We were lucky to have a talk by Tom Ricketts on electric charging points at our last (February) meeting. Tom is leading on the topic for Hope Valley Climate Action and has a lot of knowledge which he was good enough to share. Tom also has an electric car so was able to speak with authority from both sides.
Readers will all know that from 2030 – eight and a half years away – all new cars sold will be electric. The petrol or diesel fuelled motorcar is rapidly becoming a dinosaur to be consigned to history. So action to reach and catch the new wave can’t start soon enough.
Tom reported that take up of electric cars in rural areas like ours is slow, and HVCA are looking at ways to speed that up. First, he busted a widely-believed myth that making the batteries consumes more carbon than the lifetime carbon saving of the car. Including the whole production process, car use, through to scrapping and re-using the parts, electric vehicles (EVs) produced right now will produce 50-70% less carbon dioxide over their lifetime than internal combustion engine vehicles of similar size. Technology is moving on all the time so that figure is likely to improve, particularly as electricity generation become greener. If that weren’t the case, the government would be unlikely to get behind them to reach their carbon targets… so get with the programme, Jeremy Vine.
Tom then explained that there are essentially four things for villages to consider when thinking about charging points.
First, purpose. Who are the chargers for?
Tom told us that some tourists won’t come to the Peak District by EV because of the lack of charging points, but conversely, they deliberately seek out (by means of an app) places which do have them. Then they stop for a meal or a drink while their cars recharge, and sometimes stay overnight. We all know the impact Covid has had on the Maynard and the Sir William, so straight away there is an advantage there; without individual effort, we can support these two critical village businesses. We’d all be heartbroken if either of them disappeared, never mind the loss of job opportunities for our youngsters and the payback into our village economy.
The other key group of potential users are residents. When electric cars were expensive, there was a correlation between that and the availability of a private (gravel) drive to park on while recharging. That line is becoming a lot more blurred. We are now at the point when folks without private parking are thinking, with an eye on the future and on cost considerations, about getting an electric car; but are put off by the lack of charging facilities. That needs addressing soon, because if they then go and buy a petrol car, that’s a step away from meeting carbon targets. Write that large across the country and – well, you can do the maths.
Second, money; how much do they cost, and what sources of funding are there. Most Councils putting in chargers do so through the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV – fantastic Scrabble score for that one) who pay Councils 75% of the cost. As a very broad figure, the total cost of installing a charger might be £7,000, so the cost to a Council would be £1,750 (one charger recharges two cars). Private concerns like pubs, who have appropriate carparks to put chargers in, can also apply for grants through OZEV.
Location. Most villages ‘reserve’ the parking spaces at the charger, as you might do for disabled parking, so that it is readily available. Hope have two in their carpark, and Wirksworth have one in theirs, to name just two places who are stepping forward to meet the future. Many Councils like ours which don’t have a carpark are working with pubs to everyone’s mutual benefit. There aren’t many options in Grindleford outside the pubs – the Pavilion is a problem because of pre-school, with impatient drivers and small children not being an optimal combination – although there might be one or two, and there will be more on that if anything comes of them.
The other location consideration is proximity to the centre of the village, and proximity to a substation. On the first, grants are more likely to be awarded to charging points near the centre of the village, so the Sir William or the shop would be more likely to get funding than, say, the station. On the other hand people leave their cars all day at the station, which would be an ideal time to recharge. In terms of substations, it’s all about wires; the nearer the charging point is, the less fuss to get an electricity supply to it.
Timescale. Technology is moving on really fast, but that doesn’t mean that Councils should wait. To reach the tipping point where everyone sees an electric car and a network of charging points as the new normal, electric car ownership needs to happen right away. To get to a future dream where a electric car can traverse the country on one battery’s worth, investment at an individual level is needed now. While a degree of expected obsolescence is inevitable, any charging points put in in 2021 should last at least five years, so the expenditure is very much worth it. The ideal is for a village to do something this year, then plan to do more next year, and something else the year after that, gradually building up to the new post-2030 world. It’s coming down the track, so the options are either do something in a measured way which encourages electric car ownership and contributes to carbon reduction nationally, or do something in a panic in 2029 which will inevitably be sub-optimal and more expensive.
There is no do nothing option!
There is a fifth consideration to add to Tom’s list, though; purring. Have you stood beside an electric vehicle as it pulls away? Prrrrr. Beautiful. They are so quiet. There might even be a sixth, which is style. Once, before Covid, on a visit to Aberaron in Pembrokeshire, a very elderly couple turned up outside a elegant café, in a pink, white, green and silver electric Smart car. They were both exquisitely dressed, and while they struggled to get to their feet, the sheer style of the car was overwhelming. Impressed? You betcha. It’s a great way never to say die. They sashayed off into the café and all those present thought about stealing their car
What type of charger? Slow, slow or quick quick? (This is a little summary, see also All Things EV | chargemystreet.co.ukas things are not quite so simple….). A Rapid charger (43-50 kW) will refill 80% of a car battery in an hour. A middle range one – 22 kW AC, will get a battery well topped up in 2 hours, just enough time for lunch and a cuppa. The slow chargers (7kW) will charge a car left overnight. The choice of charger is related to the likely user; slow overnight chargers are no problem for residents, but don’t work for visitors passing through.
What about the electricity supply? There has been much supposition that electricity supplies are not up to the introduction of charging points. Research into the specific relevance of this in the Hope Valley is ongoing, but there’s no reason to suppose that Grindleford’s electricity is a different colour to Hope’s or Wirksworth’s.
What next for Grindleford Parish Council? Councillors are in the first instance going to talk to the two pubs to see what they think about the idea of charging points on their premises. The Council will also keep a watching brief on any developments as part of the shop/church project to put a café in the nave of St Helens. If charging points are going to happen, funds will be required, and the Council is currently putting together a list of things which are going to need money – including the children’s playground, flood defences, and charging points – with a view to instigating a discussion with the village on next steps.
And in summary….. Councillors were really grateful to Tom for giving up his time, and also to Hilary Hart who invited him. It’s clear that the status quo is not an option, and charging points are the future whether we welcome them or ignore them. Much food for thought, and the Council will put charging points on the agenda for the next and subsequent meetings as ideas unfold.