Electric vehicle charging: Can you do your bit?

Show notes (summary)

One way of tackling climate change is for us all to switch to more sustainable forms of transport. Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular, but they need a widespread charging infrastructure if they’re ever going to become truly mainstream. For this episode, Dr Darren Handley, Head of Infrastucture Grants at the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles at the Department for Transport, talks about how the switch to EVs is progressing. Darren also explains what grants are available for village and community halls to support this change by bringing charging points to rural communities.

Transcript: Season 2 / Episode 13

Johnny Thomson 00:00
Village halls across the country are being encouraged to help tackle climate change, but what kind of practical steps can be taken to protect the environment? Hi, everyone, I’m Johnny Thomson and welcome once again to The Village Halls Podcast sponsored by Allied Westminster, the UK’s largest specialist provider of village hall insurance and the home of VillageGuard. Now, many of us see climate change as the biggest crisis we currently face. And one way of tackling the issue is for us all to switch to more sustainable forms of transport. Of course, electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, but they need a widespread charging infrastructure if they’re ever going to become mainstream. So today, I’m delighted to be joined by Dr Darren Handley, who is head of infrastructure grants at OZEV, which is the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, part of the Department for Transport. Darren is going to talk to us about how things are progressing with the switch to electric vehicles and also how village and community halls can support this by bringing charging points to rural communities. Hi, Darren.

Darren Handley 01:10
Hi, Johnny.

Johnny Thomson 01:10
Many, many thanks for coming on the show today.

Darren Handley 01:13
It’s a pleasure.

Johnny Thomson 01:14
Okay, Darren, so before we begin, tell me a little bit about you, your background and OZEV of course, and what your role is there?

Darren Handley 01:22
So I’ve been in the Department for Transport for probably more years than I care to remember. And I’ve been with the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles for coming up for three years. Our primary mandate of the team is to help transition the UK to, as the name says, zero emission vehicles. So this is both hydrogen and electric vehicles. And the wider team covers everything from policy, legislation and just lots of lots of things to encourage the uptake of those vehicles and overcome the obstacles which people encounter along the way.

Johnny Thomson 02:01
Okay, fantastic. We’re going to concentrate a little bit on electric vehicles today. And I’m fascinated to know what your aims are around electric vehicles and what kind of progress we are all actually making in terms of making the switch?

Darren Handley 02:16
Yeah, so the aim for the Government is that in 2030, all new cars that are sold on the road will be zero emission from the tailpipe. So that’s EV, electrical-hydrogen, with the phase out of hybrid at 2035. And we’re also looking to phase out all other forms of petrol and diesel vehicles and investigating a timeline for when that’s possible. And we’re making really, really good progress, beyond what we ever dreamed of really…

Johnny Thomson 02:49

Darren Handley 02:49
With the uptake of electric vehicles. If you look at all the sales figures from the trade bodies, such as the Society for Motors, Manufactures and Traders, SMMT, it’s about one in five new vehicles sold are electric. So it’s really, really good progress,

Johnny Thomson 03:09
And I guess its needs to be doesn’t it. It’s less than eight years to go until until your targets met. So it’s really important that we move on with this. And I guess rural locations are really important in all of this too, because to me, electric vehicles seem very suited to rural communities. People tend to, firstly, really need a car or a van. And most journeys they make, I would imagine, are probably reasonably short yeah?

Darren Handley 03:36
Yes. It’s actually quite surprising across the UK that most people’s journeys and driving is much shorter than they think. And certainly the government doesn’t want any part of the UK to be left behind. So everybody has the same opportunity to use an electric vehicle as they would now to use a petrol or diesel vehicle.

Johnny Thomson 03:57
And in all honesty, what difference is this switch to electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles and so on going to make in terms of climate change, and you know, future generations? How important is this move?

Darren Handley 04:12
It’s critical really. If you look at the amount of CO2 emitted from transport, it’s one of the highest brackets. So we need to tackle it, if we’re going to meet our commitments.

Johnny Thomson 04:28
Yeah. And there’s health benefits as well isn’t there of course, because pollution is a quite a significant problem as well now?

Darren Handley 04:36
Yes, you do cut all the emissions from the tailpipe obviously, there’s no particulates. And we’re actually looking at the non exhaust emissions. So you get something called regenerative braking with electric vehicles, where if you take your foot off the pedal it actually… the motor goes into reverse and you get electricity back, so you don’t need to have so many braking events. So you get lot less brake dust coming off The vehicles at the minute are slightly heavier, so you may get more tyre dust coming off. We expect that the weight of electric vehicles will decrease as the technology of batteries increases and gets better and better, which we are seeing continuous improvements in battery technologies.

Johnny Thomson 05:17
Fantastic. Now I mentioned rural communities before and village and community halls do, of course, often sit at the heart of those rural communities and rural life. So it seems only natural that they could have a supporting role to play in all of this, is that right?

