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The Department of Transport has launched a consultation on measures it says are designed to place the UK at the forefront of cutting-edge transport technologies. These include a significant expansion to the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure across the UK. There are a number of strands to the Future of Transport consultation, which covers aviation and maritime transport as well as cars.

For road vehicles, the proposals include future plans for a robust and expansive chargepoint network that will allow everyone to make the switch to electric, supporting the government’s commitment to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. The proposals would support more chargepoints along motorways, streets and at popular destinations to make them more accessible, as well as helping to ensure they are inclusively designed so they are easy to use by all.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This is a hugely exciting time for transport in the UK. On our roads EVs are set to become the norm within the decade, on our seas autonomous and remotely operated vessels will increase efficiency and improve safety, and in our skies drones and novel aircraft will transform the way people and goods move around.

“Supporting these innovations will not only ensure high standards for consumers but also create a research-friendly environment so we can continue being world leaders in transport. We will create a safer, greener transport system that attracts investment and supports skilled jobs across the country.”

EV changes

The zero emission vehicles strand of the consultation is seeking views on new primary legislation that would give the government powers to introduce requirements in four areas:

  • a statutory obligation to plan for and provide charging infrastructure
  • requirements to install chargepoints in non-residential car parks
  • new powers to support the delivery of the Rapid Charging Fund
  • requirements to improve the experience for EV consumers

Currently, local charging infrastructure provision (on-street and rapid hubs) is installed at the discretion of local authorities (LAs). LAs mostly deliver charging infrastructure where private chargepoint operators are not expected to invest because of current low demand and a lack of commercial viability.

However, as the transition to EVs accelerates, it is expected that there will be increasing viability for chargepoint operators to deliver at these locations, so the LA’s role will be to plan the best locations for operators to install chargepoints, to support residents.

The government is seeking views on introducing a statutory duty to plan for EV infrastructure. This might fall to the LAs in England and Wales or, alternatively, the chargepoint operators themselves, or energy companies.

In addition, the consultation says the government is seeking powers to require landowners in England to provide a minimum level of EV charging infrastructure in non-residential car parks. These new powers would apply to all existing non-residential car parks and new non-residential car parks, not associated with a building, and could apply to a wide range of locations, from supermarkets and retail parks to workplaces with car parks.

The new powers will provide government with the option to intervene to ensure there is sufficient charging infrastructure to support the transition to EVs.

The consultation also looks at whether there should be a minimum number of spaces in a car park before the regulations apply eg only in car parks with more than 10 parking spaces.

The duty to provide EV chargepoints will fall on the landowners of the car park. Landowners would be able to work in collaboration with leaseholders, car park operators, developers and other bodies to install and manage the EV infrastructure. They would not be able to pass on their duty to ensure provision.

Implementation of the new requirements will be monitored by an enforcement body able to apply a scheme of penalties, such as local weights and measures authorities or LA building control bodies.

Rapid Charging Fund

The Rapid Charging Fund is a £950 million fund to future-proof electrical capacity at motorway and major A road service areas to support the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars and vans.

The fund will be administered by a delivery body which will:

  • accept funding applications from motorway and major A road service areas
  • examine the applications to ensure the requested connection size is based on robust estimates of expected demand from a 100% zero emission vehicle fleet
  • potentially act as the owner of the new/upgraded connection, leasing capacity to applicants

There is a legal risk to the fund because the majority of motorway service areas in England have an exclusive provider of open access chargepoint services.

The government is considering taking new powers to make the exclusive elements of existing chargepoint service arrangements void and unenforceable.

This would include requiring service area operators and large fuel retailers to:

  • tender chargepoint service contracts openly
  • have a minimum of two – and at some sites more than two – different chargepoint operators at any particular site

It is also considering requiring existing providers of chargepoint services at motorway service areas to make their chargepoints open access rather than only open to an exclusive network or group of networks or manufacturers.

Improving EV consumer experience

In order to support adoption of EVs, the government is proposing to adopt primary powers to:

  • ensure adequate consumer protections when encountering issues using the public charging infrastructure
  • set accessibility (inclusive design) and safety standards at public chargepoints
  • mandate aspects of chargepoint design such as familiarity, look and feel, and which will include accessibility and safety features

Vehicle standards

A separate strand of the consultation is looking at modernising vehicle standards. It proposes creating:

  • an approval scheme for automated vehicles to set requirements for safety, security and in-use monitoring – this will cover systems, sub-systems and manufacturers’ processes across the vehicle lifecycle (design, development, manufacturing and in-use operation)
  • new technical regulations for road vehicles, such as approval and in-use obligations for software and cyber-security requirements over vehicle life – this will include the ability to direct vehicle manufacturers and suppliers of replacement parts to act where needed
  • powers to ensure the correct maintenance and use requirements, most notably for connected and automated vehicles
  • improved powers for monitoring and enforcement of in-use compliance and market surveillance activities – this will include requirements for manufacturers to provide information (such as technical specifications, performance data and access to embedded software)
  • powers for the Secretary of State for Transport to amend, by statutory instrument, retained EU legislation on the type-approval of vehicles and NRMM – for example, the EU type-approval framework regulations and regulations covering engine pollutants and emissions

The consultation closes 22 November 2021.

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