Trudy Harrison – 2022 Speech on the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

The speech made by Trudy Harrison, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, in the House of Commons on 30 March 2022.

It gives me great pleasure to respond to the debate. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire (Sir Bill Wiggin) for initiating it, and I thank the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) for their interventions, because this is a really important issue. For decades, we have talked about moving away from fossil fuels. As we move towards green technologies and set ambitious targets to end the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles in 2030, we know we need an infrastructure to match it.

I would like to begin by adding to my hon. Friend’s already impressive set of statistics—he has clearly done his homework—covering the entirety of Herefordshire. There are indeed 68 public devices, 15 of which are rapid—that is over 50 kW—and there are 848 grant-funded domestic services in Herefordshire, plus a further 77 workplace charge points. What we do not have from Herefordshire Council, I am afraid, are any applications to the on-street charging fund. I therefore encourage my hon. Friend to work with me in trying to encourage the council.

On the quality and reliability of charge points, my hon. Friend is absolutely spot on. We have already identified a number of improvements that must be mandated if we are to secure the transition we want away from fossil fuel vehicles to a far more electrified transport network. On reliability, we are ensuring that public charge points will be reliable by mandating a 99% reliability charging requirement across the rapid network, which will include trunk roads and motorway service areas, of which there are 114. That means that the rapid charging network must be maintained to a high standard. Where operators fall short of that standard, we will work with our enforcement body—to be set up— to ensure consumers get the very best experience. We are also going to publish a league table of all charge point operators in the UK and we are mandating a 24/7 helpline that must be free for consumers to use at every charge point in the UK. The helplines must be available within one year after the legislation comes into effect. We hope to bring forward that legislation later this year.

My hon. Friend referred to the apps that need to be downloaded. We in my Department agree that that is unacceptable, so we are mandating that a non-proprietary, non-phone payment method, such as contactless, should be available for all newly installed fast and rapid charge points and existing rapid charge points over 7.1 kW. That will come into effect one year after the legislation is laid.

We want to make sure that operators open up their charge points to a roaming provider. We simply do not care whether that is a charge point operator, a third-party roaming provider or a Government-accredited roaming provider, but we want it done quickly. Industry is already making tremendous progress. We will set the enforcement date as 31 December 2023 to ensure that any industry actors that are reluctant to offer roaming are forced to offer it to their consumers.

My hon. Friend spoke about how motorists will find the right charge point for their needs. That is critical. We will also mandate open data to enable consumers to find a reliable, working and available charge point. We will mandate a data standard, the open charge point interface protocol, to standardise industry data and to specify how the data will be made openly available. We will allow a one-year lead time for those regulations to come into effect to allow for the development of an industry data solution.

And we will go further by mandating pricing transparency through a single pricing metric—pence per kilowatt-hour—that must be offered to consumers at each public charge point. That will exclude payment bundles, where pricing can be offered alongside another service. The total bundle cost, however, must provide the consumer with the equivalent cost in pence per kilowatt-hour to charge their EV. That will come into effect immediately after the regulations come into force.

I hope that I have set out how seriously we are taking this issue. We have listened to the feedback from motorists and consumers, and our ambition is matched only by our incentivisation. We will provide support to local authorities, organisations and householders through a range of funding streams that are available for homes, streets, workplaces, local authorities, motorway service areas, individuals, organisations companies and motorway service area operators. That support is available right across the UK.

The hon. Member for Strangford referred to the pitiful amount of charge points, and I encourage him to work with his local authority, because those schemes are UK-wide, whether we are talking about the plug-in grant for cars, vans, motorcycles or taxis, the electric vehicle homecharge scheme, the workplace charging scheme, the on-street residential charge point scheme, any of the infrastructure support or our hydrogen transport programme. I repeat that our ambition is matched only by our financial incentivisation.

Adam Afriyie

The Minister is making it clear that the Government are utterly committed to getting this right and we very much appreciate that. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, where I am, has taken advantage of some of the Government schemes. We have some pretty good fast charging points, and really good preference is given to local residents who use them. Some of the schemes are working, but it is important that we look at home charging unit subsidies, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire (Sir Bill Wiggin) said, because they are definitely just being skimmed off by a lot of the suppliers.

Trudy Harrison

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and I am certainly happy to meet him. We have discussed at length some of the benefits that he experienced for his electric vehicle. There is nothing like speaking to the motorists, who explain some of the challenges and how we will improve on the charging infrastructure to ensure that it is world-leading and fit for the Government’s ambitions as we decarbonise transport.

It is important to recognise the crucial role of local authorities in developing local EV charging strategies and facilitating local provision, especially for residents who do not have access to off-street charging. We are pledging at least £500 million to support local charge point provision. As part of that, the local EV infrastructure fund will provide approximately £400 million of capital and £50 million of resource funding to support local authorities.

We are developing a toolkit and assessing how local authorities can best be supported with extra resources. We have launched a £10 million pilot as a springboard for the development of the full fund. We are working with the Energy Saving Trust to run the local government support programme, which provides free impartial advice to local authorities in England to help them to develop local policies and strategies to support zero-emission vehicle uptake.

Our electric vehicle infrastructure strategy, which was launched just last Friday, sets out our direction of travel. It has put flesh on the bones of the transport decarbonisation plan and our net zero strategy. We need to go further—and we are doing just that. Last year, we launched a consultation on improving the consumer experience at public charge points; I have set out the results of that consultation, which I think demonstrate that we have listened and are taking action.

We cannot take our foot off the clean, sustainable gas as we roll our plans out across the country. We have a responsibility to protect our future and make it cleaner and greener as fast as possible. In the light of the situation in Ukraine, switching to our own clean, cheap energy is no longer just about hitting net zero targets; it is a matter of national security. We will shortly publish a new energy security strategy to accelerate clean power in the UK from offshore wind and solar to hydrogen, nuclear and more.

The Government have set out a clear plan to support the transition to electric vehicles. We have set out our role with partners, and are committing funding and continuing to work with industry to make sure that we have a world-leading charging network up and down the country. This transition is a team effort. I welcome challenge from Members across the House, because no body or sector can do this alone. It is only together that we can meet our ambitious targets to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.