June saw the return of Traffex at Birmingham NEC and a chance for the senior team to take a couple of days out of the office and find out what was new in the world of traffic and parking. After a good laugh/despair at the cost of parking in substandard sized spaces, the struggle of the M42 and the lack of available trains from the North East that week…… we noted the big focus on EV charging and emphasis on parking compared to previous years.
Our team attended a session about ‘Futureproofing our EV charging infrastructure’ led by Jon McCardle of BPA. The session was really informative and did keep coming back to the notion that we don’t have a ‘crystal ball’ to plan for the future but that humans are creatures of habit and EV needed to come to them rather than expecting them to seek it out. This was seen extensively in the examples in and around the M25 where the streets of Westminster are lined with chargers and with more chargers planned.
One of the standout moments for us was a discussion around barriers to installing EV Infrastructure. A lady mentioned that she was working with farmers to apply for charging points in their yards that the public could utilise and the need for Local Authorities to have a positive outlook with regards to EV. The discussion sparked discussions on LHA barriers such as access to the farms and our Director, Gavin Snowball, made an observation that LHA parking standards were set long before the current level of EV cars were on the ground. Perhaps a more periodic review of these would help to ensure provision was provided.
The discussion centred mostly around residential infrastructure with a need to revisit the commercial aspect in a future session.
The team took the session back to the office and posed a very open question to the team:
How could EV Infrastructure be increased in the UK?
Here are five of the ideas that the team came up with:
Idea 1: Swappable batteries
Turning service station into car battery shops/suppliers where batteries can also be readily swapped for fully-charged version, eliminating the charging aspect of longer journeys.
Blocker: May not be the technology direction that automotive industry invests in. Ultimately interested in solutions that are most profitable/cost-saving
Idea 2: Making use of existing parking areas / large areas of land dedicated to clean energy.
If places like Royal Mail are replacing their fleet with EV vans that are charged overnight, during the day car park is empty and as they are often located by business parks/shops, the bays could be rented during the day and also provide an extra income stream. The same idea was also applied to wind farms and solar panel farms that could provide car parks for charging vehicles and farm shops following on from the farmyard idea.
Blocker: Not all yards are located within walking distance of workplaces and the yards need to ensure that the post lorries can still access. The fleet also tend to work shifts so may only be a 4 hour window available.
Idea 3: Solar Powered Batteries
Not the craziest idea, what if the sunroof of a car was replaced with a solar panel that would provide a backup amount of power to the battery if it ran low on charge?
Blocker: Obviously a fully solar powered car would remove an income stream for the providers and would be difficult to achieve but the idea of a backup battery would be a selling point if it did not add significant weight.
Idea 4: One App to Charge Them All
From a general frustration in the room came a request for Apple or similar to create an app that would detect which company charger you are at and fill with your details and pay with your phone. The amount of different apps needed for different chargers up and down the country is starting to get ridiculous – with a similar issue with parking machines.
Blocker: Cost and giving away the data configuration needed and/or top slice cost to an external company isn’t looked favourably on by the operators.
Idea 5: HGV Charging Laybys
Should the EV HGV become viable, the HGV laybys and overnight parking areas would be a great spot to charge the vehicles. With rest stops mandated for the drivers this could work well with company fleets and service stations.
Blocker: The technology to have a viable HGV that can deliver weight and speed has not been seen as priority for the UK with alternative fuels providing the current enhancements in this area.
As part of the exercise, we also asked each team to come up with a Jetson Idea. This is an idea that has absolutely no barriers – just like the Jetsons flying around space.
Idea 1: A road surface that charges your car as you drive on it.
Idea 2: Kerbs or pads that a car can charge on either along roads or in car parks.
Idea 3: Plug in to lamp posts to charge your vehicle.
We are excited to see where the industry goes but the question still remains that the with no mass roll out of car battery recycling, is the UK ready and equipped for the push for EV and in doing so are we ignoring alternative travel and active travel options?
*If you are looking to get planning to install an EV hub for your commercial development DTP would be happy to help and can provide planning application support to cover your highways needs, as well as Travel Plans and Travel Packs to encourage your users to choose sustainable when it comes to travel*