Darren Handley 05:35
Yes. Rural communities have a wealth of different opportunities to have electric vehicles. And one of the key things is the ability to charge. If you have off street parking, it’s pretty easy to get a charge point and put it in. It’s where you have a rural community without that access to off street parking, it obviously is a challenge. It’s pretty much the same challenge as rural communities not having access to a petrol station readily. So, unlike petrol stations, there is opportunities for village halls and similar properties and businesses to offer something for their community, that ability to charge.

Johnny Thomson 06:22
So anywhere, in essence, that has parking facilities anywhere that’s off the main highway, yeah?

Darren Handley 06:28
Yes, essentially. And the infrastructure needed is a lot less than a petrol station is. So it should ideally be an interesting proposition for any business with off street parking about whether they want to attract custom, or support their local community by putting in a publicly accessible charge point.

Johnny Thomson 06:49
Yeah, and just remind me these are these things that look rather like a box sometimes, or a pole aren’t they. And there’s a bit of a lighting on them usually to make them look all modern and blue and things. And you literally just park up and plug your vehicle into that, and then it will start to charge your electric vehicle, right?

Darren Handley 07:10
Yes, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. So yeah you get onesa that attach to a wall. You get ones which look like a bollard. You even get ones which pop up from the ground. And yeah, to start them, it can be as simple as just plugging them in. Or you may need to just arrange how you’re going to pay for it. So start a session and then tap your payment card somewhere along the line, so the payment goes through.

Johnny Thomson 07:36
So tell me Darren, what kind of support is currently available to village halls when it comes to them providing charging points in their car parks and so on? How does this grant scheme that you head up actually work?

Darren Handley 07:49
So the Government is trying to incentivise businesses to provide charge points. And one aspect is village halls and charities and places in rural communities for off-street parking. So we have grants available, which are up to 75% of the cost, capped at £350 pounds per charge point socket for businesses and village halls to install. So this would go quite a way to helping with the installation of the charge point. And then there’s also capital allowances, which are available, at least until the end of this financial year, which means that the tax, they could be offset against their tax as well. So effectively, it can be free for village halls to put in that infrastructure.

Johnny Thomson 08:41
Yeah. If you if you get your accounting rate?

Darren Handley 08:43
Yeah, exactly.

Johnny Thomson 08:45
And it’s an important point you’ve made about this is per charge point. This is not per car park as such, so you can have multiple charge points in each in each parking area, yeah?

Darren Handley 08:55
Yeah. So charge points can charge one vehicle, two vehicles, sometimes even three. So we pay the grant by the ability to charge the vehicles. So if it has two effectively leads, which can work at the same time, you get up to £700 off the cost of the installation.

Johnny Thomson 09:16
Right? And I understand there’s also a variety of models that village halls can follow. For example, they don’t necessarily have to run and operate the charging points themselves, they could just simply provide the space for others to operate them, is that right?

Darren Handley 09:29
Yeah, there’s lots of different business models. This is one of the reasons why we’ve got the grant to help those business models develop. And yeah the options are that the village hall may choose to operate the charge point themselves, they may have a concession for somebody else to run the charge point, or the charge point and the parking spaces. Lots of different models for how they may finance and operate that charge point.

Johnny Thomson 09:59
Now I’m interested to know your thoughts on what I’m sure is an age old problem that village halls and definitely other businesses with with parking spaces have and that’s that overstaying in car parks and I guess what will inevitably become a kind of hogging of the charging points? I can imagine that’s something that it’s difficult to manage at times.

Darren Handley 10:22
It is, but I think all businesses with parking spaces will have had experience of this. So they may have existing practices, and certainly the industry as a whole is looking at how to manage people overstaying their welcome. So I think one important consideration is, how long are you happy for people to park in your bays. So if they’re coming for the day, because you’re putting on an event, are you happy for them just to sit there. So it’s really looking at the business model of your tolerance for overstaying and then whether you want to put in penalties for people overstaying. So supermarkets and others just ramp up the fees for parking, if you stay beyond two hours. And this is to sort of to encourage a certain behaviour in the users.

Johnny Thomson 11:17
I guess the important thing is to recognise that there is this flexibility, as we mentioned, in terms of the models that you can follow, and you could get somebody else to run and operate these charge points and car park, but the village hall could still benefit financially in some ways from that, and also from the from the grant scheme and the tax incentives that you’ve mentioned. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Because we’ve got to see the bigger picture here, haven’t we? And be positive about this. So tell me a little bit more about what you see is the key benefits for village halls in them playing a part in delivering these charging points that are needed for electric vehicles?

Darren Handley 11:36
Yeah,as well as just serving their community and having that moral lead… So I think there’s two key drivers, if I was owning a village hall, for me, for putting in charge points for my community. One is just serving the community, especially where you have people who don’t have that off street parking. So they have the opportunity. And as soon as you put the charge points in people will buy electric vehicles. That’s what we’ve seen everywhere. And the second is the commercial aspect. If you’re a village hall, and you run events, and people will travel to you. Not having a charge point will one day mean that you’re not as attractive, you won’t… people will go to the next village along where that village hall does have a charge point. Because people want to come and go from the events that are held, weddings and so on and so forth.

