Yesterday we tuned into the Energy Saving’s Trust webinar on the Office for Low Emission Vehicles’ (OLEV) new On-street Residential Charge Point scheme. From both a professional and personal point of view, I welcome this move – given that around 40% of the population have no access to off-street parking. I think it is critical that attention is given to flat and terraced house dwellers (like me), who have the potential to consider an electric car but nowhere to charge near home.

After the webinar, the team got talking. With 75% grant funding available for the purchase and install of EV charge points, it is definitely a step in the right direction to encourage local Councils to think about supporting areas with little off-street parking. However it won’t come without its challenges. Here’s just some of the questions that local authorities need to be thinking about when putting together their applications:

  1. Which areas are most suited to electric vehicle purchase and do they require on-street charging?
    Combine local knowledge (demographics) with existing EV ownership (charge point scheme membership is a good way to get down to area level) and combine this with data and knowledge on the local housing stock to identify relevant areas. See our case study on a residential location in Newcastle below for a great example of an area where all the data pointed towards it being the right location for residential charging.
  2. Within those areas, where would be the best locations for a charge point?
    Is there a natural ‘heart’ of an area that residents are naturally drawn to (like a High Street for example) which would serve a large number of residents within a reasonable walking distance from home?
  3. Once you’ve chosen a location – where do you position the charge point?
    Apart from the inevitable positioning constraints around finding a location close to a feeder pillar, there’s also all the regulations around street furniture to consider. Unlike lampposts, a charge point needs to be placed kerb-side so thought has to be given to providing the correct access dimensions for passers-by. We’ve also had issues in the North East with resident’s complaining about the brightness of the LED lights so something that needs to be considered if the location is on a residential street.
  4. Should the bays be for EV use only?
    This is a key consideration and one that is being left to each individual authority to decide. There are definitely two sides to this: being ICE’d is one of the biggest frustrations for EV drivers and there is very little point in investing in an asset that can’t be used due to others parking in the spot. However, where this becomes harder is if the location being considered is on a residential street with parking constraints. Many areas have introduced permit parking in residential streets and often parking spaces are in high demand. To take parking spaces away from residents could cause quite a stir.
  5. Where will the 25% match funding come from?
    It has been mentioned that there is a possibility of match funding from charge point manufacturers and in today’s cash-strapped world of local authorities, this is great. However, consideration should be given to interoperability between that and and existing charging networks in the area. Too many networks and therefore too many apps / access cards just adds another layer of confusion for existing and potential EV drivers.
  6. How can you make ongoing costs sustainable?
    Finally, once the charge point is installed, that’s not the end of the story and you will need to consider ongoing maintenance and management. Lessons from Plugged in Places told us that inevitably there will be broken posts that need TLC or even old posts that need replacing altogether and income for ongoing maintenance will be scarce. Even with the match funding and potential contribution from charge point manufacturers or network operators, there will still be a need to make ongoing costs sustainable. Some residential streets are free to park so the only revenue available to Councils will be the use of the charge point. Consideration should also be given to the surrounding estate and whether there is a fee to use nearby charge points.

Guidance on the residential, on-street charge point scheme can be found on the OLEV website.

A Newcastle Case Study

One of the many questions from the audience yesterday was whether there had been any successful examples of residential charging in the UK. Although our focus in the North East has not been on residential specifically, we installed a number of charge points in residential areas as part of the North East’s Plugged in Places programme. Last year, when we undertook a study on behalf of the North East Combined Authority on the use of the 500+ public charge points on the Charge Your Car network, we saw that the sixth most popular postcode for standard charging was in the residential area of Gosforth in Newcastle. Given that it’s also the area that I live in I was pleased to see it up there on the league table of EV charging.

Gosforth characteristics

  • An urban district: 3 miles north of Newcastle City Centre
  • High percentage of ABC1 population
  • Above average income levels
  • Above average level of second car ownership
  • A family area with a high concentration of schools
  • The highest Charge Your Car membership across the North East showing an existing market
  • 48% of people within the area live in terraced housing, flats, maisonettes or apartments and the area is dominated by Victorian terraced housing.

Interestingly we have two charge point locations within this postcode which are showing very different use profiles:

Location 1: The High Street.
This is maybe not quite the definition of residential – being located in a Council car park just off a High Street which has a number of shops, pubs and restaurants. However it is the heart of the residential suburb surrounded by streets of terraced housing. I know this charge point well as it’s my preferred charge point being just a 5 minute walk from my house and I know from experience that it’s often in use when I want it. The figures show us the following:

  • 85 transactions a month
  • Average transaction time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Ave kWh drawn per transaction: 5.63kWh
  • The majority of charging is being undertaken during the day (70%) and only a small amount of transactions in the evening (6%).

 

Location 2: The Grove
This is very much what I’d describe as a residential location. Although just a 5 minute walk from Location 1, this street is away from the High Street and the charge point is primarily there to serve the surrounding streets of houses and apartment blocks with no other nearby amenities. The figures show us the following:

  • 11.5 transactions a month
  • Ave transaction time: 5 hours
  • Ave kWh drawn per transaction: 8.49kWh
  • 72% during the day, 22% evening and 6% overnight.

 

 

So what we’re seeing is that the High Street location is without doubt the preferred location for driver’s charging in Gosforth. We can see from the profile that it is used frequently by the same drivers suggesting resident-use but the post is obviously serving visitors to the High Street as well – so giving the post a dual-purpose. The average transaction time is way shorter than in location 2. It’s only guesswork but I suggest that this could be because people are more considerate here as they know that the charge points are in high demand and therefore only take the charge they need.

Location 2 is a far less visible site and there is no reason to go there unless you live nearby so suggesting solely resident use. Although I was surprised that there weren’t more overnight transactions for this post, those night transactions were inevitably longer in duration which has an impact on the overall average duration. It is interesting to note that when location 2 was first introduced back in 2012, there was a local resident with an electric car living next door who used the point daily. That resident has now moved, showing the danger of citing a charge point on the request of just one household.

Zero Carbon Futures is an electric vehicle consultancy which manages and delivers projects which help towns and cities increase EV uptake. If you think we could help your organisation to develop charge point networks or would like to learn more about our electric vehicle projects, please get in touch.

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