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Cardiff will need 10,000 electric vehicle charging points by 2025, it is claimed

12 May 2021 6 minute read
Photo by MikesPhotos from Pixabay

Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter 

Cardiff will need nearly 10,000 electric vehicle charging points by 2025 to cope with the expected increase in electric cars, it has been suggsted.

The city will then need 40,000 charging points by 2030, according to the Welsh Government, assuming nine out of 10 vehicles will be electric in 2035.

It’s unclear how many of those charge points would be attached to homes or garages and how many would be publicly available. Cardiff currently has fewer than 100 charging points, according to the latest figures.

The thousands of extra charging points are just one part of a massive shift in how the city’s transport will change over the coming decade in the push to get to carbon neutral by 2030.

Other major shifts to how people get around the city include: car clubs similar to the Nextbike bike-sharing scheme, potential pilots of electric scooter sharing schemes, hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, and charging drivers from outside of Cardiff £2 a day to use the roads in the city.

About 40 per cent of carbon emissions in Cardiff come from transport. In 2018, road transport in the city emitted 645 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to climate change.

To reduce carbon emissions, sales of vehicles fuelled only by diesel or petrol will be banned in 2030. This will likely lead to a surge in the number of electric vehicles, with many more adverts for electric cars and vans already showing on television often.

But Cardiff council faces many challenges in adapting the city’s infrastructure to accommodate this surge, like whether the electricity grid can cope with the extra demand, what type of technology to use, and where to put these thousands of new charging points.

‘Some way’ 

Council leader Huw Thomas said: “I think this technology has some way to go in maturing. The idea of wholly shifting our car usage to a system charged via domestic household electricity actually has significant implications for climate change, in terms of generating that electricity. So there is that degree of impracticality.”

The challenges around the shift to electric vehicles were discussed by the council’s environmental scrutiny committee on Tuesday, May 11. Councillors on the committee received an embargoed report on the council’s One Planet strategy, the action plan to get Cardiff to net zero by 2030. The full report will be published next week.

The report includes the Welsh Government’s prediction on how many charging points will be needed, the projects the council is already working on to cut carbon emissions, and the responses to a huge public consultation held over the winter about the net zero plan.

Andrew Gregory, the council’s director of planning, transport and environment, told councillors another challenge with electric vehicles was choosing which technology to invest in, and the risk that some charging points may soon become redundant.

He said: “We’re moving as quickly as possible. There’s a wide range of proposals coming forward for fast chargers, chargers in residential areas, new technologies in terms of how that is provided through specific bespoke charging points or through existing infrastructure like bollards.

“But we don’t want to go ahead of the technology and make some presumptions about how this is going to be in two to three years in terms of the type of connections. Other cities have done that and are now finding they have got a load of redundant infrastructure that they have put in. So [we’re] trying to get the right balance.”

Other challenges include where to put them and the strain on the grid. Council experts are predicting drivers will increasingly often choose to charge their cars at destinations like supermarkets or gyms, rather than overnight. Electricity distribution network operators are warning there is not enough capacity in some places to cater for a big increase in charging.

A car club is another major scheme the council is exploring. Car clubs work like Nextbikes: cars would be dotted all around the city, available for drivers to rent say for an hour or a day for a small fee, bookable via an app or website. Similar schemes exist in London, Madrid and Berlin, where cars don’t have to be returned to a rental garage in the traditional way.

‘Car club’ 

Councillor Caro Wild, cabinet member for strategic transport and planning, said: “We went to visit Hackney a couple of years ago to see how they do it. They have about seven different car club operators and they reckon it has reduced car ownership by a huge amount.

“They focused initially on people with second cars, and it made people think how often they actually need that second car. And then people started even questioning their first car. We all know it’s crazy when we look down the streets and there’s 40 houses but more than 40 cars on the street, and they’re only being used five per cent of the time.”

Questions were raised about how electric vehicles and car clubs would still give priority to cars, rather than public transport, walking or cycling. Liberal Democrat Cllr Emma Sandrey said: “I’m not convinced that this is that much of a solution. This all still puts cars first in terms of transport hierarchy.”

Electric scooters are also being looked at. Pilot schemes elsewhere in the UK, like Bristol, have seen scooters scattered around city pavements available for riders to rent using an app and then leave in certain zones. While very popular and more space-efficient than cars, they also present problems with clogging up pavements, often parked in the way of pedestrians.

Cllr Thomas said: “They continue to be illegal in the UK outside of pilot schemes, but we are in discussion with numerous potential pilot operators. There remains concerns from an anti-social behaviour perspective around the spread of that technology, and I’m not sure it’s a panacea, but we continue to explore the option.”

One Labour councillor dismissed electric scooters due to the type of “people who use them”. Cllr Jacqueline Parry said: “If scooters are used responsibly, they’re excellent for certain people. But we know a lot of these scooters are being used in an antisocial manner.

“If you look around you will see a lot of young chaps and older chaps and they’re going along on the scooters; they have little bags across their shoulders and most of us know what’s in those little bags. We can tell by the people who are on those scooters. And we don’t want that because we don’t have many police out there to look at this.”

Full details of the transport plans for Cardiff should be revealed in the cabinet report next week, about the One Planet strategy to cut carbon emissions over the next decade. It will also likely include details on tree planting, tighter planning rules, and retrofitting insulation.

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