Johnny Thomson 12:46
Yeah, I think you’re right. I think there’s another area as well, which when I look back at sort of the history of village halls, they’ve always played a significant role in major historical moments. And it’s interesting that this dramatic change, you know, and moving from one way of personal transport to another. I would think that out there as well, there are a lot of village halls that just simply want to play a part in something that’s very positive for all communities and for the future generations and so on as well.

Darren Handley 13:19
Yeah. And also just saying you there at the beginning, that reputational aspect, I think, should be a big driver for people.

Johnny Thomson 13:28
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So what would be the next steps for any hall committees or trustees listening in that are interested , or anyone else that’s listening in such as those might run a community business, or so on, for example? What should they do Darren?

Darren Handley 13:46
I think it’s a number of things. First off, look at their facilities, how much parking space they have, how much… how they, whether they think they could put an EV charge point in and how they would consider operating it. Start talking to charge point providers to kind of weigh up the business case, essentially, and the costs. Talk to their electricity supplier, distribution network operator…

Johnny Thomson 14:18
Really important, yeah.

Darren Handley 14:19
To understand what the existing electricity supply is to their building. This is important, because if you’ve got limited capacity, or you’ve got a very old fuse for the supply to your building, it will need to be upgraded. So if you have a 60 kilowatt fuse, you may need to upgrade it to 100 kilowatt to enable that charge point to be put in.

Johnny Thomson 14:42
Yeah, you don’t want to turn all the lights off in the village do you, just to charge a few vehicles.

Darren Handley 14:46
Yes. Yeah, it may be that grid reinforcement would be needed, which kind of comes down to understanding what sort of charge point you want to put in. And my advice generally is to go for the lower powered charge points. This is particularly useful for people charging over a prolonged period and it reduces the need to actually do any upgrades to electricity supply, which can be quite costly. So the high power charge points, which power the cars a lot quicker, are only really needed if you’re going to operate like a service station and have a lot of cars coming in and going. And then the other consideration is the cheapest time for electricity, and to charge a vehicle is overnight. So again, if you’re providing for the community, it’s whether you want to allow people to park overnight in your facility and charge, and then expect them to disappear the cars during the hours of daylight.

Johnny Thomson 15:49
And presumably you also have a lot of information available online about the grant scheme and how to apply and how exactly it works and so on as well, yeah?

Darren Handley 16:01
Yes. So there is a wealth of information available on the internet generally, such as the Energy Saving Trust has information that you can look at. And yes, all the information about our grants and the offering is available online. So if you were to type in workplace charging scheme, and .gov.uk, you would find all the information about our grants.

Johnny Thomson 16:25
Brilliant, well we’ll put up some links on our website with this episode. So you can find out more information about the grant scheme and all of those other links as well, that that you mentioned. Brilliant Darren, unless there’s anything else that you want to get across, I’d I just like to say thank you very much for all of the information.

Darren Handley 16:45
That’s a pleasure. Yeah. So I think it’s just worth recapping what we said at the beginning is that electric vehicles are here, they are becoming mainstream. The second hand market is taking off. The first hand market, as I said, is they’re outstripping diesel vehicles considerably. So they’re coming.

Johnny Thomson 17:07
Yeah. And that 2030 target’s not just an aspirational thing, it appears to be moving towards that, and this is going to become reality for all of us yeah?

Darren Handley 17:16
It is.

Johnny Thomson 17:17
Fantastic. Also, thanks for the part you’re playing, as well, in making this change over to a more environmentally friendly form of personal transport. I guess this must be quite rewarding for you as well Darren?

Darren Handley 17:29
Yeah, and it’s lovely just seeing the sheer volume of electric vehicles around. And they’re quieter, which is one of the other benefits. So when we electrify all forms of transport, there will be a slightly quieter place.

Johnny Thomson 17:43
Yeah, excellent again, you know, thanks very much for for coming on. It’s been great and very useful, hopefully to village halls and others out there that we’ve had this chat.

Darren Handley 17:54
Okay, it’s been a pleasure.

Johnny Thomson 17:56
Thanks, Darren. And that’s all folks for this episode. A quick thank you to all of you who have so far submitted entries for our Wonderful Villages Awards. There’s five awards all together, including an Innovation Award and an Inspirational Story Award, so keep them coming in as you could win £1,000 for your local village church or community hall. And there’s more information about The Wonderful Villages Awards on our website. Many thanks to our headline sponsor and specialist insurance provider Allied Westminster for making our podcast possible and whose services you can discover more about at villageguard.com. And to online booking system provider Hallmaster, who also sponsor our podcast, and can be found at hallmaster.co.uk You’ve been listening to The Village Halls Podcast, a unique listening community for Britain’s village church and community halls and anyone interested in the vital community services they provide. We’ll be back again soon with another episode. Please visit thevillagehallspodcast.com to subscribe, sign up for updates, link through to our social media pages and to find out more. But until next time, good bye for now.