEVI process?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Nothing really, other than at the moment the capability fund allows them to get a resource in. I do not think that any local authority has actually turned around and directly said “We’re not going to do anything”. They are all looking at appointing an EV officer, but there is no statutory obligation.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: They could sit there and say, Were useless and were not going to do engage.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Yes, they could.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: Peter, you have networks and stuff like that, do you know anybody who is sitting in a hole and thinking, “We can’t do this”?

Peter Ollivere: Yes, definitely. There is a difference in the north-east between the rural and the urban authorities. A lot of the urban authorities, and they are quite within their rights to do this, are saying the private sector is delivering, whether that be through supermarkets or destination charging. It is quite a dense population, so they do not feel the need to intervene as much as some of the rural authorities. The big rural authorities in the north-east, like Durham and Northumberland, are actually leading the way because people are so dependent on their cars, so the members are really focused on delivering charge points.

Obviously, in urban areas, there are more ways to get around, so a lot of authorities think it is not their role and say, “We didn’t build petrol stations”, which we have heard a million times. We have also heard the Betamax thing a million times. With the capability funding, I get the sense that there is a big step change where those authorities that were not wanting to engage in the process are now thinking “Hold on, this maybe is something we can take more of a role in, because they will basically have the staff.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: There is still a need for awareness. The education piece is missing. For example, if you do not have chargers in your area, it has an impact on quite a lot of things, not just the constituents but the businesses, because a lot of the businesses are buying EVs as work cars. Coventry has a lot more low-income areas, and what we have found is that the residents are bringing work EVs back home and charging, which was quite a good start to show that it does not matter if it is not an affluent area; you do not have to own a vehicle but you do end up bringing work vehicles home.

I want to make a point on VAT, which is something that we keep hearing when we do consultation. There may be two or three houses on a street with driveways who are able to charge during night-time economy rates, which costs pennies, but a next-door neighbour, or someone a couple of doors away without a driveway, is not able to take advantage of that. Terraced property owners are disadvantaged because they are having to pay commercial rates, but on top of that they are paying the 20% VAT, whereas at home you are paying 5% VAT. It causes a barrier, and we get asked that question when we are doing consultation, especially when it is face-to-face consultation. People do not tend to write emails about it but when you are speaking to the residents, they ask what we are doing about it and why the Government are not addressing it.

At the moment, there is a distinct division in contact payment facilities in the sense that anything above 8 kilowatts needs to have a contactless payment facility but anything under 8 kilowatts does not. Similarly, I do not understand why the Government are not saying that anything above 8 kilowatts carries the 20% commercial VAT rates, but anything under 8 kilowatts, which is a house, does not, because the whole idea of LEVI and the up to 7 kilowatt charges is about only being able to install up to 7 kilowatts capacity. I have had constituents ask that question multiple times and I do not have an answer.

The Chair: Thank you. Maybe we will be able to get one.

Q70            The Duke of Wellington: I am trying to understand the basic economics of this. If a charge point operator gets planning permission, and every other permission and licence, to install a charge point, is that a profitable installation in its own right? That is to say, is there not a market incentive for the charge point operator to overcome all the difficulties because, once they get permissions, they will have an installation that is profitable? Or is it very marginal?

We have had a great problem in recent years with ATM cash distribution points, which are quite often being withdrawn, particularly in rural areas, because they are just not giving a return. I think that is one of the problems. Is there any similarity in this case? Is it that there is not enough profit in installing a charge point to encourage the private sector to push on and get through all the barriers?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: In some locations, yes. Chris, you are the private sector.

Dr Chris Pateman-Jones: To the previous point, we are aware of councils that are moving ahead without LEVI funding, because they have decided they want to do so now, and the way they have got around this answers the question that you have just asked in terms of what makes it profitable. For us, it is all about the contract term. We are an infrastructure-funded business. We consider ourselves to be an infrastructure business, not a product business. We do not install shortlife systems, we install assets that we expect to be in the ground for decades, particularly the underground infrastructure that sits there, as well as the sockets being modular so they can be replaced and upgraded depending on what happens with technology. For us, it is about having a long-term concession.

