Whether we like it or not, change is happening. Environmental considerations, air quality, lower running costs, increasing availability and Government legislation have created the perfect storm – electric cars will dominate the market sooner or later. So, should we be future-proofing and installing electric car charge points on new homes as standard? Danny Morgan, editor at car charger installer Smart Home Charge, explores the options.
Let’s be honest. Electric cars are still a small part of the overall car market. According to the Society of Motoring Manufacturers (SMMT), electric vehicles (EVs) had just 1.6 per cent market share in 2019.
But it’s also growing fast. Very fast. In fact, 2019 saw a 144 per cent increase in sales over 2018 when fully electric vehicles made up just 0.7 per cent of the market. For comparison, the petrol car market grew by 2.2 per cent over 2018 while diesels declined by 21.8 per cent.
Should we be planning for the EV future?
In a word, EVs are coming regardless of how you view them.
The public infrastructure for charging EVs is decent and much larger than most people think. It also continues to grow thanks to a competitive market. The residential charging market is also robust with plenty of manufacturers and installers offering a range of solutions to retrofit a property with a charge point.
If the Government gets it way, though, all new homes will already come with a charge point installed.
Alongside proposals to bring forward the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales to 2035 (including hybrids), time is of the essence.
But is installing a car charger on all new developments the right way forward?
It’s clear a sea change is happening, and more homes will need electric car charge points, so there’s a case to be made for housebuilders and developers to include chargers as standard.
Furthermore, better car charging infrastructure for homes in urban areas is desperately needed. Those living in a block of flats, terraced housing or areas without private off-street parking currently struggle to access the space for charging let alone Government incentives to help them transition to greener vehicles.
Clearly existing developments will need innovative charging solutions to address this problem, but developers can help prevent it being a future issue for new urban developments with the right planning and design.
For example, new apartment developments could include a designated parking and charging area for electric vehicles and could even be covered parking areas with solar panels built in, generating free or low-cost energy for the community.
This may not be the right solution for every development, but it’s this type of forethought and design we need now in order to provide for the communities of the future. And that future isn’t very far away by most estimates.
This would certainly achieve scale by ensuring that most new build properties have a car charging facility built in. While a “one size fits all” policy seems easy (if developers are on board or compelled to be), but there are other factors at play that make this scenario undesirable.
While the market for electric car chargers may be relatively new, the competition is already fierce which has resulted in plenty of choice and innovation.
So, should the Government or developers really take this choice away from the driver? Who decides which charger would be installed on new homes? What happens if the customer wants something more stylish or with specific features such as solar integration?
There’s also the issue of parking and location of the charger. The number of vehicles at the property, the location of the charging port on the vehicle and personal preference of the driver will all influence where the customer wants the charger to be located.
Furthermore, technology in charging is improving all the time. Installing chargers as standard could mean the device has been surpassed by the competition by the time the homeowners come to use it, especially if the first tenants do not own an EV.
Of course, it could easily be argued that installing the chargers as standard will encourage the transition to EVs, but it’s also likely a lot of homeowners will not want to pay for equipment they may not be ready to use.
Finding a balance
We need to find a balance between the lack of planning for car charging right now on new developments without taking away the choice from the homeowner – whether that means choosing which charging device they want or whether they want one at all.
Stefan Jensen, head of strategic partnerships at Ohme, a manufacturer smart charge points, believes the customer should be able to choose what they want but that homes should be “EV ready”: “To make all new homes EV ready we suggest wiring everything up for an EV charge point that has a 32-amp supply. The wiring should end in a commando socket. This gives people the option to use a smart charging cable that plugs directly into the commando socket as their charge point solution or alternatively an installer can simply remove the commando socket and get a hardwired EV wall charger installed. But since all the wiring (including an earth rod) is there in the first place the house is EV ready and can actually be utilised for EV charging straight away.”
While not everyone will agree with this approach, the sentiment is sensible. Ultimately, residential car charging infrastructure needs to be considered much earlier in the development process. This will save time and money as well as benefiting the communities of the future who will be able to access cleaner transport as a result.
Founder and managing director at Smart Home Charge Graham Warby thinks the choice should stay firmly with the homeowner: “Everyone has different priorities and a one size fits all approach is difficult to achieve. We find customers are very specific when it comes to the location, cost and look of the charger, while others look for other features, from units that automatically access the cheapest electricity tariffs to solar integration. If developers start installing a standardised charger on all new builds, we take all the choice away from the end user.
“It’s easy to retrofit a charger to most typical new build properties because the fuse board is likely to be situated on an outside wall close to where the car will be charged. With this in mind, as well as different priorities when it comes to choosing a charger, we think it’s better to allow customers to choose exactly what they want to suit their lifestyle.”