ANALYSIS TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Devon County Council adopts charging strategy that provides for only 20% of EVs it expects by 2030

Local ULEV ownership has risen rapidly in recent years but many more vehicles have joined county's roads as local transport area ULEV growth lags behind rest of country and Exeter motor vehicle numbers alone top 87,000.

Devon county council Transport policy Devon carbon plan Net zero exeter Climate crisis

Devon County Council has adopted an electric vehicle charging strategy which aims to meet increased demand for charging points and accelerate electric vehicle uptake “within the context of an overall shift away from the use of the private car”.

The WSP-produced strategy, on which the county council intends to rely to meet its net zero goals as local transport authority, was approved at a meeting of the county council cabinet on Wednesday.

The number of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs), which the government defines as road-using vehicles that are reported to emit less than 75g of carbon dioxide from the tailpipe for every kilometre travelled, is rising across the UK.

Such vehicles include petrol- and diesel-driven hybrids as well as fully electric vehicles. However none are emissions-free, either on a whole-life basis or in use. Significant amounts of particle pollution, in particular, is produced by car tyre wear.

Devon electric vehicle charging strategy bar chart Devon electric vehicle charging strategy bar chart based on withdrawn figures

The WSP strategy says that the number of private ULEVs in Devon (excluding Plymouth and Torbay, which have their own local transport authorities) increased from 668 in January 2016 to 6,482 in September 2021.

It says a “large proportion” of these vehicles are based in Exeter but does not say how many.

It bases these conclusions on Department for Transport figures that have been withdrawn because their postcode basis is considered inaccurate for this purpose, and which do not include any data beyond the end of 2021.

Replacement Department for Transport statistics show that the number of ULEVs in the Devon local transport authority area actually rose from 618 to 5,984 during this period. The proportion of registered in Exeter rose from 17% of the total in 2016 to nearly 29% in 2021.

The replacement statistics continue for two years beyond the withdrawn figures, to September last year.

The number of ULEVs in Devon more than doubled during these two years to reach 12,883 of which just under 4,000 were registered in Exeter.

The strategy forecasts that the number of electric vehicles in the Devon local transport authority area will exceed petrol and diesel vehicles by 2033.

In September last year there were a total of 621,000 vehicles registered in the area, of which 458,400 were cars, 95,800 vans, 7,300 lorries and 2,500 buses and coaches.

(Plymouth and Torbay add another 226,000 motor vehicles to the county’s roads, and the figures do not include traffic travelling into or through Devon, such as tourists.)

The Devon local transport authority area ULEV ownership rate, at 2%, is much lower than the rate for the UK as whole, across which 3.5% of 41.3 million vehicles were ULEVs in September last year.

The growth in local ULEV ownership is also lagging behind the UK. The WSP strategy nevertheless says that Devon has a higher rate of ULEV ownership than the UK average: six per thousand people (the metric used in the strategy) as opposed to four per thousand.

The Devon local transport authority area ULEV ownership rate was actually 6.6 per thousand in mid-2021, the most recent year for which the ONS has provided full UK population estimates, while the UK ULEV ownership rate was 8.4 per thousand.

The strategy fails to point out that, at the same time Devon had a lower rate of ULEV ownership than the UK average, it had a higher rate of overall motor vehicle ownership.

There are more than 740 vehicles per thousand Devon local transport authority area residents, owned by a population of a little over 800,000 residents living in around 350,000 households, with an average ownership rate of 1.76 vehicles per household.

This compares with 600 vehicles per thousand across the UK as a whole.

However nearly 55,000 of these Devon households did not own a car or van, while nearly 44,000 owned three or more.

The number of cars and vans in the Devon local transport authority area has also increased – by more than 70,000 between 2016 and last year – while the number of buses and coaches has remained the same.

There are now 87,200 motor vehicles registered in Exeter alone.

Not all the vehicles that fall under the government’s ULEV definition require charging points as they run entirely or mostly on petrol or diesel. In the Devon County Council local transport authority area 38% fall into this category.

This means that the 383 publicly-accessible electric vehicle charging points that WSP identified in the county council area as of January 2022, of which 64 were in Exeter, were then supporting a fleet of just over 4,000 exclusively battery-powered electric vehicles.

So there were then 95 publicly-accessible chargers for every thousand battery-powered vehicles.

By September last year, this battery-powered fleet had nearly doubled in size to just under 8,000 vehicles. At the same time the number of publicly-accessible electric vehicle charging points in the area had increased to 528.

But this means the number of publicly-accessible chargers per thousand battery-powered vehicles had fallen to 66.

Only 26% of these chargers were rapid chargers, providing the 50kW and above which can replenish three-quarters of a typical EV battery in less than an hour. The rest take between six and eighteen hours to provide the same charge.

