Today’s topic again is related to Active Travel. Like last week, it involves a public body that appears to be rather clueless when it comes to dealing with the effects of Climate Change: Hello Department for Infrastructure!
Regular readers will know of my frustration with DfI, whether it’d be its long-standing refusal to recommend the immediate adoption of the 2022 changes to the Highway Code or its reluctance to spend 10% of its budget on Active Travel as set out in the 2021 Environment Act.
As part of its portfolio the Department for Infrastructure is responsible for Planning in Northern Ireland. Having been involved in several residential and commercial planning applications of late, it has become quite obvious to me that the DfI is completely out of touch with reality when it comes to the provision of EV charging stations: there is no requirement for the provision of such stations in new residential developments nor is there a requirement to provide facilities for ebikes at commercial charging stations. How shortsighted is that?
Let’s have a quick look at the big picture: the public is being told that EVs are the best thing since sliced bread, none withstanding the fact that the 500kg of batteries in each car consist of rare earths and lithium (very energy intensive to manufacture) and will end up in landfill because those batteries are impossible to recycle.
Let's not forget that while EVs do not produce emissions during driving, 60% of the electricity used for their propulsion is generated using fossil fuels of some description while an additional 17% comes from nuclear power. Prior to the COP26 Conference in Glasgow Volvo pointed out that EVs produce almost 70% more CO2 emissions during production than ICE-powered cars. How “green” is that?
Top tip: If you really want to be green, don’t lease a new car every three years, especially not an EV whose battery life expectancy makes it an economic total loss after perhaps 10-12 years, as opposed to an ICE car which with a bit of care can soldier on for decades. Before you commit to an EV, brace yourself and have a look at second-hand values and lease residuals. This will only get worse as manufacturers cut prices (TSLA -20% over the past year, not including the latest price reduction) to shift unsold stock. But I digress…
I have been involved with setting up a network of over 100 ebike charging stations across Northern Ireland. This is a privately funded initiative. While working on the business plan it struck me that it would be much easier to set up a viable ebike charging network if one could piggy-back off an already existing charging infrastructure for EVs. All it would take would be for the DfI to change the planning regulations and require the inclusion of say one ebike charging facility for every four EV charging stations. At the design stage this could be implemented very easily and cheaply. To retrofit something like this is rather expensive.
Why do I bring this up now? A couple of months ago The Spectator reported plans for two new EV charging stations at the Aurora complex in Bangor. I contacted Ards and North Down Borough Council and suggested the inclusion of a couple of ebike charging stations, only to be told that unfortunately it was too late to incorporate my suggestion into the plans as the charging stations had already been ordered.
Had the DfI got its act together, the ebike charging facilities would have been included as a matter of course. This lack of foresight results in constant frustration as every new EV charging station planning application continues to omit charging facilities for ebikes.
Case in point: at the moment there is a public consultation about the installation of 20 EV charge points at Bloomfield Shopping Centre. There is no provision for ebikes and again it is the Department of Infrastructure who ultimately is at fault - by not requiring developers to provide ebike chargers at these facilities.
We can call out the DfI for these oversights but it is high time that our legislators get back to work and demand that DfI change local planning regulations to include the mandatory inclusion of ebike charging facilities with every EV charging station. Otherwise we have no chance of meeting our climate change targets.