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Blog Post 20 January 2021

Lessons learned from the Go Ultra Low Cities scheme

The Go Ultra Low Cities scheme was launched four years ago. The aim was to create a cohort of eight exemplar cities or regions that lead the way in promoting electric vehicles, tackling air quality, and reducing carbon emissions. The Go Ultra Low Cities were Oxford, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, York, Dundee, London, the West of England, and the North East.

Energy Saving Trust helped the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) to showcase each of the Go Ultra Low Cities projects by hosting a webinar series in 2020.

Here, we look at some of the key themes and lessons learned from each of the cities, which should help other local authorities learn and develop their own projects in the future.

Leadership and political buy-in

Dundee felt that leadership from the very top of the council was critical to allowing the city to innovate in this area of work. The city’s council leader owns an electric vehicle (EV) and is an advocate for making the switch to electric.

Nottingham also had political buy-in, which it found invaluable. The city’s deputy leader, also an EV driver, was an electric champion throughout the project, helping Nottingham to navigate through any stumbling blocks.

Partnership working

In London, partnership working between the key stakeholders – Transport for London (TfL), 33 London boroughs and Highways England – enabled the project to progress successfully. The individual boroughs had limited resources to work on this project themselves, however collaborating with TfL and Highways England allowed them to draw on additional knowledge and expertise.

London also set up a stakeholder taskforce to discuss problems, possible solutions and to develop a delivery plan. The taskforce included key partners such as the Federation of Small Businesses, Ofgem, UK Power Networks, RAC Foundation and the British Retail Consortium.

Both Dundee and Nottingham found that working with their chargepoint supplier was essential for a successful chargepoint installation. The chargepoint operators have excellent technical expertise, while the councils were able to provide local knowledge.

Every single one of the Go Ultra Low Cities found it important to share ideas and knowledge, which helped them to avoid issues or mistakes others had made.

Identifying internal resources

The West of England found that it needed a dedicated officer to research and understand the EV charging market before the region made any decisions or carried out any procurement. In many cases, this area of work is only a small part of an officer’s role, and it can be challenging to invest the time required.

Oxford always made use of existing technical knowledge and expertise in other council departments. The city worked closely with colleagues in the Highways department, who had wealth of experience from working on other projects, which required managing and maintaining infrastructure on highways.

York made changes to its council structure to allow EV developments to be prioritised and created a dedicated EV strategy officer and a project management role to help deliver infrastructure projects.

One size doesn’t fit all

Oxford focused on on-street charging solutions, trialling a mixture of technologies including lamp post charging, bollards and home chargers with cable gullies.

Milton Keynes and London looked at a community hubs solution, where chargepoints are provided in car parks near residential areas. In London, these chargepoints can also be used by businesses during the day.

Dundee focused on the rapid charging hub model, installing three hubs with a fourth planned. These hubs included six rapid chargers, three 22 kW chargers and battery storage. The Scottish city struggled with an on-street solution, as the lamp posts are located at the back of the footway, but has been trialling pop up chargers, similar to those tested in Oxford.

York is looking to make sure it has a mixture of charging types and sufficient infrastructure in the right places, such as council-owned car parks. The city is focusing on fast charging in council car parks and hyper hubs on the outskirts of the city.

Engaging your audience

Milton Keynes saw the benefit of running a behaviour change programme to facilitate the switch to electric vehicles. The project included promotion and marketing, as well as installing infrastructure. The city felt it was important to understand customers needs, so introduced an EV experience centre offering myth-busting EV experts, vehicle displays and test drives.

Dundee delivered a local marketing campaign after the city realised that residents didn’t know what the EV charging hubs in the city were. It organised focus groups looking at barriers and issues with local infrastructure, before developing a Drive Dundee Electric campaign.

The Drive Dundee Electric Campaign has since hosted several events, including a ‘Chat and Charge’ event, which saw Dundee Council meet electric vehicle drivers and members of the public at our EV hub to exchange knowledge and encourage the uptake of electric vehicles.

By engaging with businesses, Nottingham found that businesses preferred to hear from their peers, rather than council officers. Other businesses sharing their own awareness and enthusiasm was more powerful and persuasive than information from council officers.

Considering other sustainable travel modes

Oxford was keen to avoid installing install EV charging infrastructure in workplaces and shopping centres or supermarkets, as the city prefers to promote active travel and public transport to make these journeys, rather than risk ‘locking in’ car use.

Milton Keynes is focusing on the wider sustainable travel picture by investing in electric buses, car clubs and demand responsive services, as well as EV infrastructure.

Dundee is installing micro hubs that not only provide EV charging, but also car sharing bays and electric bikes.

If you would like to find out more about any of the Go Ultra Low Cities, all webinar recordings can be found on our Local Government Support Programme advice page. This page has more information and support for local authorities looking to develop EV charging infrastructure.

Local Government Support Programme

Visit the Local Government Support Programme page for more information and support on developing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

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Last updated: 12 January 2021