House of Commons Library

Electric vehicles and infrastructure

Published Tuesday, February 20, 2018

This paper explains what electric vehicles are and how successive governments have planned for infrastructure and provided vehicle grants and incentives to encourage and accommodate their growth. It also sets out how the electricity grid is preparing to accommodate any increased demand from EV charging and looks at comparative emissions from EVs and conventional vehicles.

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Since 2009 UK governments of all parties have sought to provide a framework in which electric vehicles, or ‘ultra low emission vehicles’ can grow. The decarbonisation of both private cars and goods and passenger carrying vehicles is seen as critical to helping the UK achieve its climate change obligations and to improving air quality, particularly in cities such as London.

The present Government believes that infrastructure is best planned and delivered locally by public authorities, businesses and individuals and provides various grants for those purposes. It makes available separate vehicle grants for private cars, taxis and buses. It also delivers locally-focused packages of funding in partnership with the motor industry as part of the ‘Go Ultra Low’ cities scheme.

It is currently legislating, in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, for powers to allow the Government to regulate the EV industry if necessary in future years, improve the consumer experience of charging infrastructure, ensure provision at key strategic locations like Motorway Service Areas (MSAs), and require that charge points have ‘smart’ capability.

Though concerns have been raised about the extra demand EVs will add to the electricity grid, the system operator National Grid have said many predictions are exaggerated. EVs have lower emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants over their lifetime compared with conventional vehicles. Although EVs generally have higher manufacturing emissions than conventional vehicles, they have lower emissions from use, meaning that generally they have lower emissions than the equivalent conventional fuel vehicles.

 Zap Map shows all the current charging points across the UK. It can be filtered by postcode or other location.

Commons Library briefings on other road transport, energy and environmental issues can be found on the Parliament website.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7480

Authors: Louise Butcher; Suzanna Hinson; David Hirst

Topics: Electricity, Pollution, Research and innovation, Roads

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