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Electric cars are coming but are we prepared?

Electric cars are coming but are we prepared?

2030 is the year when the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars comes in - are local authorities prepared for the era of the electric car? Head of APSE Energy, Phil Brennan, looks at the challenges that lie ahead for councils and what measures can be put in place to overcome them. 

The fact that electric vehicles are here isn’t news but are we prepared? It’s a big change for individuals just as it is for local authorities, indeed for anyone who delivers a service. You will have heard that Leeds City Council have more than a hundred low emission vehicles, that Nottingham City Council are investing in vehicle to grid technology, that Fife Council have hydrogen vehicles and Liverpool City Council have refuse collection vehicles running to compressed natural gas with intentions to them to hydrogen. There are many more examples out there but of course not every local authority has the same capacity as some of the bigger councils and hasn’t made as much progress. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be thinking about this change nor planning for it!

The fleet is one of any council’s most valuable assets and will need to contend with sigificant changes to:

  • Technology
  • The type of vehicles purchased
  • How they are fuelled
  • How the charging infrastructure is installed
  • How the energy is sourced
  • How the regime is maintained 

Doing all of this when the capital costs are high but the opportunity for future savings and income generation exists, is tricky. And that is just the council’s own fleet.

Throw in the leadership and place making role the local authority has in nudging local citizens and businesses to use electric vehicles, hydrogen or biofuel vehicles, supporting the role out of public chargers and domestic chargers (including the practicalities of private chargers in terraced streets for example), managing the on-going problems of air quality or potentially low emission zones, and you realise this is not only a mammoth task but one that has tentacles across the whole organisation.

Now I challenge you to think of a change on a similar scale which directly impacts the way your local authority works that has been taken forward without a strategy to guide it.

If you have an EV strategy in place or are working towards one or a fleet management or transport strategy in place that covers these issues, then you’re in a good place.

However, we have come across a number of local authorities who haven’t taken this step yet. There are good reasons for that of course – existing leasing contracts, the dynamic nature of the vehicle market (meaning people are unsure when to take the initiative), a lack of capacity and expertise are just some. But at some point your council will need a guiding strategy document.

Centrica recently published survey results showing that companies are planning to invest £15.8 billion in EVs and on-site charging points over the twelve months to March 2022 which equates to a 50% increase on last year. Of those polled, 46% are planning to install charging points (although 37% have already do so) whilst 30% have invested in on-site generation such as solar to charge their EV fleets and almost half are planning to invest in such generation in future. 58% said the biggest driver to them increasing EVs in their fleet was an effort to meet corporate sustainability targets, while 51% said it was to reduce operational disruption caused by low and zero-emission zones and 37% were attracted by the lower maintenance and whole-life costs of EVs. All of these factors apply to local authorities too.

Meanwhile the Environmental Audit Committee have recently found that the government’s EV plans and 2030 deadline means eight high-volume battery manufacturing plants will be needed and be operational by 2040 to meet the demand for EVs. In addition to batteries, further parts such as the associated power electronics, machines and drives will be needed. The outcomes here are significant – green jobs, local investment, reduced emissions, global technology leadership and the benefits that accompany that. Furthermore it shows the scale of investment attached to the supply chain; that doesn’t happen if there is a significant risk to investment.

All of this provides more evidence that we all need to be prepared. The drivers for action are personal, organisational, technical, financial and global and for those working in councils, they are local too. Climate emergency declarations are as much of a driver as an individual bulky waste collection for an elderly person is.

We have certainty in terms of a date - 2030 is the year when the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars come in. Uncertainty remains linked to plans the council may have to generate energy, to tackle the nature of services – announcements are expected on changes to recycling at the national level for example – around the operation of their depots or insourcing their services. In other words, it’s complicated.

So it can’t be ignored; an approach or a strategy to manage the change is required. How prepared is your council?

If you need help APSE Energy can provide support

APSE Energy is a UK first in bringing together councils that have developed municipal energy schemes to green and localise energy supply. For more information on how APSE Energy can help your council contact Phil Brennan on pbrennan@apse.org.uk or visit our Energy Hub



Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.






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