Making EV charging infrastructure and EV uptake easier for local authorities

Electric cars charging at a charging station. 3d rendering.
Image © Дмитрий Ларичев | iStock

With over 30 years of experience in developing smart electronic solutions, EZ-Charge explains how it is supporting a seamless uptake of electric vehicles by working with local authorities to offer user-friendly and reliable EV charging infrastructure

With local authorities across the UK busy developing their electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure strategies, EZ-Charge is uniquely qualified to offer expert insight and support. As the largest charge point operator in Oxfordshire, with 250 charge points across 20 council car park charging hubs, there is not much we do not know about installing and running an ultra-reliable public EV charging infrastructure.

Partnership with Oxfordshire County Council and its four districts

Our partnership with Oxfordshire County Council and its four districts – Cherwell, South Oxfordshire, West Oxfordshire, and the Vale of the White Horse – is now seen as an exemplar of how the public and private sectors can work in unison to create EV infrastructure that works perfectly for the residents and businesses of any community, as well as visitors to it.

This award-winning project, Park & Charge Oxfordshire, has formed a vital part of the Oxfordshire Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy and has played a significant role in Oxfordshire leading the nation in electric vehicle uptake, with EVs making up a higher proportion of new car registrations in the county than anywhere else in the UK.

Our project was voted Public Sector Infrastructure Strategy of the Year

Electric car plugged into a charging station while parked on the parking lot.

Best of all, the project, which was named Public Sector Infrastructure Strategy of the Year at the 2022 Electric Vehicle Innovation & Excellence Awards. This gives EZ-Charge an unparalleled ability to accurately inform other local authority-led EV infrastructure projects currently in the planning stages.

Rob Newbould, Sales Manager of EZ-Charge, explains: ‘When we started planning for Park & Charge Oxfordshire a couple of years ago, we made a deliberate decision with our partners to democratise the network as best we could.

‘In reality, that meant that we did not just want to install chargers in the county’s biggest and most populated towns but also in smaller market towns and villages.

‘This fitted perfectly with the overarching vision of the project, which was to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in the county by providing EV charging infrastructure for those without access to off-street parking.

‘With that in mind, we configured a network of 20 charging hubs, all located in council-owned and operated car parks. Each car park has between a dozen and 16 dual 22kW AC charge points installed.

‘As an aside, these chargers were designed by EZ-Charge and manufactured at our headquarters in Bicester, Oxfordshire, with funding from Innovate UK.’

While the democratic design of the Park & Charge Oxfordshire network and the roll-out of private sector EV charging infrastructure means some hubs have been better utilised than others, the project has indeed been an enormous success.

The EV charging infrastructure has delivered in excess of 702,238 kWh of electricity

To date, the network has delivered in excess of 702,238 kWh of electricity – enough to power more than 2.17 million pure electric vehicle miles and saved an estimated 600 tonnes of CO2 equivalent from being emitted into the atmosphere. In addition, although all our charge points can be activated via contactless payment and without membership, over 3,700 people have now signed up for the purpose-built app to access additional user benefits.

But the project’s success can also be measured in more human terms through the customer feedback received through sites like the industry- leading Zap-Map. Recent comments have included, ‘Great charging experience. Very straightforward and easy-to-use; ‘12 chargers all working. Why can’t all car parks be like this one?’ and ‘The best non-Tesla charging network.

As if all that was not enough proof of the scheme’s success, the fact that a number of hubs are already nearing full capacity at peak times is further testament. So, what is the secret to the project’s success?

‘Well, if I had to single out one factor that’s made Park & Charge Oxfordshire so successful, it would have to be reliability’, said Rob. ‘Our 22kW EZ- Charge AC charger is ultra-reliable and has lots of clever technology built-in, including fans for hot weather, heaters for cold weather, and self-diagnostics that ensure they’re fully operational more than 99% of the time.

‘From speaking to customers and watching our utilisation data very closely, we have been able to watch the volume of charges grow steadily as EV drivers have not only learnt where our sites are but come to appreciate that there will almost always be a charge point available and, importantly, that it will be working every time.’

EZ-Charge works with local authorities to deliver bespoke EV charging infrastructure networks

You may be asking yourself how this can be applied to help other local authorities develop EV infrastructure solutions for their own conurbations and communities. Rob explained: ‘At EZ-Charge, we specialise in working with local authorities to develop bespoke EV charging infrastructure networks, drawing on all our experience and insights. Importantly, our record of working in synergy with public sector partners means we understand the unique set of challenges councils face and the goals they are working towards.

‘Our approach is always to sit down with commissioning organisations and plan solutions to suit the demographics and requirements of the area. Crucially, each step in this process is fully informed by the real-world data we continue to generate from our fully operational hubs.

‘We can, for example, help councils identify the right locations for chargers and use all the tools and state-of-the-art analytics at our disposal to calculate the correct ratio of off-street to on- street infrastructure.

‘We are also mindful that some locations where communities and or individuals want to see charge points may not be commercially viable in the short term. In these instances, our goal is to find a solution that uses the revenue from more commercially viable sites to support the delivery for those that are less viable, but socially critical.

‘Given its importance to the overall picture, we are also perfectly placed to support local authorities in receipt of LEVI funding to deploy infrastructure in the best possible way.’

Rob added: ‘We’d be delighted to hear from any local authority looking into EV charging, no matter how limited or extensive the scale of their ambition.

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