Electric vehicles

Most charging will take place at home or at work, but location data will help fill gaps where they exist


UK plots spatial data upgrade to supercharge EV rollout

The UK’s Geospatial Commission has announced plans to improve location data for electric car chargers ahead of the government’s 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles.

At least 300,000 public chargers will be needed by 2030, according to a report published this morning. This is nearly ten times more than today’s total of about 35,000.

Calling this an “enormous undertaking”, the report highlighted that installing the needed infrastructure is “not just a numbers game”. The network will have to supply chargers in the right places where people most need them.

In the report, the Commission said it would:

  • Launch a feasibility study into how to widen access to demand modelling, to provide planners with data-driven evidence to identify how many and what types of chargers need to go and by when
  • Explore the creation of a geospatial dataset for off-street parking, to support planners to identify suitable sites for chargers and avoid wasted effort
  • Support the government to make chargers data more findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable and track how market innovators use the data to create new services.

Why do we need sophisticated location data?

There is a wide disparity in charger distribution across the UK, with more than 30% of existing ones located in Greater London. But ideal distribution will depend on a wide range of factors, including demographics, availability of off-street parking and energy infrastructure.

The report said: “Effective public chargepoint strategies must be spatially targeted, focusing public resources to the locations where public chargepoints are needed most.

“An overall national target is difficult formulate. What matters are spatially targeted local and regional strategies that also support longer distance travel.”

Location data allow local authorities and charger operators to undertake demand modelling, identify off-street parking need and understand consumer preferences, the report said.

Don’t we already have location data about people?

Yes. From mobile phone location data to card payments and vehicle sensors, there is a vast pool of data that can potentially be used to build up a picture of consumer habits, preferences and needs.

However, accessing and using all that data is “often not economical or practical” for individual planning authorities, the report said.

The Geospatial Commission said it will examine how aggregated and anonymised data could be applied to charger rollout by June 2023.

What role does real estate play in the rollout?

According to the report, the vast majority of chargers will be delivered by the private sector. Most charging will take place overnight at home, and the private sector is leading on the rollout in both homes and the office.

In other words, chargers across the built environment lay the foundation for the network. From there, local authorities need to fill the gaps with publicly accessible chargers, which is where location data comes in.

How might developments benefit from this data?

When sites that include EV chargers – such as housing developments, car parks or even offices – go through planning, local authorities need to consider existing energy demand and capacity. If the site needs multiple chargers, the area might require network upgrades.

Getting hold of that data can be time-consuming and hold up applications. Better spatial data should, therefore, speed up those processes.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy will conduct a feasibility study in 2023 on a “digital spine”, a system for exchanging energy system data securely.

Jesse Norman, Minister of State in the Department for Transport, said: “We want to ensure that the UK keeps its position as a world leader in decarbonising road transport. That is why the government is working to build an electric vehicle chargepoint network that works for everyone, everywhere.

“Location data is a crucial part in accelerating the transition to a sustainable transport system, and I look forward to working with the Geospatial Commission to realise our ambition for electric vehicles.”

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