Upgrading infrastructure to enable electrical vehicle adoption in the UK
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Brian Chalmers
President Growth & Development

Decarbonising road transportation and promoting adoption of low or zero emissions options such as electrical vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen vehicles will play a pivotal role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the UK and meeting the government’s ambitious target of net-zero by 2050.

Ahead of COP26, the UK government announced plans to bring forward the phase-out date for the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by five years, to 2030, putting the UK on course to be the fastest nation in the G7 to decarbonise automobiles.

In addition, the government’s Net Zero Strategy lays out plans for a £620 million boost to support EV ownership and improved charging infrastructure, as well as a further £350m allocated to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains.

With the UK transportation sector responsible for around 27% of GHG emissions in 2019[1], 55% of which is attributed to cars and taxis, these measures, together with a new zero emission mandate for automotive manufacturers, are critical steps to achieving the government’s net-zero targets.

However, for EV use to grow at pace, motorists are seeking greater confidence that they will have convenient and dependable options to recharge. Delivering a reliable charging infrastructure network suitable for a variety of vehicles and motorist needs is critical for building public confidence in the transition to a lower carbon transportation mix, and to making mass adoption in the UK a reality.

Tackling the range anxiety barrier

Studies have found that one of the greatest barriers to EV uptake is the issue of range anxiety – the fear of getting stranded somewhere when the battery charge is low – and the concern around the accessibility of charging stations and supporting infrastructure.

There is no doubting the complexity of this challenge, both in the UK and around the world. There is a lot to consider and to understand about motorist needs when deciding how and where charging infrastructure is installed, as well as the power range and types of chargers to offer. Drivers will have different access and speed requirements for their charging options at home, at their workplace, en-route or at a destination – all of which need to be accounted for in strategic decision-making.

In high-density residential areas in the UK, it is not feasible for every home or property to have cables running from their electric supply out to their vehicle.  Millions of households do not have access to a driveway, such as those living in tower blocks and modern developments. Charging points also need to be accessible to disabled drivers and passengers, accounting for space, height and terrain for wheelchairs, for example. Addressing the availability and equitable access to public charging stations will therefore be crucial to providing assurance and encouraging motorists to make the leap to an EV.

Leveraging existing infrastructure

Significant work has been carried out by key stakeholders and changemakers in the mobility industry, including the government, car manufacturers, network owners and operators, to expand the number of public charging points and leverage existing infrastructure which is strategically placed across the UK’s road network.

Currently, a driver is never more than 25 miles away from a rapid charge point anywhere along England’s motorways and major A roads[2], but further public and private investment will be required to ensure there is a more extensive network in place to meet the varying needs of long-term consumer demand.

Who better to deliver on this imperative and accelerate the journey than the major energy companies who own and operate the existing infrastructure?

Wood has recently partnered with integrated energy company bp to fast-track the deployment of charging points across their existing retail network in the UK and Europe.

Modifying and upgrading existing sites, which are already strategically and conveniently located, to include electrical vehicle charging infrastructure means drivers can spend less time worrying about charging their car and more time thinking about their journey.

With that focus, Wood has carried out more than 600 feasibility studies and completed detailed design engineering for bp’s high-performing charging points in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, to ensure that key operational and performance requirements such as charging speed and the number of vehicles capable of being charged at any given time are met. These modifications will improve the charging experience for EV drivers, making it as seamless, quick and convenient as possible, ultimately enabling greater EV adoption.

With Wood’s global expertise in zero-emission planning and solutions such as real-time emission insights, electric/hydrogen vehicle charging site feasibility studies, ongoing maintenance and optimisation of sites as well as global programme management of mass EV deployment, we are well positioned to support our clients with their net zero mobility projects.

The motivation for change

The UK government’s net-zero strategy and policy decisions, such as imposing zero emission vehicle mandates for automotive manufacturers and ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, will undoubtedly propel a seismic shift to low or zero emissions vehicles. However, motivating motorists and encouraging their transition to EVs en masse means ensuring the deployment of a dependable, accessible, equitable charging infrastructure network. It is companies like bp, with their supply chain partners, that can help make this possible, at pace.

With the direction of travel now set for the UK, Wood is ready to partner with our clients to unlock solutions to electrification and a greener, cleaner future for transport and mobility.

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