That is important because, again, when you think about the particular challenge we are talking about todaywhich is less about rapids and is more about fixing the problem of people who do not have a driveway in that similar long-dwell/overnight/workplace/car park charging settingyou are not serving thousands and thousands of users; you are looking at the number of users that are going to be using that charging point. With seven to 10 users for each charging point, you are serving a small catchment area around those chargers. There is no reason why you cannot go off to rural areas; it is just about proportionally putting the right number of charging points in those locations.

For us, it is about the dwell and the duration of the contract. What do I mean by that? Well, I have to assume that no one is going to have a vehicle on the day that I go and deploy a charging point in those locations, because, as I said earlier on, people will not have an EV until you put the charging points there. So I have to assume for the first few years that, when I put it in, someone is not going to go, I’m going to get an EV tomorrow, because, for a start, if they order one tomorrow, it could be eight, nine, or even as long as 18 months before the car arrives. That is assuming they are ready to buy an EV tomorrow. You have to assume for the first few years that no one is going to be using your charging points. So you cannot give us a five-year or 10-year contract. Realistically, if you want us to fully fund, it needs to be 15 or 20 years. If you do that, you can incentivise proper long-life assets being installed.

The pushback we have had from not all councils, and certainly not the councils that have moved forward with no LEVI funding at all, is their expectation is that we can manage that risk because we have that long-term concession, and they are able to manage the risk that they perceive of having an operator who does not perform. Do you want to sign up to a 20-year contract and then be bound to an organisation that is not performing? That is about the management of the contract and the KPIs you have in the contract, and having the ability to terminate the contract, which most in the public sector are pretty familiar and comfortable with, but that is where central government can step in and provide guidance.

I do not think you need to have a centralised plan, but I do think you need to have centralised guidance and clarity around that, so you can have consistency. On the point of the LEVI funding that has been applied for and Shamala has just sort of alluded to thisthe capability is not out there. Shamala, you have 10 years or more of experience in the EV space. Very few people coming into these roles funded by the LEVI capability fund have that experience, so as a private sector organisation we are having to spend a huge amount of time educating. We are still seeing people coming out to us and saying, “Will you bid on a fully funded contract for eight years? You say, “Well, no, obviously, because you cannot get a return on that.

You can make any site profitable depending on the term of the contract and depending on the electrical connection piece. That is the part that determines it. The wealth profile of an area does not, which is a really important point. The view is you cannot go into certain areas because they are poor, but you can as long as you get the contract terms right. Sometimes in poorer areas, people drive greater distances. They commute further because they do not live next to great transport links. Sometimes those are the areas which would benefit most from an EV, because the more you drive an EV the more cost-effective it is. The challenge is it will not be profitable in a short period of time, because it may take longer for that area to switch to EV.

The Duke of Wellington: That was a very comprehensive answer. Thank you.

Q71            Lord Whitty: What progress is being made at local authority level for on-street parking? Do local authorities set themselves a target of how many on-street facilities they want over the next five or 10 years? You have described a lot of the frustrations of this. Are local authorities on target? Has a target been set? Does the LGA, or anyone, collect information on this? For Durham and Coventry, do you set yourselves targets, and are the frustrations that you have talked about preventing you meeting those targets?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: For Coventry, yes. We are part of the West Midlands Combined Authority. There is a ULEZ strategy, and we also have our transport strategy. We have an EV strategy, which is a fluid one that needs to be updated every year because things change. In there, we have numbers, what the targets are going to be for up to 2025, 2030, 2035. At the moment, we are on track with our installation.

