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With cities set to introduce more emission zone charging: What does the future hold for EVs?

As of May 2019, there were 214,000 electric vehicles (EVs) registered in the UK, up from just 3,500 in 2013. Despite a recent slowdown in sales, that figure is forecast to increase by a further 60,000 in 2019. The Committee for Climate Change also predicts that electric vehicles will reach price parity with petrol and diesel models by around 2025.

This all seems to tally well with the Government’s electric vehicle (EVs) roll-out objectives, aiming to ensure that all new vehicles sold in the UK are zero emissions capable by 2040, whether that is electric, hybrid electric or hydrogen.

Setting aside criticisms of the Government’s targets that argue it is not ambitious enough, the UK needs to see a major increase in how quickly charging points are being deployed to make this all viable. In addition, the huge increase in electricity demand that will accompany this roll-out of EVs will likely require significant changes and investment across the grid to ensure that demand can be met and to limit disruptions elsewhere.

National Grid has now doubled its forecasts from last year for the number of EVs and the subsequent electricity demand, expecting up to 36 million to be on the UK’s roads by 2040. The additional strain this could place on the national grid, particularly during periods of peak demand, is substantial, reversing the falls in demand the UK saw in 2017 and 2018, adding anywhere between 6GW and 8GW of additional demand.

Currently, businesses and motorists alike are frequently holding back on committing to an electric vehicle due to the patchy nature of the UK’s current charging infrastructure. According to figures published in April 2019 by the RAC, over a third of local authorities had just 10 or fewer charging points available. In March it was revealed that over 100 of them have no current plans to increase their capacity. Although this could well be changing fast, after the Department for Transport (DfT) declared it will remove all petrol and diesel cars from the Government’s Car Service vehicle fleet by 2030. From that date onwards, the service will only supply ministers with pure-electric cars. This marks a material change, following Theresa May’s legacy announcement.

London introduced their Ultra-Low Emissions Zone in April of this year. Cities, including Greater Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Sheffield, amongst others, all plan to introduce similar zones.

Some could be in place as soon as 2020, seeing commercial petrol and diesel vehicles, as well as cars and motorcycles in some cases, incur charges averaging around £10 per day for light vehicles and up to £100 for lorries and buses to access city centres.

The somewhat disjointed approach to these emissions charges, with the vehicles effected and the charges incurred varying widely across different cities, means that it can be difficult for businesses to plan ahead for the impact of these new costs. With EVs being exempt, they remove this uncertainty, as well as already presenting a sound financial argument for any businesses that require regular access to city centre locations. The money saved by avoiding these emissions charges generally significantly outweighs the higher current price of purchasing an electric vehicle. Lower running and servicing costs and mileage further strengthen the potential savings offered by EVs.

With an increasing number of major corporations committing to large-scale carbon reduction initiatives and, in turn, expecting their supply chains to follow suit, EVs present one of the most significant ways that many companies can reduce their carbon footprint. Steady improvements in energy efficiency technologies mean that many businesses have already unlocked some of the reductions they offer, but for many electrifying their commercial vehicles still offers untapped potential.

For businesses looking to deploy their own EV solutions, the limitations of the grid can make this a potentially prohibitive project.  While converting your fleet to EV offers substantial advantages in terms of reducing fuel costs, after the initial investment, and cutting carbon footprint, the fact that the UK is still lagging behind in terms of providing the charging infrastructure required means that most businesses would need to also implement charging facilities on-site. These represent a big draw on the local distribution networks and, in some cases, there simply won’t be the capacity available without the largely-prohibitive expense of a new network connection. Costs vary greatly, but even at the lower end often stand at around £100,000 for a 1 MW connection.

To better understand the options available to your business when seeking to electrify you vehicle fleet and to ensure the infrastructure is in place so that it works for you, speak to our energy experts by visiting or call 01253 785 110.