Smart Transport

Virgin Media Park and Charge project ready to share major learnings

Deployment in Hammersmith with Liberty Charge team and leader of Hammersmith: Councillor Stephen Cowan

Author: Jason Simpson, vice-president energy and emobility ventures, Liberty Global

A recent Freedom of Information request by the Electrical Contractors’ Association just prior to COP26 discovered that almost half of Local Authorities who responded do not currently operate any EV charge points, close to two thirds have no plans for charge points and 60% have no funding allocated to deploy them.

Considering that approximately 40% of UK households do not have access to off-street parking at home and will need to rely on public charging infrastructure this is an understandably worrying statistic. Even more so, when these households are often in towns and cities where air pollution and the need for EVs and low carbon transport is highest.

With the leadership and support of three Smart Transport members (Liberty Charge, Transport for West Midlands and Ginger) the Virgin Media Park and Charge project (VPACH) was set up in 2019 under the Innovate UK framework specifically to tackle exactly this challenge by developing and proving out the model to deliver on street residential public chargepoints at scale.

In collaboration with other partners such as SMS plc, Cenex, Loughborough University and seven local authorities, the project sought to demonstrate how effective public-private partnership could bring to bear private sector infrastructure funding, the large-scale deployment capabilities of a telecom’s operator, a deep understanding of local requirements and constraints and other expertise from a range of subject matter experts.

More than two years on and many lessons learnt the project has delivered over 500 ‘fast’ on street chargepoints across with dedicated EV parking bays for the benefit of residents. As importantly, the project has also established the playbook and tools which will benefit the many other forward looking local authorities keen to begin their journey and address the climate emergency that faces us all.

Key lessons:

  • Location, location, location: Within the VPACH project, Loughborough University Transport Research Institute and Liberty Charge co-developed a geo-spatial planning tool specifically designed to identify optimum areas for onstreet chargepoint deployment. Use of the tool is then followed by a rigorous nine-step site approval process taking account of grounding requirements, other street furniture and under pavement ducting, trees, parking requirements, grid connectivity and costs, potential resident issues etc.
  • Commercial models: In areas where there is the highest uptake of EVs, and hence chargepoint needs, private sector funding is readily available presenting zero cost solutions for local authorities. Depending on the location attractiveness and length of concessions, local authorities can also benefit from parking bay fees or profit shares schemes but this should be balanced against the impact on end prices for the residents. Government funding can be effectively combined with private sector funding to expand into areas where perhaps there is less EV uptake today and to support use of car clubs or other forms of shared transport in these areas.
  • Timing: This doesn’t happen overnight and for local authorities just starting on this journey they should expect lead times of 12-18 months between first planning to deploy chargepoints and those chargepoints becoming operational. The process will often include a formal tender, contract negotiation and legal review, submissions for government funding if required, site planning, resident consultations, etc. etc.

If you would like more information about this project and lessons learnt please reach out to Jason at [email protected].

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