FOI reveals Bedford Borough currently has just 52 public electric vehicle chargers

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A freedom of information (FOI) request by British energy company Centrica has revealed Bedford has only 52 public Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers, in streets and car parks.

Based on the 2018 ONS borough population estimate, this equals a rate of 30 public EV chargers per 100,000 people.

Cllr Charles Royden, portfolio holder for Environment and Highways, has confirmed that at least 22 more EV chargers will be installed shortly.

In November, the government announced it was bringing forward its ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars to 2030.

The Bedford FOI was filed and responded to in October. The council then had no guaranteed further installations, though stated: “We currently have an agreement with a supplier to increase the number of charge points, and we have policies which tie new development to new EV infrastructure.”

Cllr Royden told the Bedford Independent: “The Council are committed to installing electric vehicle charging points to support local residents who have already invested in these  vehicles, and to help people look to the future.

“In addition to the charging points installed already, there are another 22 expected to be installed by the end of March.

“We are also currently bidding for further funding to enable us to install 60 on-street charging points in the Spring, specifically for residents who do not have driveway parking.

“With national moves to ban new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030, we want to get the infrastructure in place to help residents make the change.”

The local Green Party councillors, Ben Foley and Lucy Bywater, who both represent Castle Ward, issued a joint statement: “We are aware that there is a need for additional on-street EV chargers, and these are most needed in streets, many of which we represent, where there is no off-street parking.

“We know there is demand for EV chargers from residents of Castle Ward.”

on street parking
Residents without their own driveways are much less likely to switch to an electric vehicle

“We have thus had discussions with council officers about possible further EV chargers in parts of the ward, and even had discussions about the details of which designs might be used, and precisely where on the street they might be placed.

“We have asked them on several occasions about progress.”

Centrica sent over 400 FOIs to councils across England.

Of the East of England councils who responded, Bedford Borough Council had the most public EV charging points already installed.

However, Bedford’s rate per 100,000 people is half the regional average, which is also the joint second-lowest regional rate.

Commenting generally on the switch to EV, Cllrs Ben Foley and Lucy Bywater said: “While there is a demand and a genuine need for some on-street EV chargers, we are also aware that provision for EVs cannot provide an answer to all our transport problems.

“Problems that would remain include traffic jams, emissions from brakes and tyres that affect air quality, plastic pollution from tyres and other components and the sheer amounts of resources that go into the manufacture of vehicles.

“It is thus vitally important that the council does more to support cycling, walking, public transport use and lifestyles that don’t require cars.”

Centrica also commissioned One Poll in December to survey motorists’ attitudes. 53% who don’t have off-street parking said they didn’t plan to buy an EV.

Out of all drivers, 83% believe it’ll be easier for drivers with a driveway to make the switch.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a year ago that government funding for residential street charge point installations would double in 2021 to £10mn.

Centrica’s sustainable transport editor Amanda Stretton said: “The latest figures released today demonstrate the need for all UK councils to play their part in helping to achieve the 2030 ban.”

Stretton also said Centrica were working with businesses to “install smart charging systems” to automate charging to times of reduced demand on the national grid.

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