Electric vehicle owners could have to pay £50 to run cables to cars

A new project will aim to tempt more electric vehicle charging point companies to invest in Norwich and the surrounding...

People will need to get a £51 licence if they want to charge electric vehicles from their homes and need the cable to cross a public footpath. - Credit: UK Power Networks

Owners of electric vehicles in Norfolk who do not have driveways face having to pay just over £50 for a licence to run cables over public footpaths to charge their cars.

And Norfolk County Council officers will need to carry out an assessment to make sure the cable is safe and secure and does not impede people in wheelchairs and those with pushchairs.

It comes as interest in electric vehicles grows - the council says it is getting increasing numbers of queries from people over charging electric vehicles at home, but does not currently have a policy in place.

By 2030 it is expected there will be 168,279 electric vehicles (26.8pc of the total), rising from 1,931 in 2019 (0.3pc), and 25,924 (4.9pc) in 2025.

As of April this year, there were 2,631 electric vehicles registered across Norfolk.

But there are fewer than 198 public charging points across the county, 44 of which are in Norwich.

The council has put together a new electric vehicle strategy, which was discussed by its infrastructure and development select committee on Wednesday.

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The strategy acknowledges that, particularly in Norwich's terraced streets, many people do not have driveways.

So, in the absence of public charging points, they would need cables from their homes - and the council would charge such people £51.36 for a two-year licence to permit cables to be used.

Council officers said that would be a "temporary fix" while more public electric charging points are put in place as electric car ownership increases.

But councillors questioned why Norfolk was charging for licences, when others were not, while concerns were raised over cables "trailing" over paths.

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Eaton. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

Brian Watkins, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall. - Credit: Liberal Democrats

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat councillor for Eaton, said: "It's worth pointing out that other Conservative councils, such as Hampshire, are not charging.

"I do worry it will be seen as a way to cover our costs and is a bit of a cash cow."

Claire Bowes, Norfolk county councillor for the Watton area

Claire Bowes, Norfolk county councillor for the Watton area - Credit: Claire Bowes

And Claire Bowes, Conservative county councillor for Watton, raised concerns over whether the cables would be safe.

Grahame Bygrave, the county council's director of highways and waste, said the charges were in line with other highway charges, such as allowing a skip on the road.

And he said the assessments would ensure the cables were safe.

He said the council had looked at best practice in other areas and said: "It is a tricky one because there is the issue of people using footways.

"We wouldn't want hundreds of cables trailing over the footways every few metres."

He said the council was working with UK Power Networks on trials to get more public charging points installed in terraced streets.

Mr Bygrave said: "The long term view is there will be more charge points at other destinations like workplaces or elsewhere to allow this to be a short-term fix."

Potential sites for the trial of electric charging points have been identified on residential streets in Norwich, including Nelson, Mancroft, Mile Cross, Sewell, Thorpe Hamlet, Lakenham and Town Close.

The council says those areas were selected for the pilot project through a data-led exercise, which identified a low availability of off-street parking, combined with a high proportion of car ownership per household.

Electric vehicle charging points: Picture: Archant

Council officers say people having to pay for licences to be able to charge electric cars should be a "short-term fix" until more public charging points are created. - Credit: Archant

The council hopes to get money for that from the Office
for Zero Emission Vehicles’ (OZEV) On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme and private investment from a third-party installer/operator.

The council would not own and operate any of these charging points,  but would use its authority powers to allow them to be installed, which could begin next year.

Council officers said: "It is clear through the pilot project that lack of capacity in the energy network infrastructure will be a key barrier to public electric vehicle charge point rollout across the county.

"The commercial viability of private investment into public charge points is also likely to be more challenging in smaller, rural towns and villages.

"The council will continue to work with UK Power Networks and other partners to identify and exploit future opportunities."

They also said that updating the Norfolk Parking Standards will place more onus on developers to provide suitable charging points within their developments.

Analysis: Where are we now - and what are the electric car challenges?

The meeting highlights the significant obstacles on the road to electric vehicles.

The first is simple: Change takes time. Studies suggest UK drivers take anything between one and 15 years to change their vehicles, and many will first need to be convinced that an electric vehicle is suitable for them.

While that can be achieved through awareness campaigns and will become easier as more people use electric cars, it is not a quick process.

More and more manufacturers are looking to the market, including Hethel-based Lotus, which has said it will only produce electric cars by the late 2020s.

The new charging points, which will be installed at Thickthorn Services, will increase electric vehicle charging provision...

More charging points are being built around Norfolk. - Credit: Unsplash

The cost is also likely to deter some drivers - though it will fall over time - and there are also charging costs to consider.

There are also fears over how long the cars will last, both their initial range and battery degradation over time.

Most electric car producers offer long battery warranties, guaranteeing good battery capacity after seven or eight years of use. Many say battery will retain at least 70pc of its original capacity.

Ranges variety, but the Nissan Leaf's official range is 168 miles off a single charge, and 144 miles for the Volkswagen e-Golf.

Charging capacity also remains a tricky problem. In Norfolk, many of the stations are in Norwich, but they are not yet widespread enough that drivers do not need to plan journeys or be aware of where they are heading.

While more points are being built every day, this may be the deciding factor for many drivers. In January, permission was agreed for six new ones at the Thickthorn roundabout.

And while the government has announced cash injections to see more charge points installed, it has been warned that parts of Norfolk may need their close-to-capacity energy grids upgrading.

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