Neil Lewis, TrydaNi
Following the announcement earlier this week of the huge investment by the Westminster Government in building HS2, all eyes have mostly been focused on rail infrastructure and how English, urban centres stand to benefit, while Wales will be negatively impacted.
However, less attention is given to the dire lack of another challenging infrastructural problem facing Wales; one which will aid the decarbonisation of transport – the number of electric vehicle (EV) charge points that we currently have installed.
It seems that England and Scotland will soon have clean air whereas, without an EV charge point infrastructure, all the old diesel cars will see out their time in Wales! We need to develop an EV infrastructure fit for our future, and urgently.
For those of us that have been driving electric vehicles for the past few years, we already know how nerve-wracking it can be to make the journey from north to south or vice-versa in an electric car. We’ve all heard of the ‘desert of Wales’ but mid-Wales is also something of an ‘electric desert’ when it comes to EV charging points.
Knowing that there aren’t any rapid EV charge points on the way, we are left to wing it. Failing that, we have to arrange to wait for a few hours while we charge on a slower charge point.
Because of the paucity of options, it is disastrous to reach an EV charge point to discover that it doesn’t even work. That’s when you realise that the transition to electric vehicles will be unviable unless there is a robust network of chargers installed.
Not everyone can make the switch to electric yet. But the UK government’s decision to bring forward the phase out of petrol and diesel cars to 2035 (and to 2032 in the last few days) means that inevitably, the electric car will become much more common over the coming 10 years.
TrydaNi, a Community Benefit Society, has been established as a means of bringing a community-based solution to this infrastructural problem, help decarbonize Wales, help to develop thriving, sustainable communities and tackle social problems such as transport poverty and social isolation.
Our ambition is to be the “go-to” electric car charging solution for Wales where we can establish a community-owned network servicing all communities in Wales, reinvest any profits in improving the charging network, provide a bi-lingual service, and use locally generated Renewable Energy to power zero carbon miles.
We are also working on the concept of creating community EV car clubs across Wales. This will hopefully bring about a significant change to our psychological attachment to the idea of car ownership, and that we can come to see the car as a community resource to be shared, rather than to be owned. The target here would be two-car households in particular, hoping to dissuade the need for a second car, and encouraging the use of a community car.
This type of community project is already up and running in Gwynedd which has proved to be very successful. Making such projects the norm across Welsh communities is an ideal that a number of community benefit societies in Wales are pursuing.
However, we need an infrastructure of EV charge points that will support such schemes, along with other uses of EV vehicles. This is why community energy projects across Wales have teamed up – to deliver a community-focused solution. We want to see a network of EV charge points across Wales, particularly in rural areas of mid-Wales, and in communities without off-road parking, such as our old mining communities and city centres.
We believe that these charge points will bring beneficial effects to these communities now, and particularly as the EV car market will grow; when more and more commuters will stop to re-charge and use facilities within these communities. These ancillary benefits are clear to see but harder to quantify, e.g customers eating meals whilst recharging. We are also committed to employ local people who will install and maintain these chargers. The skilled roles must be kept in our communities.
The poor air quality in all our towns and cities is harming us all now and deters cycling and walking, which adds to the issue and exacerbates traffic congestion. Electrified public transport is an urgent need.
You do not need to be an electric car owner to support the aims of TrydaNi. You do however need to believe that Welsh EV infrastructure should benefit local communities in Wales now and for the future and can be delivered by a community benefit society.
We are currently running an initial appeal to help kickstart this initiative – please support this unique project and show that we the people can deliver the change much faster and with more local benefit than the Welsh Government has been able to promise or deliver.