Electric Vehicle Charging Stations – A new way forward
The car industry is undergoing its biggest revolution in decades, as electric vehicles (or EVs) are finally taking hold among the general public. With the government supporting consumers with grants, a more positive environmental impact and substantial savings for consumers when comparing charging costs with petrol (up to 80%!), expectations from the industry are rising.
Hybrid and plug-in EVs accounted for over 10% of car registrations in the UK in 2020. With a government ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, the next decade will see a significant increase in EV purchases.
With new cars, comes the need for new infrastructure. Where previously the job of keeping our vehicles moving was supported by a network of petrol stations, the installation option of electric charging stations looks set to replace them. Such charging points are in no way limited by the safety constraints that are present with petrol and diesel – unsurprisingly, highly flammable liquids that need to be stored in large tanks underground make them fairly single-use.
Electric charge points are different – electricity is ubiquitous, and the infrastructure for the most part already exists underground. Compared to petrol, charge point stations require the installation of cabling and electrical equipment, which is comparatively more nimble and mobile. There is no issue with using a regular three-pin-plug to charge your vehicle (although it is a slower option). This gives us a lot of room to think flexibly about the ways that we would power our vehicles.
The legal interest
The prospect of growing the charging infrastructure is interesting because it may render the old model of visiting a station to refuel obsolete – instead, charging our vehicles would become something which we do in the background whilst we go about our daily lives.
Innovations in the way we use land bring innovations in the law – which is particularly challenging in property law. Increasing charging infrastructure would ultimately involve integration with private land – through wayleaves and private agreements between utility providers, landowners and EV infrastructure providers. In theory, landowners can be incentivised in a number of ways, but to reflect different forms of charging, different types of agreements and indeed different business models would be needed.
For example, larger rapid-charging stations, able to charge a car in 20 minutes would suit dedicated single-use outfits used particularly on motorways and for those on longer journeys. For these, the old ‘petrol station’ model is perfectly apt, with less health and safety risks. In many other cases such as residential driveways and workplace car parks, EV charging infrastructure can slowly re-charge a vehicle over six to eight hours.
Residential landowners appreciate the convenience of being able to charge a vehicle in their driveways overnight. For current homeowners looking to install, they are assisted by the government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme which provides grant funding of up to 75% toward the cost of installing electric vehicle charge points across the UK.
"For new-builds, developers are heavily incentivised to pre-install charge points as standard."
Charging infrastructure for the home has a noticeable impact on house price value, adding a premium that averages at about £50,000, in part due to the appeal to young first-time-buyers – these buyers not only prioritise utilities like higher-speed internet connectivity, but are also more environmentally conscious in their spending choices.
Developers also face some regulatory pressure. The UK government has recently consulted on changes to building codes to include EV infrastructure for new builds proportionate to the amount of parking spaces available. If implemented, this would make the UK the first country in the world to mandate charge points by law.
Local councils also play an important role in improving the EV infrastructure in local communities – particularly to ensure accessibility for those without an option for off-road parking. As part of its 2017-2025 Low Emissions Strategy, the Northamptonshire council has introduced 22 charge points throughout the city, especially across public car parks, with plans to introduce more.
Operators of charging points will need to think flexibly and encouragement of EV adoption cannot rely on a one-size-fits-all solution. The most appropriate form of charging required will be different in each circumstance.
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This article was prepared by Meer Gala-Shah.
Our Digital Infrastructure & Sustainability team work with landowners, infrastructure providers and other operators to provide specialist legal advice on telecommunication and digital infrastructure agreements.