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ELECTRIC VEHICLES: New charging points coming to Mendip

ELECTRIC VEHICLES: New charging points coming to Mendip

Image: LDRS

New electric vehicle charging points will be rolled out across council-owned sites across the district – despite concerns they will be “a joke” within 18 months.

Mendip District Council is trying to encourage more people to use electric vehicles by making it easier for people to charge them when they visit towns or travel on major routes.

The council’s cabinet voted in February to work with a commercial third party to install new charging units in its car parks.

The council has now revealed the identity of its partner – Liverpool-based firm Franklin Energy – and the sites where charging units will be fitted over the coming months.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Where will the new charging points be installed?

The charging points will be installed at seven locations across the district:

  • Cattle Market car park, Frome – 3 x 22kW and 1 x 50kW
  • St John’s car park, Glastonbury – 2 x 22kW and 1 x 50kW
  • Cannards Grave Road car park, Shepton Mallet – 5 x 22kW
  • Great Ostry car park, Shepton Mallet – 2 x 22kW and 1 x 50kW
  • Northside car park, Street – 4 x 22kW and 1 x 50kW (or 1 x 100kW)
  • Southside car park, Street – 3 x 22kW
  • Union Street car park, Wells – 3 x 22kW and 1 x 50kW (with others being added at a later date)

A total of 28 charging points will be implemented, which will serve 56 car parking space across the seven locations.

The decisions were taken based upon a number of factors, including current electric vehicle use in the area and footfall levels.

What about on-street charging?

While car parks are owned and operated by the district council, on-street parking is the responsibility of Somerset County Council.

District councillor Josh Burr, portfolio holder for neighbourhood services, addressed the issue at a meeting of the council’s scrutiny board on Thursday evening (March 18).

He said: “Realistically, the primary offer we can put forward is through our car parks, which is why we’ve taken this step.

“However, we are still awaiting a county strategy that should look to introduce on-street charging, which will be providing the real onus for behaviour change and the most likely supply which people will use daily.”

Councillor John Clarke (who represents the Frome Market ward and also serves as county councillor for Frome West) said the county council needed to “get their act together”.

He added: “They need to come up with something for on-street charging. But this is a start and an opportunity.”

How will the units be operated?

Franklin Energy will pay for the installation of the units and related infrastructure, meaning there will be no immediate start-up cost to Mendip taxpayers.

In return, they will have exclusive use of a given site – though the number of type of chargers being provided will be regularly reviewed.

The council can also expect to earn a percentage of the income generated from the charging points, which can be reinvested into front-line services.

Franklin has estimated that around 5,500 electric vehicles will be used across the Mendip area by 2030.

Will the chargers offer customers what they want?

Members of the scrutiny board expressed concerns about whether the proposed charging points would actually meet the needs of electric vehicle users.

Councillor Nigel Woollcombe-Adams (who represents the Butleigh and Baltonsborough ward near Glastonbury) said the proposed chargers could rapidly become obsolete in light of other innovations in Europe.

He said: “We’re talking about 22kW chargers, which take between one and five hours to charge to a car. We may well be faced with having these chargers for up to seven years – and frankly they’ll be completely superannuated within that.

“Tesla’s chargers provide between 150kW and 175kW, and they take 45 minutes. Volkswagen, in partnership with BP and a couple of other European partners are looking to install chargers that produce up to 350kW.

“Mendip’s 22kW chargers are going to be a complete joke in a year to 18 months – and I do speak as someone who owns an electric car.”

Councillor Shannon Brooke (who represents the Beckington and Selwood ward near Frome) added: “Where is the user market research? Have we been out to the streets of Clarks Village and the Cheese and Grain car park, and actually talked to people with electric cars?

“We’re in a rural community here – I’m not going to drive to Frome and wait six hours for my car to charge. It’s madness.”

Haylee Wilkins, the council’s group manager, replied that the charging points were “one piece of a much wider jigsaw puzzle” and were not intended as a panacea for all issues regarding electric vehicles.

She added: “If there are connectivity or grid issues, that will be determined at the next stage of the process. We will be able to work with the power distributor to manage those issues wherever possible.

“We will be doing regular surveys to determine if there is a need to change the solution – whether to increase or reduce it in a particular area.”

What happens next?

The council hopes that the new points will begin being installed by June, depending on the work that is needed on the local power infrastructure in each area.

Further reports on the roll-out of the charging points will come back before the scrutiny board later in the year.

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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