Arup’s Filippo Gaddo says local authorities are getting to grips with electric vehicle charging infrastructure rollouts – but there is potentially a bigger collective prize.
After an initial burst of activity, local authorities (LAs) are now taking a more strategic approach to EV charging infrastructure, says Filippo Gaddo, head of energy economics at Arup.
The consultancy has undertaken modelling work for LAs including Leeds and Sheffield. Specifically on rapid charging, it is currently working with Highways England as well as the Department for Transport on its Project Rapid programme to help inform the best strategic locations for public charge points.
Arup is involved in adjacent work with Transport for Wales and also for Greater Manchester around EVs and clean air strategies, some of which crosses into business model development as authorities look at how to price charging services that they initially provided free of charge.
Authorities are at different stages of their journeys, says Gaddo, but most are now starting to take a more considered approach, he suggests, and are keen to rationalise supply chains that may have become unwieldy.
“Most are now working on data-driven strategies, determining where is demand, where is existing infrastructure and where are the gaps, then creating dashboards to pull all that together and engage with the right stakeholders to determine the optimum approach,” he says.
“They are increasingly keen to work with a single developer rather than multiple parties and to ultimately end up with a single tariff structure and programme that works across the city – so users don’t have to deal with multiple interfaces.”
Meanwhile, many are now taking a hub approach to try and maximise use cases for a single infrastructure point, e.g. taxis, private cars and light goods vehicles all able to charge in the same place.
Stick, carrot and concessions
Local authorities could also make more use of incentives and penalties in order
to drive change from businesses without overburdening private citizens, which can be more politically challenging, suggests Gaddo.
Commercial vehicle operators, for example, could be incentivised to drive EVs within clean air zones and penalised if they do not. “That provides both the incentive to develop charging infrastructure and is politically more palatable then a blanket congestion charge, which penalises everyone,” says Gaddo.
He also thinks concessions models, where a single firm is granted rights within a certain area, for example borough-wide or city-wide, could deliver a more cost efficient approach – provided interoperability is assured.
If LAs were to take that approach and aggregate their requirements, there may be significant opportunity to scale at reduced cost, Gaddo suggests.
“Local authorities have the power to effect change. They can say ‘we are going to go electric’ and make it happen. But they have not really harnessed their collective power to scale. There is an opportunity to take a portfolio approach [via concessions models] that creates the opportunities to bring in infrastructure funds, which require an anchor tenant and that kind of scale to invest,” says Gaddo.
He acknowledges that local authorities by nature are political organisations and that getting multiple parties to agree to a single strategy is no mean feat.
“However, unless you explore these kind of approaches, you don’t know what is possible. Because the two things investors require is certainty of demand and scale. Without that, it’s more difficult to attract the required capital,” he says.
“So the opportunity for a joined up approach is there at an individual authority level. But there is a bigger collective opportunity.”
Free download: The 2020 EV report
This article is one of a number of in-depth interviews conducted for The Energyst’s new 2020 EV report. It contains expert insight across a range of sectors, plus a survey of more than 300 firms around EV charging infrastructure plans.
Sponsored by Arup, EDF, Good Energy, New Motion and Total Gas & Power, the report also includes views from: Arval, Cenex, DPD, Dreev, Engenie, ev.energy, Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, Mitie, National Grid, Nottingham City Council, the John Lewis Partnership, TLT, UK Power Networks, SES Water, UPS and Western Power Distribution. Download the report here.