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How to use workplace charging grants to future-proof electric vehicle investments

That moment when your mum gave you a tenner to go and buy your dad’s supper and said you can keep the change. Sorry Dad, it’s Spam again tonight. That moment when the Government made the nation’s electrical contractors custodians of £1000 grants (later reduced to £750) for installing electric vehicle charging points in people’s homes. Kids in a sweet shop!

To be fair, the decision enabled a certain degree of control, as installers have to demonstrate that installations and equipment meet conditions laid down by OLEV (office of Low Emission Vehicles) in order to reclaim the grant. However it encourages many to keep too much of the change by installing low cost, or ‘free’ chargers.

Now ‘free’ always comes at a cost. And there is not an installer in the land who does not have a story to tell about having to return to a broken, or worse burnt out unit, cursing the day he fitted it. But real market forces will prevail and there will always be somebody else to do the job.

It’s unlikely that the commercial sector will be quite as short sighted now that the Government has extended its grant scheme to workplace locations. However there is a longer term, hidden problem with trying to build a sector from the bargain basement up. The value chain evaporates before new technology can deliver its promise.

And electric vehicle charging technology advancement in the commercial sector is where the largest clean air return on investment can be made, simply through bigger numbers of vehicles in fleets and higher road usage. Over half of passenger vehicles in the UK are bought by companies, and ultra low emission van and truck sales are growing fast.

The technology that makes a difference to charging in commercial locations, that equipment specifiers should now count on as a given, manages access control and provides usage data. Electric Village is close to Government discussions already about widening the employee benefit-in-kind net to cover aspects of workplace charging that will require employers to account for usage by staff.

Not much further along the technology road map – still a need to have – is the capacity for managing and sharing energy flows around the car park, and returning energy to the grid.

Smart energy charging systems allow system scalability with less digging and investment in power supply infrastructure, which always dwarfs equipment costs.

Nice to have technology today is cable-less induction charging, and powerline data that will connect directly with renewable energy sources.

A little over 18 months ago, there was a collective cheer as plug-in vehicles broke through the one per cent of UK sales mark. The latest figures provided by the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) for January 2017 show that percentage is now over 4%. Sector growth is in hockey stick territory and there is no reason to suspect that battery power will not overtake the internal combustion engine.

The Workplace Charging Scheme is a voucher-based scheme that provides up £6,000 support towards the up-front costs of the purchase and installation of electric vehicle charge points.

How to use workplace charging grants to future-proof electric vehicle investments

Stewart McKee, Managing Director, electric-village.com

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