A guide for local authorities on EV charging infrastructure

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Public law specialists Sharpe Pritchard break down the opportunities and challenges for local authorities in the widespread roll out of public EV charging infrastructure.

Part 1: Why public EV charging infrastructure is a local authority priority

Welcome to the first instalment of our newest series, the R-EV-OLUTION, in which we will be tackling the key questions facing local authorities in the roll out of public EV charging infrastructure.

Welcome to the first instalment of our newest series, the R-EV-OLUTION, in which we will be tackling the key questions facing local authorities in the roll out of public EV charging infrastructure.

As public law specialists, we pride ourselves at being at the forefront of the most exciting and innovative public sector green projects – ranging from district heating schemes to solar farms to hydrogen public transport. Drawing on our experience of major infrastructure projects and combining it with our understanding of the public sector, we are committed to helping local authorities achieve their green goals.

Through fortnightly instalments, this series will focus on the complex aspects of implementing public EV charging infrastructure. From initial strategy development to contract close and installation, we hope that this guide helps local authorities kickstart and manage their own EV charging infrastructure project.

So, to kick this series off, let’s start at the beginning:

“Why is public EV charging infrastructure a priority for my local authority?”

The Current Situation

You would be hard pressed to find any public authority, business or individual that is not looking for ways to promote environmental sustainability and reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Since the Government announced its binding target for the UK to reach net zero by 2050, the vast majority of local authorities have declared a climate emergency (over 300 in total) and many have pledged to make their operations reach net zero by 2030.

Transport will play a big part in reaching these targets. In 2020, domestic transport was the largest contributor to the UK’s domestic GHG emissions1. Recognising this, the Government announced that new diesel and petrol cars and vans would no longer be sold from 20302, and that all new cars and vans must be fully zero emission at the tailpipe from 2035. In absence of traditional fuels, electric vehicles are at the forefront to fill the gap, with 267,000 being sold in the UK in 2022 alone.

However, there is an acknowledgement that we are currently underserved by public EV charging points in the UK. The latest figures suggest that there are only 37,000 in operation, which translates to between 30-70 per 100,000 people3. If the Government is correct in its estimate that the UK will need up to 10 million vehicles to be electric to achieve its target of zero emission at the tailpipe by 2035, there are credible concerns that our current infrastructure will not be sufficient to meet increasing demand.

1 Transport and environment statistics 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
2 Government takes historic step towards net-zero with end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
3 www.gov.uk/government/statistics/electric-vehicle-charging-device-statistics-january-2023/electric-vehicle-charging-device-statistics-january-2023

The EV Infrastructure Strategy

To address such concerns, the Government introduced its EV Infrastructure Strategy in March 2022. This strategy plans for the installation of 300,000 public charging points as a minimum in the UK by 2030, and it has set its sights on local authorities to achieve this.4

The Government intends to transform the accessibility of public EV charging infrastructure, specifically on-street charging facilities, by “putting an obligation on local authorities (subject to consultation) to develop and implement local charging strategies to plan for the transition to a zero emission vehicle fleet.”5

In particular, local authorities will be asked to identify:

  • How to scale up and oversee the delivery of public charge points on local streets;
  • How to provide affordable and convenient charging without causing pavement disruptions that could discourage walking and cycling; and
  • How such charging opportunities could be rolled out for other vehicles, including e-bikes and motorbikes.

Whilst the Government’s plans provide a clear direction and an opportunity to shape the responsibilities of key stakeholders in this field, they also represent a significant undertaking for all local authorities, requiring dedicated resource, time and cost.

4 HM Government, Taking Charge: the electric vehicle infrastructure strategy (March 2022)
5 HM Government, Taking Charge: the electric vehicle infrastructure strategy (March 2022) page 8

Challenges of implementing an EV Charging Infrastructure Strategy

We recognise that preparing an EV charging infrastructure strategy is not as simple as “getting more charge points in the ground, quicker”.6 The electrification of vehicles is an emerging sector with rapidly changing technology and a complex regulatory system.

This undoubtedly presents exciting opportunities, not least to pursue innovative, sustainable solutions tailored to a local area. However, from listening to local authorities, there remain challenges to the preparation and delivery of an EV charging infrastructure strategy:

Where to start

Bearing these challenges in mind, how does a local authority take its first steps in developing its EV charging infrastructure strategy? Like all successful infrastructure projects, big or small, success comes from careful preparation and an understanding of the project’s aims and objectives. Local authorities would be well advised to remain flexible to allow for political shifts, but fundamentally the key areas of consideration remain as follows:

  • What is the overarching vision for the project? – Understanding the authority’s priorities drives the scope of the project. Is this high power charging, accessibility and cost or another objective? Will this change dependent on location or over time?
  • What charging infrastructure is to be rolled out? – These could include:
    • Residential on-street: chargepoints installed to serve vehicles parked on-street. Can be standalone chargepoints or integrated into existing street furniture (i.e. lampposts)
    • Residual charging hubs: communal parking areas with chargepoints for residents
    • Desitination: charging stations installed at destinations with longer duration visits (i.e. Council offices, leisure centres, service premises)
    • A combination of the above
      An area of opportunity relates to charging an authority’s own EV fleets (potentially using charge points using authority-generated electricity via a private wire). Those local authorities with energy generating waste facilities could incorporate this into their strategy for potential cost savings and greater environmental benefits.
  • Does the authority have views on the technology to be used in the charge points? – This is likely to link back to the
    overarching aims of the project.
  • Where will the charge points be rolled out and who are the target market? – Households without off-street parking
    have more limited options for accessing smart charging, but this will need to be weighed against the prevalence
    of car ownership in these areas.
  • Will the roll-out take place in stages or at the same time?
  • What is the authority’s budget for this project?
  • Are there any unique challenges specific to the local authorities? – What works for one
    local authority or one project, may not work for another.

Whilst undertaking this scoping work, consider an application to the Local EV Infrastructure (LEVI) Fund. Launched on 21st February 2023, this £450 million fund is now open to Tier 1 Local Authorities and Combined Authorities in England to assist with local authority resourcing costs.7

7 www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-local-ev-infrastructure-levi-funding


A year on from the publication of the UK’s EV Infrastructure Strategy and as the deadline for the Government’s 2030 target looms, this is a key time for local authorities to shape their role in the scale up of public EV charge points. With the likelihood of statutory obligations being imposed, there remain tangible challenges, but with careful consideration, local authorities are presented with a real opportunity to make innovative and sustainable improvements in their area.

Has this instalment sparked an idea?

If anything you’ve read here has prompted a question, generated an idea or got you thinking about the challenges of EV charging infrastructure roll out affecting your local authority, it would be great to hear from you. Please use the box below to send us a question – and we’ll aim to answer it in the next instalment!

Next in the series:

We look at the legislative framework regulating the development and installation of public EV charging infrastructure, including:

  • Local authority powers to install EV charging infrastructure in public spaces
  • Legal and technical requirements for smart metering of charge points
  • The application of the Electricity Act 1989

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Posted in Green Goals, THE R-EV-OLUTION: A guide for local authorities on ev charging infrastructure.