Government told to procure EV chargepoints through tenders in underserved areas

Without government intervention, there is a risk the UK will not develop the comprehensive network of electric vehicle (EV) chargepoints it needs to successfully deliver a 2030 phase out of new petrol and diesel vehicles, a think tank has warned.

On 2 February, Policy Exchange published Charging Up, a report in which it looked at the policies needed to develop such a network, explaining that while the majority of EV charging set to be done at home, public EV chargepoints have a key role to play when it comes to alleviating range anxiety. As it stands, the UK faces having to install them five times faster than the current rate, costing between £5bn and £10bn by 2030.

It called for government to procure chargepoints through regular tenders, offering long-term contracts, in similar fashion to its successful auctions for offshore windfarms to rectify this. Competitive tendering should also be used to determine where larger strategic grid connections are needed and for working out the most cost effective way to deliver them. In residential areas, it suggested government offers time-limited support for local authorities to employ dedicated chargepoint teams than can facilitate rollouts in their areas.

To ensure fairness, government should regulate the maximum price from EV chargepoints that receive government support with the price cap once again implemented through the tendering process. It should also look to improve the EV charging experience, making it better than is the case when refuelling petrol or diesel vehicles, with all chargepoints that receive government support required to offer roaming, allowing drivers to find a chargepoint and pay through an app of their choice.

Policy Exchange acknowledged its recommendations represent a significant intervention in the market for EVs with a risk it could crowd out private investment, instead of encouraging it, if implemented badly. They have been designed to complement private investment, though it further recommended government funding is focused in areas that would otherwise be underserved by the private sector. In turn, this could see additional private investment drawn into the sector.

This would see the cost to taxpayers and drivers of deploying EV chargepoints minimised, while longer-term the market for privately funded chargepoints would continue growing, reducing the need for government intervention. It added that if government were to follow the recommendations in the report, it could increasingly focus the tenders only on areas that remain underserved which would shrink in time, offering it a pathway to a substantial provision of chargepoints without having to play a major long-term role.