I have been working in this area since 2016. It is about understanding local authority corporate procedures, and because I have worked in almost all the departments, I know a slightly different approach is required. Again, we are a unitary authority. We are the highway authority, not the transport authority. Transport for West Midlands is the transport authority for the seven authorities in the West Midlands. We are the highway authority. It is about working in different departments, understanding what needs to be done, and when: understanding the legislation, the permit system, the licensing systems. It makes a big difference when it comes to making the processes smoother, without getting stuck and having to wait for somebody else to respond to your queries, which is where a lot of the time goes with the internal processes.

Local authority officers are very good at fulfilling their statutory role. They do not tend to step into other departments or other areas, so when suddenly something like this comes up, and you are talking about transport and energy working together, one person does not have experience of all this, so it becomes a lengthy process. Even understanding who you should be talking to within the authority can become a challenge if you are not used to it.

Dr Chris Pateman-Jones: To your question of what has been done and progress, you had Ian Cameron a few weeks ago talking on behalf of ChargeUK, and he gave you some statistics on the huge growth. There is a bit of an elastic band, where we are being held back a little at the moment. When LEVI comes out and when the money starts to really flow, you are going to see huge progress. The industry has built itself, ready to move, and there is an element of pain being felt across the industry at the lack of progress at the moment, but I have great confidence that will be released.

There is an area where I would love to see a change. Coming back to a point that was raised earlier on the change of 2030 to 2035, the ZEV mandate still exists, but it does not change the likely trajectory that is required in terms of the number of EVs on the roads. However, it had a fundamental impact on public perception of EV, and the message that we continually get is, ”It’s really hard. It’s going to be really hard for you, and you’re going to have to sacrifice to adopt an EV” and all these sorts of things. It would be wonderful if we saw an allocation of time, effort, resource and cash in recognising that this is a big transition for people. It is actually not a hard transition—there is a difference—it is a big mental transition for people. The reality of driving an EV is it is not hard, and there is fantastic progress being made, but the public perception, and the value of clickbait articles on how negative EV is, is so damaging to the adoption, and that causes the industry a challenge in terms of getting investment committee approval to fund.

One message that I would love to get across is, I would like to see government more involved in public discourse on this and changing the narrative to, “It is an easy solution, it is an easy transition, it is a positive transition that is going to benefit you all from an air quality perspective, and it is something that is going to create a huge number of jobs within the UK”. That is very different from the message of, “We’re changing 2030 to 2035 because we want it to be consumer-led”. Okay, agreed, but let us lead the consumer. I think that is a real difference that we have to see.

Lord Whitty: You referred to the earlier session. My impression was that big progress was in destination locations, and that on-street, which would benefit those who do not have off-street parking, was not so rapid. Is that a correct impression?

Dr Chris Pateman-Jones: Yes, I alluded to it earlier in terms of our targets. For full transparency, we had a target this year based on what we anticipated the market doing of about 10,000 charging points installed this year, and we will deploy about 3,500 charging points this year. That makes it very difficult for us to explain to our investors. The key reason is, there have been no tenders. You cannot deploy what has not been tendered, and what has been tendered has been held up by uncertainty on LEVI funding. I have huge respect for what is being tried, and LEVI will prove to be hugely valuable, but the uncertainty that has existed for the last 12 to 18 months on it has caused some real challenges.

The Chair: I know Lord Lucas wants to come in.

Q72            Lord Lucas: Do we need to do anything, first, to discourage people from converting their front gardens to parking spaces so that they can get their own charging, and secondly, to provide a charging structure for delivery vans?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: In Coventry, we have signed up to the BVRLA charter. We are aware that vans and pick-ups park on-street, so we are already providing longer bays on-street to facilitate that. If I am designing, if you like, more than three spaces, one of the spaces is a longer one, because otherwise vans park over two spaces, so they take up that capacity on the street. That is already happening, but more needs to be done. Other authorities should also be looking at that. Are they looking at it at the moment? No. I am talking about on-street here. When you look at off-street, there are multiple different considerations that need to be taken into account, such as car parks and spaces like that, but this is about providing charging infrastructure for those who do not have an off-street parking facility.

