The Government's Net Zero Strategy (published on 19 October 2021) highlights the challenges faced in decarbonising transport. Domestic transport has the largest share of UK greenhouse gas emissions across any sector (23% in 2019) with the majority of these emissions coming from passenger cars. Supporting the transition to zero emission vehicles is therefore a Government priority and is key to delivering on their commitment to end the sale of new diesel cars and vans by 2030. 

We are already nearing the tipping point of mass adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). According to BEIS figures, one in five cars sold in September 2021 was a plug-in vehicle. 

To facilitate the transition, it is essential that the roll-out of charging infrastructure keeps pace with demand. In the Government's Transport Decarbonisation Plan (published in July 2021), the Government committed to ensuring that the UK's EV charging infrastructure would meet the demand of its users. The Net Zero Strategy has allocated a further £620 million targeted at vehicle grants and EV charging infrastructure, particularly on-street residential charging infrastructure. This is in addition to the £1.3 billion already pledged to accelerate the rollout of charging infrastructure. 

But is that going to be enough? According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the UK must install  700 EV charge points a day in order to meet the required EV demand by 2030. Alongside the grants and funding, the Government is looking to introduce several key pieces of legislation to help create the necessary infrastructure.

Building regulations

Following a 2019 consultation that flagged proposed changes to Building Regulations to require the installation of EV chargepoints, a new Approved Document is expected shortly.

It is likely that the Approved Document, when finally published, will include requirements to install chargepoints in new homes with parking spaces, buildings undergoing material change in use to become dwellings and existing residential building undergoing major renovations. We also expect similar requirements to apply to commercial buildings. If the consultation is followed, we can expect a requirement for any new or existing building undergoing major renovations with more than 10 parking spaces to have a chargepoint and cabling for at least 20% of available parking spaces.

We wait to see how the changes to Building Regulations deal with the installation costs, and in particular how concerns about high grid connection costs are addressed. There will also be interest in the proposed cap on the cost of retrofit installations and the general exemptions for listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas.

Smart charging legislation

In their response to the Electric Vehicle Smart Charging consultation, the Government has confirmed that legislation will be introduced through the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 to ensure all private EV chargepoints sold and installed in the UK have "smart" functionality. That will allow chargepoints to optimise the rate and time of charging to relieve pressure on the electricity grid at periods of peak demand. 

The proposed regulations will apply to all private chargepoints both domestic and in the workplace, other than rapid chargepoints (50kw or more) due to the short-term nature of their use. 

Smart chargepoints must be able to send, receive and respond to information in order to alter the rate of electricity used or time of charging. Chargepoints must also have a randomised delay function that can be changed remotely to delay charging by up to 30 minutes. These functions will help manage the additional demand on the electricity grid as the use of EVs becomes more widespread. Chargepoints will also be expected to monitor and measure data around energy consumption, providing the end-user with information on their charging behaviour. This is intended to give customers greater oversight of their energy usage.

Direction of travel

In addition to the above legislation, the Government is also due to publish an EV Infrastructure Strategy later this year. This will set out a roadmap for the wider rollout of charging infrastructure across the UK with a focus on the role to be played by both the public and private sectors. Although details are awaited, the direction of travel is clear – EV charging infrastructure will form an integral part of our future built environment. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.