Monday, May 27, 2024

Housebuilders lobbied government against plans to install car chargers in new homes

Many of the UK’s largest housebuilders lobbied the government to try to make it drop plans to install electric car chargers in every new home, a freedom of information request has revealed.

The FTSE 100 construction companies Barratt Developments, Berkeley Group and Taylor Wimpey were among those who submitted evidence to a government consultation, speaking out against the proposals.

Under laws which came into force in June this year, all new homes, supermarkets and offices in England will have to feature electric car chargers. The change was designed to address fears over a shortage of plug-in points.

The consultation into these proposals opened in July 2019 and was hailed as a world first, “cementing the UK’s position as global leader in the race to net zero emissions”.

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary at the time, said: “Home charging provides the most convenient and low-cost option for consumers — you can simply plug your car in to charge overnight as you would a mobile phone.”

In response, housebuilders argued against the plans, raising a plethora of issues, including soaring costs, along with warnings that the charging points could tie people into technology that could slip behind the times or prevent them from buying cars from overseas which might have a different charger. They also brought up the danger of electric shocks. The responses were obtained by The Guardian newspaper.

When the policy was announced, the government said that it would lead to up to 145,000 charging points being installed across the country over the next decade and that 70 per cent of vehicle charging would be done at home. Similar proposals are being considered by the Welsh and Scottish governments.

There is an exemption for new homes where the installation of a charge point would increase the grid connection costs by more than £3,600, to ensure developers do not have to take on excessive costs, although cable routes will still be mandatory.

While the government has said it is a commercial decision for housing developers to decide whether to pass the cost on to consumers, it set out the view that installing it during construction would provide the best value for money.

The government will ban the sale of new pure petrol and diesel cars by 2030, with hybrids using a combination of battery power and a combustion engine following in 2035. However, there are mounting concerns that the plan to phase out petrol and diesel cars risks being undermined by the lack of infrastructure to support electric vehicles.

A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation (HBF) said the industry is committed to meeting the legislative requirements, but argued that the strategy needed to be implemented in a more co-ordinated way.

“New build homes are considerably more energy efficient than existing ones and the industry has demonstrated a commitment to engaging on this agenda and is committed to installing chargers such that it provides customers with choice.

“If the policy is to be implemented successfully, proposals have to be deliverable for housebuilders, product manufacturers and energy providers alike. We need to ensure standards and equipment are standardised and that energy networks have the necessary capacity to cope with levels of demand.

“Government also has to ensure that all the policy requirements of different departments and their cost implications and combined impact on viability are considered in totality and not on an individual basis”, he said.

Other housebuilders said that things have moved on since the original consultation and that the issue historically was with take-up rates and weighing up the merits of putting in a charger that might not get used.

Berkeley homes said: “We are fully supportive of electric vehicles and are putting in more than 12,000 charging points in our new developments.”

A spokesman for Barratt Developments said: “Back in 2019 our view was that the industry did not have sufficient supply chain capacity to support full EV charging point rollout nationwide for every new home built and that there was insufficient choice for customers.

“Since then, as the country’s leading national sustainable housebuilder complete with science based targets to reduce emissions, we have worked closely with the sector and government to help introduce regulations which give customers the best possible choice whilst being practical for the industry to deliver at scale.”

A Taylor Wimpey spokeswoman said: “The company is complying with the EV charge point legislation announced November 2021 and implemented this year, as required; our recommendations on the specification of the chargers to reduce likelihood of electric shocks and to only require one charger per home with an on-plot parking space, were adopted in the legislation.”

A government spokeswoman said that developers could buy charging infrastructure in bulk, reducing the overall costs of installing charge points in homes and that most of the charge points are “untethered” which means people can charge any type of vehicle, regardless of plug type.

“Given the market and technology of EVs develops so quickly, we want to ensure that charge point infrastructure buildings are future-proofed to the best extent”, she said.