To consider the attached report and draft strategy.
4.1 Philip Williams, Lead Commissioner Community Infrastructure, opened the item thanking the Committee for their useful feedback and steer on the draft proposals at the January 2020 Committee meeting.
4.2 The Committee were informed that the Council had since commissioned Atkins to produce an overarching strategy which would help join up the threads and deliver the most appropriate Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) infrastructure for the County. It was emphasised that the report and presentation here represented a first draft and officers welcomed further feedback to help shape a final strategy.Kevin Mather and Jodie Savickas from Atkins were then introduced to present the draft strategy (presentation attached at Annex 1).
4.3 Members were advised that Atkins had set a policy position using the feedback from the previous Committee meeting and by undertaking nationwide research on other strategy examples. The expectation was, following the approval and adoption of the strategy by GCC, investment in the strategy would then be prioritised to seek appropriate procurement approaches.
4.4 The Committee noted that even though this was a new policy area, it had evolved fast and there were already a range of national, regional and local policies in place that covered the enablement of rolling out the new technology. This also was not something that only affected the transport sector (slide 3).
4.5 Slides 5 – 11 gave an overview of the existing situation in the County as a whole and then divided between districts. The map on the right showed approximate locations of existing ULEV charging points and the map on the left reflected commuter patterns taken from the ‘Travel to Work’ Census data.
4.6 It was highlighted that there are currently 136 chargers across the county for 5,200 registered ULEVs. This represented a 1.2% average in Gloucestershire for ULEV ownership which was slightly lower than the national average.
4.7 The commuting patterns allowed Atkins to understand whether the current distance range for ULEVs would be an inhibiter to resident’s commutes. The maps showed that a majority of the county’s residents only travel within the county for their work and therefore would not be constrained by range limitations.
4.8 Where the maps divide into districts, hot spot analysis and parking restrictions data had been overlaid to allow Atkins to understand where there were off-street parking restrictions coupled with a high concentration of terraced housing. Where these criterion overlapped, this highlighted the best opportunities for GCC to be providing the ULEV infrastructure.
4.9 Atkins also reviewed the Acorn Market Segmentation Data and slide 12 showed a snapshot example of this. They had data for the whole county and it allowed a further level of prioritisation analysis focused on behaviours.
4.10 On slides 13 – 15 the Committee noted proposals for the ULEV network in terms of where chargers would need to be available, the type of charger that would be most appropriate and the average journey times to key services. This analysis helped Atkins to understand which type of charger would need to be available and in which locations to allow residents to charge sufficiently to undertake their daily travels.
4.11 Slides 16 and 17 outlined the criteria for selecting charging sites and the potential funding sources. It was highlighted that there are a number of national funding options available, but many of these did require local match funding. However, it was also stressed that this was a cross sector policy and therefore it did not fall solely on the transport sector to fund locally, it fell within many other policy areas as well.
4.12 Finally, the Committee were informed of the proposed actions for the Council’s strategy. These were split between where GCC can; ‘Lead’ – have complete control over the action; ‘Enable’ – lead or enable others to act; ‘Explore’ – look at new initiatives; and ‘Partner’ – the need for third party action (slides 18 and 19). Members noted the implementation plan and monitoring suggestion (slides 20 and 21).
4.13 Members were advised that due to the finances that would eventually be involved with the strategy, once a final draft version had been agreed, it would need to be presented to Cabinet for authority to proceed.
4.14 It was questioned whether hydrogen technology was being explored. The member stressed that there was still a carbon footprint involved in producing electric vehicles. It was advised that the Council is aware that electric vehicles were not the answer to everything, there was still a carbon footprint involved and there would still be congestion on the roads, but they do form part of the action.
4.15 In terms of hydrogen, the draft UVEL strategy was not restricted to electric vehicles and therefore would not exclude other ultra low emission vehicles.
4.16 It was noted however that hydrogen vehicles have had particularly bad sales figures whereas the quality and availability of battery electric vehicles had ‘mushroomed’. It was accepted that even though the pace of change was huge in this area, GCC needed to take action now and would have to adapt to newer technologies as and when.
4.17 It was noted that this strategy would not rely solely on public funding and it would require buy-in from the private sector also. The GFirst LEP was currently funding a business travel engagement group in Gloucestershire which involved employers in discussions on ULEV infrastructure.
