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Blog Post 29 October 2021

Agile Streets: overcoming barriers to electric vehicle adoption

To meet the UK Government’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, all new cars will need to be electric by 2035.

However, an electric car is only useful if you have somewhere to charge it, and currently over 40% of UK residents do not have access to off-street parking.

Barriers to uptake

To enable mass adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK, it’s imperative that reliable and convenient on-street charging infrastructure is available for those unable to install a home charger.

A second barrier to widescale EV adoption is the electricity grid. If all streets had 20 cars plugging in around the same time when people get back from work, the grid would have to be upgraded to cope with a surge in afternoon electricity demand, which could cost billions. 

Agile Streets project

The Agile Streets project, funded by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and of which Energy Saving Trust is a partner, is developing a way to overcome both these barriers.

Over the course of the project, we have been testing a new way of public charging, where users pay less if they allow us the flexibility to control when their car is charged. Working with Octopus Energy, we will pass on the savings from flexibility, which are already available to Octopus’ domestic customers.

Credit: Connected Kerb

How does it work?

A driver will be able to plug in their car and tell us via the Connected Kerb app what time they need it charged by. We will then take control, activating charging at times when the grid is less congested, and when electricity is cheaper. By allowing an optimised charge, drivers could save up to 50%.

On average, EV drivers only need to charge once a week. If you’ve got a driveway, then charging every day is no issue, but if everyone did that with shared chargepoints, then there may not be space for all the chargepoints we’d need. We’ll also be trialling a way of encouraging people to only charge when they need to.

Creating an effortless smart charging network is crucial to dispel the concerns of EV critics and accelerate the electrification of transport. If the green energy revolution is to keep powering ahead, we need electric vehicle chargers to be accessible everywhere – whether on streets, at petrol stations or at home.

Energy Saving Trust’s role

Energy Saving Trust is part of the Agile Streets consortium alongside Samsung Research, Connected Kerb, Octopus, SMETS Design Limited, and the Power Networks Distribution Centre.

Our role in the project is to gather feedback from trial participants as part of the monitoring and evaluation plan, and support the marketing and communications activity to recruit drivers into the trial. We have also led some stakeholder engagement work with electric vehicle drivers and local authorities to understand user requirements, which fed into the design of the trial.

Chris Pateman-Jones, chief executive of Connected Kerb, said: “Easy access to affordable charging infrastructure is one of the biggest barriers to the uptake of EVs. The number of smart energy tariffs has exploded in recent years thanks to increasing demand from EV owners, making charging at home one of the most affordable ways to run a car.

“Smart charging provides EV users with the choice to charge their vehicle when energy is cheapest during periods of lower demand such as overnight or when renewable sources are in surplus, that is, when the sun shines and the wind blows. By doing this, we can go some way to ensuring that access to affordable energy is equitable across the entire population, whether they have a driveway or not.”

Project timeline

We are at a critical and exciting point of the project, when the testing and preparations for the trial are complete and the Connected Kerb chargepoints are going in the ground.

We are currently recruiting EV drivers to take part in our trials in four local authority areas across the UK: East Lothian, Hackney, Glasgow and Shropshire. If people don’t currently have an electric vehicle (perhaps because they don’t have a driveway to charge it on), they’ll be able to take part by renting a car at a competitive rate from Onto.   

People can register their interest in our trial and find more information on how to take part on the Agile Streets website.

Next steps

We hope to have drivers using the new smart chargers in November 2021, just in time for the global climate event COP26, which is taking place in Glasgow. We’ll then start collecting data from the app, with the view to get feedback from drivers on their experience using the chargers early in 2022. The trial will finish in May 2022, however the chargers will stay and be available for anyone to use after the project is completed.

We hope to see more of these chargers installed on streets in the future, helping encourage those without home charging to make the switch to electric and in a way that reduces pressure on the electricity grid.

Last updated: 29 October 2021