Published: Monday, 19 July 2021

Oxford City Council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve the commissioning by the Council of an electric vehicle (EV) strategy for the city.

The strategy will guide decision-making on charging infrastructure installation and support the uptake of electric vehicles across the city.

The EV strategy will seek to address how the city can best respond to the rapidly rising demand for additional charging capacity, the rapidly changing technology and the increasing number of delivery models for implementing charging infrastructure. It will also consider the Council’s own role including utilisation of its assets such as carparks and other land, and whether it could be involved in the delivery of EV charge points working with ODS alongside commercial operators.

The EV strategy will also examine approaches to building greater inclusivity and fairness around access to charging. This will be needed if there is to be equity in the take up of electric vehicles, which are currently more expensive than fossil-fuel powered vehicles. Currently, EV Charge Point Operators (CPOs) seek to place chargers only in areas of high demand. Without some level of intervention, this  would risk leaving significant areas of the city significantly underserved.  

Consideration will also be given to the design and location of charging points to provide equal access for disabled drivers.

While playing an important role in emissions reduction, the Council recognises that Electric Vehicles are not a panacea. Everyone has the right to move anywhere, anytime, yet traffic is an issue in the city and the Council is already committed to schemes to cut congestion, including Connecting Oxford and policies for car free developments in its Local Plan 2036.

The Council is committed to bringing about a balanced road network which is open, safe, and accessible to all road users, which will require the redistribution of Oxford's road space to users of other vehicle types than the private car – in particular for citizens getting around by cycling, walking, and using the bus.

As such, the Council seeks a reduction of private car ownership and use wherever feasible, and this extends to electric vehicles as well as fossil fuel vehicles. This EV strategy seeks to identify an optimal way for ensuring those who need to drive cars – where cycling, walking or the use of buses is not practicable - are supported to do so in zero emitting vehicles.

The full transition to electric vehicles (EVs), significant reduction in car ownership and private car use, and a greater shift to active and bus travel, will be among some of the actions to achieve Oxford’s zero carbon transportation and air quality targets, alongside the introduction of the Zero Emission Zone.

The Electric Vehicle Strategy

The University of Oxford predicts that sales of electric vehicles is likely to reach approximately 90% of new vehicle sales by 2025 and 100% before 2030. This means by 2025, there could be up to 40,000 electric vehicles on Oxfordshire’s roads and 100,000 by 2035.

In February 2021, the Council launched the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership (ZCOP) of the city’s largest institutions and employers, which agreed to a target of net zero carbon emissions as a whole for Oxford by 2040 or earlier.

In order to meet the targets outlined in the Zero Carbon Oxford Roadmap, which was commissioned by ZCOP and will be published later this month, 25% of cars in Oxford need to be electric by 2025, 80% by 2030, and 100% by 2035.

In order to achieve this and to ensure that residents and businesses are able to move anywhere, anytime, Oxford’s charging infrastructure must meet their needs.

Once commissioned, the EV strategy will inform the Council’s vision and approach towards the provision of a range of EV charging solutions that are likely to come forward from a variety of operators:

  • On-street residential charging: On-street charging solutions for residents with limited or no access to home charging
  • Destination charging: Public car parks, shopping centres and leisure centres, as well as demand from visitors and overnight charging for residents without a driveway.
  • Charging on City Council land: This includes car parks, depots, offices, and other locations in the city.
  • Workplace charging: This will consider demand from fleet, employees, and the public.
  • New developments: The Council’s Local Plan policy requires that car parking spaces should be EV ready in residential and non-residential developments.
  • En-route charging: Including rapid and ultra-rapid charging along the strategic road network, through projects such as Energy Superhub Oxford.
  • Charging for car clubs: Car club growth can reduce private car ownership and usage, and help develop social enterprises and co-operatives.
  • Taxi charging: Provision of EV charging for the taxi trade.
  • Vulnerable drivers: Residents with specific needs in regard to safety (women using overnight hubs, drivers with mobility needs) and residents who use a vehicle parked at home for work care workers, small traders, delivery drivers, private hire taxi operators etc.

The Council will seek input from industry and subject matter experts as well as residents and user groups to inform the development of the strategy, including on the accessibility of EV charging, and provide clear next steps for the next five years in the form of an implementation plan.

The strategy will aim to answer questions around Oxford’s approach towards electric vehicle infrastructure, including:

  • What will be Oxford’s charging needs in the future, and how can the Council ensure the provision of the right number and types of chargers and charging capacity?
  • How can the Council ensure fairness, equity, and ensure that the design and location of charging points provide equal accessibility for disabled residents?
  • How can the needs of all current and potential EV users be met?
  • How do we keep up with rapid changes in EV charging infrastructure? What are the funding challenges of delivering EV chargers at a time when there are risks around delivery?
  • What is within the Council’s control and influence in relation to EV charging, and what types of role should the Council adopt?
  • How can the Council help influence how the rapidly changing EV infrastructure market meets the needs of users, and is consistent with the values we hold?
  • What are the funding/income opportunities and possible gains from the Council working in partnership with ODS and commercial operators?
  • Is there a community wealth building approach?

The strategy will be completed by March 2022. Once complete, the Council will be consulting on the strategy with residents and businesses in the city.

Electric vehicles and tackling air pollution

Oxfordshire has a faster growth in electric vehicle sales than the national average. At the end of August 2020, there were 4,381 ultra-low emissions vehicles (ULEVs) in Oxfordshire, 2,200 of which were pure Battery Electric Vehicles.

Electric vehicles will play a key part in improving air quality in the city in future, as well as significantly reducing carbon emissions associated with motorised transport.

“Electric cars are without doubt key to getting carbon emissions down and cleaning our air and, with this new strategy, the Council wants to make it easier for citizens to drive an electric vehicle. We want charging points in neighbourhoods currently left behind by the market, which tends to put chargers in areas of high demand. In particular, we want to explore whether the Council could directly deliver EV chargers on our land through our wholly-owned company ODS, ensuring that those who need to drive do so in zero-emitting vehicles.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford

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