4.18 A member suggested the use of car share clubs as a way of sharing the carbon produced from producing and using a car, as well as parking spaces in the county. It was advised that there were examples of very successful car clubs in Bristol for example. Such arrangements encourage people to think more about their journey, and whether they really need a car to do it. This would come within the ‘explore’ section of the strategy.
4.19 It was questioned how the electricity grid in the UK would cope with such an increase on its demand. An example was given that in many rural areas, residents often use generators to provide additional electricity capacity and it would defeat the object if people were using diesel generators to charge their electric vehicles.
4.20 In response, the Committee heard that the issue of grid capacity was an area of evolving research and it might be in the future that advances such as grid balancing technology become available, but for now it was a question many around the world faced.
4.21 Several members noted during discussions the recent news of new ‘eco-friendly’ petrol that was due to be rolled out in the UK from next year. It was a worry that advances like this would discourage residents from moving to ULEV’s altogether.
4.22 Concern was expressed on how the Council knew leading with the roll out of charging points was the right technology to use, could the technology evolve in the next five years and leave the county out of sync. It was advised that the Council have been using chargers for a while now; some were five years old and were no longer compatible with the range of modern electric vehicles. This was just the nature of technology, and these chargers would become obsolete due to age regardless of advances.
4.23 This was exactly why the ULEV strategy needed to be flexible, this was an area that would need to be monitored and manged as the strategy evolved. An example of an evolving technology was using wireless charging pads which were built into the highway. These however would come with significant costs for installation but could be useful in areas such as taxi ranks and rail station pick ups.
4.24 It was questioned how this strategy addressed the Council’s wider ambition of reducing avoidable car journeys overall. It was advised that this strategy would work alongside the Local Transport Plan which was currently going through an update and would focus on alternative journey types and how to make these more accessible. It was accepted that the improvements to public transport in the county needed to interlink with the ULEV strategy to encourage the wider ambitions.
4.25 When residents are taking longer trips with multiple destinations and with large luggage; it becomes less likely they will choose public transport. The ULEV strategy therefore allows residents who do own a car, to at least have the most eco-friendly option available.
4.26 It was suggested that making sure ULEV vehicles would not get free parking, and thus making it slightly less convenient for car owners, will go some way to discouraging car use, regardless of vehicle type.
4.27 Members also noted the work happening around discouraging families from using cars for the school run. Campaigns such as ‘Pester Power’ where children are encouraging their parents to walk or cycle to school have been successful in the county. In addition this year’s budget had allowed for an additional post in the Integrated Transport Unit to work with schools on developing an accredited school travel plan.
4.28 There were several questions about how the Council could incentivise residents to switch to ULEVs. It was agreed that this would be incredibly important to encourage a move away from petrol/diesel vehicles. Even though ULEVs were still currently more expensive to buy, the cost per mile was dropping very fast, and it was envisaged eventually it would be more cost effective to make the switch. In addition the Government continued to introduce finance incentives such as the benefit in kind for businesses on company cars, which was normally about 20% and would now be 0% from 1st April 2020 for the following three years.
4.29 It was noted that the Council was currently trialling a lease scheme for staff to use e-bikes and ULEVs for their working day. It was currently being targeted at social workers who had unavoidable daily journeys to make.
4.30 Following this point, a member questioned how GCC would manage onsite charging demand if this were offered to all employees of the Council. It was explained that the travel work to data shows that a majority of Council employees were travelling from within the county. This means due to the short distances, there should not be a need for many employees to charge every time they get into work.
4.31 There was a discussion about Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZs) and whether they would be introduced in Gloucestershire. It was explained that as part of the Government’s clean air strategy, such zones can only be declared when an area breaches the EU air quality limit. They are very expensive to enforce and can negatively impact on certain groups e.g. taxi drivers who are then supported through mitigation funds from central Government.
4.32 It was questioned as to how GCC were engaging with the manufacturers who produce the charging points and who therefore had a vested interest in their companies being chosen to supply large quantities. It was explained that such engagement would not come until the ‘explore and partner with other organisations’ section of the strategy, it would allow the Council to explore innovative ways to encourage ULEV uptake, which of course could include agreements with manufacturers.
4.33 In the short term, the strategy focused its time and finance on what the council had direct control over, although it was accepted manufacturers should be doing more to support this roll out nationwide. Officers agreed to take away the point and give it further thought.