Coventry’s strategy has been that, when it comes to off-street parking on private land, the authority does not necessarily need to take too much of a front role in that, because the private sector is more than capable of providing that infrastructure; whereas for on-street, it is only the local authority which can do that as a highway authority. Providing parking spaces or the bays for fleet operators should really be made mandatory. The local authorities should go out and do some surveys in their areas to see roughly where this takes place, but as a blanket rule they should be looking at providing one in four spaces for pick-ups or bigger vehicles to park, because they do it anyway.

Dr Chris Pateman-Jones: I will not answer on the point of pick-ups, as you have covered that one. On the point of driveways, it is a really big problem. I cannot remember whether they call it the sixth or the seventh national park, because I cannot remember how many national parks we have, but front gardens and back gardens provide a huge environmental benefit, so paving over them is not good for any of us. However, I can equally understand why people want to do it, because they want to have that convenience, affordability and reliability when they charge their cars.

I would look at it in a slightly different way. We have seen that some of the councils are providing a forum, either through us or others, or even their own digital platforms, where instead of saying, “I want to pave over my front garden, people can say, “Can I have a charging point on my street?” It comes back to that community engagement piece, where local authorities have a huge to play. We have lots of digital tools that tell us where a good site is, but understanding that local community is really important. The work that we have done with a number of councils is to have that facility, where people can say, “I’d like a charging point on the street”. I do not know for certain, but I would imagine there is a direct correlation between those who want to pave over their front gardens and those who would like to have charging points.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: I will give you one example in light Chris’s answer. There was a taxi driver who came to me and said, “I’ve just bought a black EV cab, and it’s cost me £60,000. Can I have a charger outside my house? There is a lamppost”. Even if the lamppost is literally outside this person’s house, I was not able to say yes, because we have to consult. It is a public road, so just because somebody says they want a charger outside their house, we have to still consult other residents on that street. When the letter was sent to the residents with this proposal, I received six No”s. The neighbours on either side said, “Youre providing a private space for this person”. That was the perception. If you get many No”s, the cabinet member will not say yes. That is just how it is.

I get Chris’s point that there are digital tools available and people have said, “We would like a charger here, “Can I have a charger?”, and requests come through, but we cannot act on that request unless we have a majority saying that, yes, they are okay with it. That is the statutory obligation that I talked about earlier, about consulting all the residents or properties on a particular street, because it is the highway. Planning permission is not a big problem, mainly because it is a permitted development on-street, off-street, for a third-party or for the highway authority.

The Duke of Wellington: Can I come back immediately on that point? Did you just say that installation of a charging point is permitted development in planning terms?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: In planning terms, yes.

The Duke of Wellington: I know there are consents required from all sorts of people, but planning permission is not required for the installation of a charging point.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: There are certain considerations, such as it cannot be above a certain height. Volume is another one. In a conservation area, you cannot just go and install a charger that will have an impact on the aesthetic view. So there are considerations, but installation of a charge point is a permitted development under the planning law.

The Chair: That is helpful, because that is contrary to what we were advised in an earlier session.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: Is that for an individual charge point for a domestic consumer?

Peter Ollivere: There is a difference—

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Yes, there is a difference.

Baroness Boycott: The case that you were referring to about the taxi driver, is not that an individual—?

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: That was on the highway.

The Chair: The distinction is, you do not need it for a home charger but you do need permission for on-street. Peter, can you confirm that?

Peter Ollivere: My understanding is that generally for home chargers you will not require planning permission, but there is a bit of a grey area where a charge point is on the front of a property and it is within two metres of a highway. I am not 100% clear on that.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: It is true. That is for the home.

The Chair: We will clarify that with the respective department.

Baroness Boycott: We could tie that up with an environmental thing about digging up your front garden.

The Chair: We are running out of time, troops, so we can take that into the private session. We need to move on, because we have less than half an hour and a number of areas to cover, so if people could be brief in their responses, that would be very helpful.

