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On-street electric car charging: What to know

By Ted Welford | August 21, 2023

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Among the many challenges in the transition towards electric cars, it’s for those without access to off-street charging. Here’s what you need to know about on-street EV charging.

On-street electric car charging: What to know

Among the many challenges in the transition towards electric cars, it’s for those without access to off-street charging. 

According to Vauxhall, 40 per cent of households don’t have access to off-street charging, whether that be from a lack of driveway or if using a communal car park. That number increases to 60 per cent in urban areas. 

Currently, most EV drivers conduct the majority of their charging when their car is parked overnight, but if that’s not possible as off-street charging is off the cards, what are your options? Here’s what you need to know about on-street EV charging. 

Do on-street chargers exist?

Yes, there are a growing number of on-street chargers. The government established the On-Street Residential Charging Scheme (ORCS) in 2017, and this provides funding for those unable to charge their EV at home. The government set aside £15m for the 2023/4 financial year for local authorities to use to install such points on the streetside. 

It is ultimately down to local authorities if they install chargers, however. A recent survey from Vauxhall found that 72 per cent of councils have no published strategy for on-street charging, while just as shockingly, 69 per cent of councils are yet to install a single charger on the street. Currently, most on-road EV chargers are located in major cities, with London having a particularly high quantity of units available.  

What types of on-street EV chargers are available?

On-street chargers depend on location and the type local authorities have elected to go with. These chargers tend to be slower, however, with most being around 3kW. On a typical EV, such as a Peugeot e-208, you’d need to be plugged in for around 14 hours for a full charge. 

Some might be quicker, up to around 7kW, which could bring the charging time down to around seven hours – plenty if the car is parked overnight. If you’re lucky, you might be able to find faster rapid chargers, reducing the time to around half an hour, though these are rare when it comes to on-street units. 

The chargers themselves come in various shapes and sizes. Some are integrated neatly into lamposts, while others can pop up out of the kerb when activated. Others look like more conventional charging points. 

There are various firms that specialise in kerbside EV charging, with some of the biggest names including Char.gy, Connected Kerb and SureCharge. 

How do I find out where on-street chargers are in my area?

If you’re new to electric car ownership or are wanting to see where your closest electric car chargers are, the app ZapMap should be your first port of call. It’s a free service that has every charger across the country logged.

It can help you find any type of charger, but has a specific filter for ‘on-street’ chargers. As we’ve mentioned, not every town has these installed as it’s ultimately down to the local council. London is by far the most populated when it comes to the availability and sheer number of kerbside charging points. 

Can I ask my council to install an EV charger on my street and are grants available?

Councils and local authorities have various grants available to them for if they want to install on-street chargers. As we’ve mentioned, there’s the government’s ORCS scheme that funds up to 60 per cent of the cost of installing a charger, capped at £7,500 per unit or £13,000 if the costs of connection are “particularly high”. 

Ultimately, a council will only install and go to the expense of installing on-street chargers if they think there is enough demand – the ORCS is a demand-led scheme after all. So if you don’t currently have a nearby charger, you should get in touch with your local authority, and ideally get a group of people from within your local area together to show that you need a charger and that it would be used. 

The process will be different for each local authority, but you can register interest through external firms like charge point operator Char.gy, while Vauxhall has recently launched an ‘Electric Streets’ campaign. With this, it is collating a nationwide map of where current and future demand exists and is sharing this with councils. There’s no guarantee that councils will install an on-street charger, however. 

If I can park outside my house, can I just put the cable across the footpath?

Ultimately, you shouldn’t just drag the cable across the footpath, even if you can park your car right outside your house, such as on a terraced street. That’s because the cable could be a trip hazard to those walking by, bringing potential liability issues. 

According to the Highways Act 1980, you shouldn’t cause any obstruction on a highway or street, which a cable has the potential to do. Councils have the power to remove cables if they believe they’re causing an obstruction too. 

You could look at creating a cable channel in the pavement outside your house to hide away the cable, or a cover for the cables, but again neither of these are recommended where possible. 

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