Preparing the UK for the growth of electric and autonomous vehicles

By 2050, road transport will be unrecognizable from today. Cars and vans will be electric, and increasingly autonomous. Electric, connected and autonomous vehicles will change the nature of the transport debate in the UK. Electric vehicles are easier to drive, quieter and less polluting than conventional cars and will soon have the same range and be cheaper to buy and maintain. Once this happens, their take up could increase rapidly. Given their benefits for the environment, this is something government should encourage. A key way to do this is by ensuring that charging an electric vehicle is as easy as refilling a conventional vehicle, or even easier.

In the longer term, connected and autonomous vehicles will bring even greater changes to the UK’s roads. They will improve safety, and could allow more people to use personal transport and free up driving time for work or leisure. They may even encourage a shift towards increased vehicle sharing and reduced car ownership. Traffic lights and stop signs may become unnecessary, speed limits could be higher, and the use of road space could be automatically and constantly changing according to need. But, with road and rail projects lasting for decades, government needs to start taking the potential future impacts into account now as it makes investment plans.

NIA recommendations

The Commission recommends that government, Ofgem and local authorities should enable the roll out of charging infrastructure sufficient to allow consumer demand to reach close to 100 per cent electric new car and van sales by 2030. Government should address the implications of technological innovation in long term transport planning processes, including the next rail control period and road investment strategy.

  • Ofgem should take on the role of regulating the interaction between electric vehicle charge points and the electricity network immediately, ensuring that electric vehicle charging and vehicle to grid services contribute to the optimisation of the energy system. Government, industry and Ofgem should work together to set minimum standards for a network of interoperable, smart charge points
  • Ofgem should commission electricity network operators to work with charge point providers to identify potential anticipatory investments required to accommodate public charging infrastructure. Opportunities for investment within the current price control period should be identified by Summer 2019
  • Government should place a requirement on local authorities to work with charge point providers to allocate 5 per cent of their parking spaces (including on-street) by 2020 and 20 per cent by 2025 which may be converted to electric vehicle charge points
  • Government should subsidise, by 2022, the provision of rapid charge points in rural and remote areas, where the market will not deliver in the short term
  • Government should establish a centre for advanced transport technology in the Department for Transport to bring together work on technological innovation and ensure its implications are central to future investment proposals. This should include developing and overseeing the Commission’s proposed connected and autonomous vehicles framework.