Written evidence from Steve Neill (ELV0010)

UK Parliament Call For Evidence – Electric Vehicles.

Steve Neill (Councillor, Planning Lead, Blockley Parish Council) 15th August 2023.

Although I have stated that I am a Councillor on my local Parish Council, I am also actively involved in upskilling the Garage Trade to address the challenges that the Motor Industry faces. I am therefore responding as an individual, rather than representing a particular organisation or interest. Frustrated by inertia, I have placed myself in a position where I could assist in joining the dots on this subject.

  1. The obstacles to the Government’s phaseout dates centre around affordability, availability and supply and demand. Based on July’s SMMT new registration data, I have given my team of Councillors a three-year deadline to install sufficient municipal or public EVCP’s throughout the parish. Therefore, the phase out dates are entirely feasible and should remain in place.
  2. The EV market will go where it goes - the challenges we face as a parish go beyond vehicle ownership because we have an ageing population. Alongside EV charging I have proposed that we take a hard look at improving the limited public transport provision that serves our community, and that includes investigating car clubs and active travel options to the nearest train stations that are located on the other side of hills. The Local Highways department raised an objection to a recent planning application to build five new dwellings in the heart of our village because it included provision for twelve vehicles citing the National Planning Policy Framework as the reason for their objection. These new builds would be built with their own EVCP’s facilities, but renewable power generation was not included in the developer’s proposal.
  3. However, I found that national policies have hindered EVCP uptake at municipal level – as a parish we meet few specific grant criterias.
  4. People in general must make fundamental changes to their behaviour, if we are to have any chance of achieving Nett Zero by 2050. For essential journeys, the car must be the secondary choice to public transport, car clubs and active travel options. This applies in rural areas as much as it does in urban areas.
  5. As with everything, the accuracy of the information in the public domain depends entirely on the source. I gather and study information from many sources, to form what I consider to be a balanced view.
  6. The phase out dates will have little impact on overall CO2 emissions in the short term – however air quality in our towns and cities will improve dramatically, rendering LEZ’s obsolete (sooner rather than later) as the vast majority of offending EU4 and EU5 diesels are no longer viable vehicles to own or operate. Vehicles, twenty years and older (including the MOT Exempt historic ones) tend to be very well maintained and cover fewer miles year on year. The numbers in other vehicle age groups as identified by the Department for Transport in their recent MOT consultation will gradually diminish over time, to be replaced (or not) by EV’s. Therefore, Nett Zero (as I see its definition) by 2050 is very achievable, but only if the overall idea is to reduce traffic back to sustainable levels, if ever there was such a thing.
  7. The cost centres for motorists should remain as they are, with minor adjustments made, to fund public transport subsidies at European like levels. For example, car tax bands could remain broadly as they are; tax levies on synthetic fuels could be simplified to help bring down the cost at the pumps, and subsidies embodied in Fossil Fuels could be withdrawn. VAT on synthetic fuels could match domestic energy at 5%, as could VAT charged at EVCP’s, except rapid charging points as these are the ones that require massive infrastructure investment. Inflationary pressure will remain with Motoring with rising parts and labour costs, falling demand, and continued role out of highly specialised servicing functions.
  8. Traditional forms of car ownership will continue. However, manufacturers must be held accountable for the disposal of batteries in the vehicles that they make. Therefore, the EV ownership model must adapt, even for secondhand cars, to accommodate that, which creates all sorts of complex data issues when it comes to changes of ownership, etc, etc.
  9. Poor credit ratings and low disposable income have long been barriers to private car ownership and will continue to do so. External factors such as poor infrastructure and connectivity also present barriers.
  10. The batch of new, less expensive super mini” EV’s coming to market in 2024/25, that are perhaps more appropriately sized for narrow rural UK roads and are very appealing, to me.
  11. The slow take up of EV’s to date can be attributed to a glut of large upmarket models and a lack of choice in the mainstream market segments, so a warped picture has emerged.
  12. L segment vehicles and personal light electric vehicles have limited appeal in rural settings due to practicality and safety concerns. Reduced traffic volumes would go some way to addressing these safety concerns.
  13. Secondhand EV supply is currently patchy, and there are concerns about on-going maintenance and warranty packages for software updates and battery care.
  14. There is a three-to-four-year lag between the start of a new leasing agreement and vehicles coming onto the secondhand market, which will have to undergo enhanced reconditioning programs prior to coming to market.
