It is early days but there is a transport revolution going on. The number of electric vehicles bought in the UK was up nearly 30% last year and the Government has stated its commitment to end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.
MPs from all sides of the House spent several hours this week debating the logistics of this revolution and the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill passed its third reading on Monday night. There was a cross-party desire to see the right infrastructure in place to support the move to electric cars and key to this is the charging network.
In the Autumn Budget last year, the Chancellor announced a £400 million charging infrastructure investment fund to help expand the current network of almost 12,000 charging points around the UK. I know there are points in the Kennet Centre and others at Parkway, Chieveley Services, car dealerships, hotels and sports centres around the Newbury and Reading area. Those with off-street parking can plug into their own domestic supply but for others we need a network of on-street charging points. In addition, charging points should become the norm at garages, supermarkets, railway stations, car parks, hospitals, schools and libraries, anywhere where people might need to top up. Just this month, Ministers at the Departments for Transport and BEIS have written to local authorities reminding them about the grants available for installing on-street charging points. The DfT’s On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme, launched in 2016, has had a disappointingly low take-up with only five councils in the whole country taking advantage of this offer which covers up to 75% of the cost of procuring and installing charge points. There is apparently still £4.5 million up for grabs and I would love to see Councils – and residents – in Berkshire benefitting from this.
West Berkshire Council has obtained funding for a Co-Wheels Car Club which provides low emission, hybrid or electric car hourly hire in Newbury and car club users can access charge points in the Kennet Centre and in Eight Bells car park. And the Council now has several electric vehicles in its transport fleet.
There’s still a long way to go but this revolution is happening. We need to take seriously the automotive sector’s much more positive approach towards electric vehicles, the significant and ongoing progress in battery technology, and the upturn in consumer confidence that saw the UK buying over 10 times the number of electric cars in 2017 than in 2013. The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill will now go to the Lords for further scrutiny but when it becomes law you can be sure that one of its consequences will be to make it easier to recharge an electric vehicle in Berkshire and all across the UK.