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Extra funding for EV charging points is welcome – but more must be done

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Policymakers need to step up the pace on EV charging to get the EV ball really moving, says Paul Gisbourne, CEO of same-day delivery business CitySprint.

Paul Gisbourne, CEO of CitySprint

News that the Government is set to double the funding for on-street electric car charging infrastructure – with an extra £2.5m going into new chargepoints – is a positive step in the right direction. But more action, and a joined-up approach, is needed from policymakers to help move the needle.

With concerns about climate change, urban congestion and the impact of air quality on people’s health regularly making headlines, more investment to help support the wider adoption of new vehicle types is long overdue. London may have been the first to adopt new legislation in this area, but we fully expect other UK cities to follow suit as they look for ways to tackle pollution and congestion.

At CitySprint, we have long understood our responsibilities in this area, and have taken steps to reduce the impact of our operation on the environment – helping our customers do the same. But our SME research last year found that 52% don’t feel enough is being done to link national government support with local government implementation of green initiatives across the UK.

Alongside the largest courier pushbike fleet in the UK, we have introduced newer green vehicles into our operation, including electric vans, electrically-assisted cargo bikes and even a hydrogen-powered delivery van. We also operate an award-winning carbon offset programme.

To give a sense of the impact these new vehicle types can have, one cargo bike has a load capacity of up to 50kg and can carry a similar load to a small van. These bikes complete jobs 50% faster than a small van at peak times, with each bike completing 10 jobs a day and saving up to four tonnes of GHG emissions per year.

It’s great to see this new funding, and the focus on this issue driven by the Government’s Road to Zero Strategy. But the truth is there is still a long way to go. Even doubling the number of chargepoints will only scratch the surface of coverage in the UK. Last year, research found that a six-fold increase in these was needed to meet future demand – with a woeful lack of provision for rapid-chargers. This new funding can only go so far to meeting this need.

While the technology is now at a place where EVs are more practical for logistics work, there clearly still needs to be dramatic improvement in infrastructure to support it. And it’s not just about EVs. Currently, there are only a handful of stations for refuelling hydrogen vans in the capital, and just a few garages properly equipped to repair them.

Technology also has a role to play. Developments in AI and learning technologies are already driving improvements in fleet performance.

But the cities and towns of tomorrow may be even more connected. Technology-enabled urban environments offer a wealth of opportunities for both convenience and efficiency. While delivery by drone may still be some way off, there are already more practical considerations around autonomous vehicles that should be built into urban design. It’s not just about charging points; buildings and warehouses need safe entry, drop-off and egress points specifically designed for new vehicle types.

What we need is a more joined-up approach. Alongside financial support to assist the acquisition of EVs, which are still more expensive than their more traditional counterparts, we need to see further tax incentives to encourage businesses to switch to newer vehicle types.

Ditto, logistics must also be a key consideration in the Government’s recently announced Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy review – from air quality to how best different vehicles can be used in urban areas – we need proper consultation with businesses on these issues.

In light of the rapid way infrastructure is changing we also need a new focus on road safety to ensure today’s users and drivers remain safe, across all vehicle types.

Let’s be clear; the pressure on supply chains and logistics networks is only going to increase. Expectations and demand volume are at an all-time high, whether that’s B2B or direct-to-consumer deliveries. This is not the time to get this wrong. We need to increase capacity at the same time as improving sustainability. It’s a tough challenge and we need practical support from policymakers to make it happen.

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