  15. This could push up secondhand retail prices, but I would have serious concerns if enhanced checks were not carried out – not only for the consumer but also the potential Health and Safety hazards that the workforce could face.
  16. Car Clubs are a very important consideration in rural and urban settings, especially those with ageing populations and limiting access to public transport.
  17. EV is more expensive to insure solely because more highly skilled and specialized repair processes are required, that are perilous to rush. Hence, they are more time-consuming and therefore more costly. Their components are vastly more expensive, leading to more write-offs – flood damage being a good example. That is how it is!
  18. The most obvious, and most widely reported, challenges to EV ownership are infrastructure – especially when off the beaten track, journey planning, range and charging times.
  19. The benefits of car ownership in general for essential journeys should be secondary to access to good public transport links.
  20. The service network is rapidly coming up to speed to cover EV demand.
  21. There must be room in the market for multiple charger types. For example, until recently older Tesla’s had their own type, which has now been standardised in North America.
  22. The proposed Public Charge Point Regulations 2023 should cover all charge points, not just the rapid ones.
  23. This would go a long way to addressing concerns and providing positive experiences. Charge Point Operators would have to be underwritten somehow to cover their exposure to this.
  24. Areas of low affluence and high-density housing can be found anywhere in the UK, so this needs to be scoped out to embrace rural villages including those in AONB’s and National Parks. In our parish EV uptake has centred around affluent homeowners with adequate off-street parking, who also have the means to cover the additional expense of charge point installation, for instance. EV ownership is an easy step for the few, but not for the majority of households in the UK, who do not have their own driveway and may have to dig deep to upgrade their homes to accommodate a decent charging point, rather than using a simple extension lead, which is problematic.
  25. During the overall purchase-to-sale lifecycle, costs are comparable, in my view. For example, the frequent replacement of tyres on EV’s can potentially far outweigh service cost savings and fuel cost savings.
  26. Batteries are expensive to replace and should be warrantied by the manufacturers, who should also be responsible for their disposal.
  27. Recycling batteries should be a last resort because the process is expensive and complex. However, batteries no longer fit for purpose in vehicles can be used as community power banks which can help absorb fluctuations in renewable energy supply and cover brief power outages caused by weather events.
  28. The value of materials can be recouped by the manufacturers at true end of life.
  29. Clearly, there is currently not enough grid capacity to cover the rising demand for rapid chargers particularly “destination chargers” in AONB’s and National Parks, where dedicated hydroelectric, solar and wind generation could provide solutions.
  30. Distribution Network Providers play a crucial role, not only for the EVCP infrastructure (and domestic heat pumps), but also ensuring the repair sector has adequate three phase (400V) supply to their workshops. One local garage shares its three phase supply with a fuel station. They want to expand in order to cater for EV and ADAS but the garage equipment supplier will not install equipment until they have secured their own independent three phase power supply. They have been waiting for over a year for the Local Distribution Network Provider to link them to the grid.
  31. Every parish will have their own set of hurdles to overcome. Perhaps there could be a per capita quota for public EVCP’s in each parish, as there are for defribulators, with offsets for parishes that cannot physically overcome their challenges without huge outlay and upheaval.
  32. Without good mobility and transport links rural residents, young and old, can suffer from profound isolation and missed opportunity. Therefore, reliable and robust infrastructure links can be regarded as essential needs in rural areas, in the same way that reliable broadband has become an essential need.
  33. The principle village in the parish that I serve was the first village in the UK to have electric street lighting in 1901, powered by hydro electricity from an adapted water mill. The resident currently residing there has presented a proposal to DEFRA to recommission that mill as a source of renewable power. Our District Network Operator is National Grid! There are several disused mills in the village, one is owned by Thames Water. Therefore, the idea of having discreet, sustainable, reliable and renewable power to facilitate the non-invasive installation of rapid destination EV chargers that can be effectively utilized by residents – not to mention heat pumps (even storage heaters in older properties) in AONB’s and National Parks is not beyond reason. However, this dream scenario cannot play out everywhere so there needs to be an accessible (ie simple to understand) toolkit available for Councillors across the entire country.