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News & opinion

1 NOV 2018

What if all new homes had a car-charging point?

All new homes having a car-charging point would be a step in the right direction, says Ashley Osborne, but, in the short term, it could create more problems than it solves.

As the proud owner of an electric car, I was interested to hear Chris Grayling, the UK’s transport secretary, suggest earlier this year that in future all new homes would have to be fitted with a charging point. This is to be encouraged for several reasons.

First, anything that hastens the end of our addiction to the internal combustion engine has to be positive. Under the terms of the Paris Agreement – which, Brexit or no Brexit, will remain in place – the UK is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% against a 1990 baseline by 2050. To hit that target, the government’s own advisers say that carbon emissions from vehicles will have to be eliminated by 2040.

Fitting charging points in new homes would be relatively painless. Installing one costs around £500, but economies of scale mean the cost to housebuilders would be much lower. However, some issues need to be overcome, not least the type of charging point included in developments.

The UK is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% against a 1990 baseline by 2050. To hit that target, the government’s own advisers say that carbon emissions from vehicles will have to be eliminated by 2040.

At the most basic end, a charging point the size of a large shoe box would suffice, but a full charge takes time. If consumers are happy leave their vehicles charging overnight, this isn’t an issue. If they require something more responsive it is more problematic. Rapid chargers are bulkier and more expensive and, more importantly when it comes to mass installation in housing developments, they use a lot of electricity. At present, the National Grid does not have the capacity to cope with large volumes of rapid charging points. Overcoming this issue will require close collaboration between government, utilities firms and housebuilders.

Another concern is that the mass roll-out of domestic charging points would encourage people to use electric cars rather than public transport. Obviously, this would not be a problem from a carbon emissions perspective, but it would add to congestion.

However, attitudes towards car use are changing, and the advent of fleets of shared autonomous vehicles could hugely reduce the appeal of actually owning a vehicle. Such innovations are no longer a distant dream. I can’t imagine my young son will feel it necessary to get a driving licence.

In time, owning a car may be unimportant, but until then the environmental imperative is to promote electric vehicles. Charging points in all new homes isn’t enough – investing in service stations equipped with rapid charging points would be more effective – but it isn’t a bad starting point.

  • Ashley Osborne is head of UK residential at Colliers International

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