27 July 2021

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We speak to Natasha Robinson, Deputy Director and Joint Head, about the role of the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles in promoting EVs among fleets.

What is OZEVs role in the move to electric?

OZEV is responsible for advising ministers on the vision and direction for the UK’s transition to zero emission vehicles, improving access to and supporting the rollout of charging infrastructure and making the switch to zero emission vehicles easier for consumers, businesses, charities and the public. 

What help and support can businesses get from OZEV?

The Government, through OZEV, is directly supporting businesses to transition through a number of measures. We provide plug in vehicle grants to help reduce the up-front purchase price of electric cars, vans, motorcycles and trucks.

The Workplace Charging Scheme which provides businesses, charities and the wider public sector up to £350 per socket for installing up to 40 charging sockets for their employees and fleets. Over 13,000 installations have already been funded using the scheme and we are planning to open up the scheme to small and medium size enterprises and the charity sector. Drivers with off-street parking can also apply to our Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme for £350 to put a chargepoint in their home, this will soon be expanded to include people living in rented and leasehold accommodation. These two schemes have up to £50 million funding.  

The March 2020 Budget included the extension of favourable benefit in kind tax rates for zero emission vehicles out to 2025: company car tax is 1% in 2021/22 and 2% in 2022/23 through to 2024/25; and all zero emission cars are exempt from vehicle excise duty (VED). For zero emission cars and goods vehicles, as well as chargepoints, businesses can also qualify for first year allowances where you can deduct the full cost from your profits before tax.

What is the development of the UK charging infrastructure going to look like in the next five years, and how will it help businesses?

We expect most charging to happen at home, or at fleet depots, overnight. This is most convenient for people and allows electric vehicles to use energy when other demands are at their lowest. However, public chargepoints also have a vital role for individuals and businesses, particularly those without off-street parking or travelling longer distances.

We are working with industry to deliver a market-led, country-wide rollout of infrastructure. The Government is providing £1.3 billion over the next four years to support the continued roll-out of chargepoints on motorways and major A roads, in homes and businesses and on-street. Government and industry have already supported the installation of almost 24,000 publicly available charging devices. This includes more than 4,450 rapid devices – one of the largest charging networks in Europe and the UK network of charge points is still growing.

By 2023, we aim to have at least six high powered, open access chargepoints at motorway service areas in England, with some larger sites having ten to twelve. By 2035, we expect the number to increase to around 6,000 high powered chargers across the network.   

To increase confidence in the charging network and reduce range anxiety, the government recently consulted on measures to improve the consumer experience of public charging. This included opening public chargepoint data; improving the reliability of the network; streamlining the payment methods offered to drivers; and increasing pricing transparency. We are seeking to lay legislation later in 2021. Additionally, we have on proposals for all new-build residential and non-residential buildings, with an associated parking space, to have a chargepoint. We will be publishing the outcome of the consultation and regulations later this year. 

Later this year we will publish our Infrastructure Strategy which will set out the vision and action plan for charging infrastructure rollout needed to achieve the 2030/35 phase out successfully and to accelerate the transition to a zero-emission fleet.  

Is the UK National Grid able to support the uptake of EVs and how can home smart charging help?

We are confident that the grid will be able to cope with increased demand from electric vehicles. Mechanisms are in place to ensure networks are prepared for the significant new demand for electricity from the transition to electric vehicles. Ofgem, as the independent regulator, use the price control framework to ensure that network companies provide the required infrastructure to deliver the capacity to meet both current and future demand on the network. 

The capacity market is our principal tool for ensuring security of supply. It has successfully brought forward a diverse range of new capacity, such as renewables, storage and gas plants, to replace older capacity as it retires off the system. National Grid and Ofgem are confident it will enable us to meet energy demand, including that arising from greater uptake of EVs, in the future. 

EVs also offer new opportunities for drivers to be part of a smarter and more flexible energy system. Smart charging, which involves drivers charging at off-peak periods when demand is lower, can help reduce the need for additional network investment. We have consulted on mandating that all private charge points sold in the UK have smart charging functionality. We intend to lay the relevant legislation later this year. 

Will there be more advance notice around when grant levels change in future?

It is important that we get the best value for money for the taxpayer. Providing advance notice of changes in grant rates can result in significant spikes in demand which are not affordable within budgets. This was demonstrated when the plug-in car grant was changed in 2020. We have reminded all dealerships, via vehicle manufactures, it is imperative they log any eligible car purchases onto the portal as soon as possible after a purchase has been made to secure the grant.

When do you envisage EVs making up the majority of new car sales in the UK?

The change is already happening. So far in 2021 nearly one in seven cars sold have a plug, that is up from one in 30 in 2019. In line with the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, by 2030 all new cars will need to have significant zero emission capability and from 2035, all new cars and vans must be 100% zero emission at the tailpipe. Later this year the Government will be publishing a Green Paper on the regulatory regime for emissions from new road vehicles, which will help ensure the phase out dates are met.

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