The Duke of Wellington: In a sense, the set question I have been allocated has been dealt with in various ways, but there is still a doubt in my mind as to installation of parking meters. Some parking meters are more voluminous than the original ones were and do not seem to require planning permission. You just said that anything within two metres of a highway—

Peter Ollivere: Yes, with a residential property fronting on to a highway, if it is within two metres, technically it requires planning permission.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Yes, it does.

The Duke of Wellington: There is still a lack of clarity—

The Chair: We will go to the department and get some clarity on this matter.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: Chris, if you are doing a multiple contract with multiple charge points, do you need planning permission for that?

Dr Chris Pateman-Jones: We go on what the council tells us.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Can I read this quickly? For England planning law, For installation by all parties under class D and class E of part 2 of the Town and Country Planning Order 2015, permitted development rights allow for installation, alteration or replacement of charge points for electric vehicles without having to make a planning application. For installation by a local authority, a separate permitted development right is in place, which allows for installation of both off-street and on-street electric vehicle charge points under class A of part 12”. This is a new legal thing. Peter said the two-metre rule is when you are a resident who wants a home charger on your home: if you are two metres away from the footpath or highway, you need planning permission.

Dr Chris Pateman-Jones: To your question on what we do, it varies from council to council in terms of how this is interpreted. I would say that a great thing for this group to do is to ask for clarity and central guidance.

The Chair: Thank you. Let us move on.

Q73            Lord Grantchester: A quick comment on that is that I can see all sorts of neighbourly fights erupting when, if something is put on his front garden, and then someone parks right in front so he cannot get into his front garden to charge up, that taxi driver is going to have a long day tomorrow.

I want to probe a little behind the effect of different authorities having or not having strategic plans, because I noted in the back there is a longer list of authorities that do not have a strategic plan than those that do. I noticed that in the county of Cheshire in particular—not a big county—that Cheshire East does, Warrington does, but Cheshire West does not; does that mean that in some way or other Crewe and residents around Crewe get better service than residents around Chester? There is not a great divide in terms of location aspects and probably DNO structures. I wonder in terms of EV progress whether the first step is a statutory need to have a policy. Are there any comments around that?

Dr Chris Pateman-Jones: All I would say is that you are right; we see a huge variation from council to council and even a huge variation in terms of the ambition and the scale. You can have a strategy to deploy 10 charging points, or you could have a strategy to solve the problem for 2030 or 2035 and deploy tens of thousands of charging points. It is not even just having a strategy; it is about having a long-term strategy that really deals with an equitable transition. We work with Warrington council, so I am pleased you have seen that it has a strategy.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Not all local authorities have a strategy, and like I said, it is the ambition which often stops and the understanding of what this is and how we go ahead and provide charging infrastructure. This is where I was saying LEVI is going to help. The fact that you need to provide a strategy is a requirement, so it is making authorities think. It is making authorities look at where they should be providing chargers. The hope is that all authorities have signed up to it, because the allocation for the capability fund has been done for each authority. They all have their own view of how this should be done and who should be doing it, but awareness, understanding and education is a big lack.

Lord Grantchester: I also think there seems to be a logjam, especially in the Merseyside area, in terms of supply coming from developments offshore being fed into the national grid. Perhaps the supply will have to go around Cheshire West. I am only being facetious, but I see that building a national grid must be impacted in some way by these local authority disparities.

Shamala Evans-Gadgil: Collaboration is a must. Peter mentioned bringing everybody together around the table. If authorities do not know how to progress, they need to start talking to their local DNO. They should talk to not one but a few charge point operators, because they have a lot of knowledge and resource as well, so they are in the best position to have that conversation with the authorities. In fact, quite often they end up knowing where a hub is more beneficial better than the local authorities themselves.

The Chair: Thank you. I am going to finish it there, because I want to make sure we have time to get some information from Ian