UK Green Revolution – Can electric vehicles help save our cities?

The ban on conventional vehicles from 2030 presents a fantastic opportunity to improve air quality, deliver healthier streets, and reduce carbon emissions. In urban environments petrol and diesel vehicles and commercial/domestic heating are the leading contributors to poor air quality. With an increased uptake in EVs we have the opportunity to reduce emissions in our cities and promote a healthier environment – supported by the UK’s rapid transition to ever improving low-carbon electricity grid. Combined with the ban on boilers burning fossil fuels one can anticipate a scenario where, for the first time in 200 years, the air quality within all our cities is within safe limits again.

However, most transformative change comes with challenges! Below are my thoughts on what I believe could facilitate this transition.

Staying charged

Charging needs to be simple, cheap and readily available. Home charging is by far the cheapest option for EV owners and, if owners take advantage of night-time and off-peak tariffs, home battery storage or solar power, driving costs per mile can be a small fraction of conventional fuels.

However, such luxuries are only available to the few. Many households may not have use of a driveway upon which to charge an EV, so would need to depend on more expensive public charging facilities. Although increasing, high speed chargers are still too few in number to enable mass charging of a large population of EVs on UK roads.

The answer lies in a mixture of private and public charging options. In many parts of the UK, however, this will require significant upgrades to our existing electrical infrastructure. Charging infrastructure needs to be brought online in parallel to our expansion of the renewable energy generation, to ensure that it remains a low carbon transport solution. These challenges are significant from both a technical and financial perspective, but will ultimately yield rewards that will offer benefits for generations to come.

We could also look to an approach involving battery swapping technology for motorbikes, bikes and scooters. Supported through service contract type schemes, this would allow rapid battery swaps while on route to destination but, again, this is quite a step change in mind-sets and ownership models.

Improving regulations

New Building Regulations have recently been consulted upon that will mandate all new homes come with 7.2kW smart fast chargers. Having a shiny new fast charger always available will certainly make the EV choice significantly easier. But, for existing homes, home charging urgently needs better real world solutions. Local Authorities, Energy companies and Highway Authorities need to work together to provide off road charging facilities which are cost effective and convenient.

Vehicle to grid

In addition to offering low carbon non-polluting transport, EV’s can also be used for domestic electrical storage as we move towards all electric homes; so called “Vehicle to Grid” technology. There are a number of trials of this technology taking place at present. Domestic solar power, smart meters and chargers offer massive potential to create the low carbon smart grids of the future. Furthermore, imagine the storage potential at an airport car-park – as long as your car is charged when you return and need to drive it!

Creating healthy cities

I believe that EVs will play an important role in the evolution of our cities into smart cities. Their introduction will allow people to enjoy the benefits of living in a sustainable urban environment with clean air that hasn’t been seen since the industrial revolution. Self-driving, self-parking, quiet and zero pollution vehicles will make our cities more attractive to whole families for generations to come.

Hilson Moran is already working with Transport Consultants, Developers and Local Authorities to define EV charging strategies and focus on the potential benefits to air quality. On projects such as One Horton Heath for Eastleigh Borough Council, Hilson Moran has developed a strategy to ensure everyone – whatever house-type or tenure – has immediate access to EV charging points.

Please get in touch for further advice on EV charging strategies and air pollution.

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