Ollie Saunders JLL 2
Ollie Saunders, lead director of alternatives at JLL

JLL: How property should help increase decarbonisation

The UK Government’s Climate Change Committee has recommended the UK goes for a “net-zero” target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The advisory group also stated that the Government’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 is too tame and should be brought forward so that electric cars can dominate the market a decade earlier. If we have any chance of reaching these targets more needs to be done to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles, writes Ollie Saunders, lead director of alternatives at JLL.

The number of electric vehicles in the UK has increased rapidly over the last couple of years, with sales of EVs growing at an exponential rate and over 200,000 now registered in the UK. We can look to countries such as Norway to see just how quickly demand for electric vehicles can grow.

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The sales of EVs are growing at an exponential rate with over 200,000 now registered in the UK

However, in a survey of Local Authorities carried out by JLL in 2017, out of 276,000 local authority-controlled car parking spaces only 0.003% had any EV charging capability. While charging point infrastructure is growing, it is simply not at the same pace as take-up for electric vehicles.

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There’s great demand for electric vehicles in Norway with 60% of new registered cars being electric

Increasing the uptake of electric vehicles will not be possible without the charging infrastructure in place to support adoption and remove the anxiety of the driving public about being able to access electricity as easily as they can access petrol stations.

Public charging point numbers are increasing in parts of the UK; the number in London doubled between April 2017 to April 2019 from 2, 672 to 5,816. However, this is not reflected in other parts of the UK. In Wales, for example, there are less than 700 EV enabled bays in total.

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Public charging point numbers are increasing in parts of the UK, the number in London doubled between April 2017 to April 2019 from 2, 672 to 5,816

The fast roll-out of EV points is crucial to the implementation of EV. Right now, EV technology is advancing faster than charging points are being installed, so accelerating wide scale installation is critical for adoption. An EV car will soon be the same cost as a car with an internal combustion engine and have a range of more than 300 miles.

The property industry is realising that there is a fantastic opportunity to get on the front foot and to help roll out charging points across the UK and bring EV users to their assets.  For example, surveys have shown that shopping centres that offer charging infrastructure have increased dwell times as EV drivers want to ensure that their EVs have enough power to reach their next destination.

However, the market can be confusing with a number of different options and hardware suppliers with not that much transparency. Often hardware suppliers are willing to put charge points in for free, but then control the price that the electricity used can be charged to the EV driver. This ‘mark-up’ in price can be considerable. Many charging networks are “closed”, meaning you have to subscribe to the hardware manufacturers network in order to use the charge point. Hardware suppliers are often aligned or owned by major energy suppliers including oil companies.

It’s imperative that we simplify the process so we can encourage investment across the property sector and offer clients the ability to invest, and provide a way for them to create new income streams and play a key part in making EV cars on our roads a reality.

Clearly, there is some way to go in rolling out the charging infrastructure to keep pace with ever increasing numbers of EVs on our roads. The Government has committed to £500m of grants to assist the adoption of EVs. Grants for residential and workplace charging are available from The Office for Low Emission Vehicles, but public access charging may be left to the private sector to provide. However, this should be seen as an opportunity by private landowners to create additional revenue streams whilst helping the environment.

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If you were going to get a new car anyway then it is better from a CO2 point of view that your next vehicle is electric rather than petrol, but if you weren’t then it’s doubtful that you should get rid of your petrol car just to get an electric one. The CO2 embodied in the production of a new car is likely to outweigh any savings in CO2 you would make.

The best solution is to drive less and drive slower when you do. Walk, cycle or take public transport are all better options and the government should be prioritising investment in these solutions as they have many other advantages. Electric vehicles still use energy which has to be produced somewhere even if it is cleaner than burning petrol whereas cycling and walking are climate neutral and public transport is going that way.

CO2 is not the only problem with cars as the emissions they produce currently lead to 40,000 deaths every year in UK. Electric vehicles, while less polluting, still will poison many people through the microscopic particles that are produced by the friction of tyres on the road which get into our lungs and water and accounts for 50% of the pollution from cars.

Also cars kill around 1,700 people each year in UK and seriously injure thousands more and electric vehicles are no less likely to kill people. Assuming that the only acceptable level of casualties is zero then cars must be made to drive slower and other forms of transport must be prioritised so that it is safe to walk or cycle or take public transport.

The benefits of such an approach are many not just to the environment but there are social benefits to more people being out and about on foot or bike as people can interact with one another better. There are also economic benefits as cycle parking can accommodate many more customers than equivalent space for car parking and pedestrian prioritised areas benefit shops, cafes, bars and restaurants and walking and cycling to work are associated with lower absenteeism and staff turnover. Then there are the health benefits of not only leaner air and water but active lifestyles help prevent cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

Electric cars may help and can also be useful in balancing power demand through input back into the grid but it cannot just be an attempt at business as usual. The real change that is needed is to stop prioritising cars and design our streets and cities to maximise the safe movement of people rather than the movement of motor vehicles at any cost.

By Forbidden Fruit