How can we stop electric vehicles being just ‘middle-class cars’?

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 (Connected Kerb)
(Connected Kerb)

In an ideal world, electric cars would be accessible to everyone. They would be as affordable and plentiful as gas-guzzlers; and there would be convenient charge points around the capital for us all to juice fully whenever we want.

Sadly, that isn’t the case. “Right now electric vehicles are middle-class cars,” says Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of EV charging start-up Connected Kerb. “The real problem is inequality in access to charging infrastructure.”

 (Chris Pateman-Jones)
(Chris Pateman-Jones)

Until it’s as quick to charge an EV as to fill a petrol tank, owners need somewhere safe to charge and park for several hours, but off-street home charging is not available to people in blocks of flats or terraced houses. Households that have access to a driveway currently make up 80 per cent of EV owners.

Connected Kerb was set up to change this statistic, providing low-cost, high-dwell public charging in the areas that needed it most.

“Unfortunately, some communities are being failed by a classic chicken-and-egg scenario,” Pateman-Jones explains. “Without high EV adoption, charge point operators won’t build public charging, and without reliable charging, why would anyone go electric?”

We need to get to a point where public charging of EVs is as good, easy and efficient as catching public transport

The public charge points that do exist tend to be found in wealthier areas as charging companies that install them want to be sure they will make their money back. “That means the people left behind are the people who generally live in areas of poor air quality already.”

Connected Kerb’s solution involves the installation of on-street chargers, with power packs located in the pavement and charge points above, enabling a 7kW fast charge. The electricity is paid for by contactless payment via an app, providing a consistent tariff across the sites.

Last year the company installed more than 1,000 chargers including  across streets and car parks in Hackney, and at council estates in Lambeth ‒ and 5,000 more are planned for this year.

Chargers can be installed in any kerb and charge is paid for wirelessly by app, making it an accessible solution (Connected Kerb)
Chargers can be installed in any kerb and charge is paid for wirelessly by app, making it an accessible solution (Connected Kerb)

The Government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles meets 75 per cent of the cost of installations through the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS). In many cases, Connected Kerb provides the remaining 25 per cent, providing a zero-cost installation opportunity for councils and a real incentive for levelling-up charge options.

“We need to get to a point where public charging of EVs is as good, easy and efficient as catching public transport,” says Pateman-Jones. “London is proof that good, readily available public transport means people use it whether they’re wealthy or poor. That’s where we need to get to – EV charging as transport infrastructure, almost like a utility.”

Equal access to charge points is just one of the ethical concerns surrounding charging infrastructure. There’s also a disparity between the VAT on electricity through home and public chargers ‒ 20 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

Access to charge points is also leading some homeowners to plough up their carbon-sequestering front gardens to put in concrete or asphalt driveways ‒ ironically undermining their own environmental intention in owning an EV in the first place.

No one else cares that right now EVs aren’t for the people who suffer the most from poor air quality

Still, what Connected Kerb is doing is a first step towards fairer access to cleaner air in poorer areas. Local authorities across the UK have already committed to installing up to 10,000 Connected Kerb chargers by 2030.

Pateman-Jones and his team hope to lead the way so others will join them in putting reasonable car chargers in the hands ‒ and the cars ‒ of those who will benefit from cleaner air the most.

For more on our Plug It In campaign, go to standard.co.uk/plugitin

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