While only around 10% of battery-powered vehicle charging takes place at publicly-accessible charging points, a July 2020 Devon electric vehicle survey found that 34% of battery-powered vehicle users said public chargers were occupied more than half the time.

And 92% of the survey respondents reported that they found charging points were out of order when they wanted to use them.

WSP acknowledges that forecasting battery-powered vehicle adoption rates is difficult given uncertainties around technological developments, behavioural change and government policy, legislation and subsidy levels.

It nevertheless predicts that nearly 29% of Devon County Council local transport authority area vehicles – just under 180,000 if total vehicle ownership numbers remain stable – will be battery-powered by 2030. It describes this as a “mid-range” uptake scenario.

At last year’s provision rate of 66 publicly-accessible chargers per thousand battery-powered vehicles, this would equate with nearly 12,000 chargers. And total Devon vehicle numbers are expected to keep increasing, which would equate to even higher demand.

WSP nevertheless projects a need for just 4,600 publicly-accessible charging points by 2030.

If only 4,600 publicly-accessible charging points were available for use by the 180,000 battery-powered vehicles WSP expects by 2030 there would be fewer than 26 chargers per thousand vehicles in the area.

Wenea-delivered publicly-accessible charging points in Exeter Wenea-delivered publicly-accessible charging points in Exeter. Image: Rapid Charging Devon.

Devon County Council has so far installed 70 publicly-accessible charging points in partnership with private provider Wenea. 35 are in Exeter, twenty in Plymouth and 15 distributed across East Devon.

Many provide only 30kW although the Rapid Charging Devon network still describes these as “rapid” chargers.

The county council has also installed 80 charging points in public car parks via a £1.3 million project funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

And it has recently been awarded £7 million of capital funding in the first tranche of the government’s Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) fund.

It estimates that this will pay for approximately 2,000 publicly-accessible charging points.

Its electric vehicle charging strategy expects the private sector to deliver most of the rest.

The strategy also says it aims to ensure that the transition to battery-powered vehicles is “accessible for all and equitable”, while an accompanying county council officer’s report says that the “price of a new electric vehicle is expected to be the same as a new petrol or diesel car sometime between 2025 and 2027”.

Figures from the AA show that home charging costs less than half as much as petrol per mile driven, but new battery-powered cars are currently more expensive to buy than their fossil fuel equivalents.

Prices are nevertheless falling, and some battery models are reaching price parity with their fossil fuel equivalents on the second-hand market.

However the county council still acknowledges that “those with higher incomes may be better placed to purchase an electric vehicle”, with 38% of the lowest-income households in Devon currently having no access to a car or van of any fuel type.

And there are a range of other issues around the accessibility of electric vehicle ownership that the strategy also acknowledges without supplying ready solutions.

One is the large number of motor vehicle users, including tourists and visitors, who do not have access to off-street parking for charging facilities.

Solutions such as “pavement gullies” may be able to address problems with trailing cables in some locations. But not in many urban areas with little off-street parking provision where it is difficult to find a parking place at all, let alone one in front of your house.

Another significant problem is electricity grid constraints. Western Power Distribution says there is a lack of grid and substation capacity in many parts of Devon, both in rural areas and in urban areas where the mains was installed after the second world war.

When county councillors questioned officers about this issue they were told that the strategy had it covered, but the strategy only says that more investment will be needed without explaining where the money will come from.

The strategy is expected to meet the aims of the Devon Carbon Plan, which aims for a 50% reduction in all production and consumption greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050.

However Devon’s emissions increased during 2021 despite a partial pandemic lockdown that suppressed production and consumption activity for the first five months of the year, and the proportion of these emissions that are produced by road transport is rising too.

The electric vehicle charging strategy will also form part of a “suite of documents” that will inform Devon County Council’s new local transport plan, which will cover 2026-2040. This plan is expected to come forward for consultation in March.

The county council says its approach “will ensure future compliance with the government’s expectation that local transport authorities produce local electric charging strategies.”



Recent headlines
Recent headlines
Auditor value for money arrangements recommendations summary chart

Auditor broadens inquiry to include Exeter City Futures and ex-CEO secondment to liquidated company

Devon County Council SEND spending 2019-20 to 2024-25 bar chart

SEND deficit deal demands £50m budget cuts, £13m asset sales and use of £20m financial reserves

Devon & Torbay Combined County Authority governance structure diagram

Devon devolution deal to create unaccountable local government layer for paltry £16 million payoff

Exeter St Thomas station

Access for all? Mobility-impaired passengers still cannot catch their train from some Exeter stations

Wonford Community Wellbeing Hub option seven plan crop

£1+ million for Wonford community hub project development but £7 million build finance not yet found

Recent stories
Auditor value for money arrangements recommendations summary chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Auditor broadens inquiry to include Exeter City Futures and ex-CEO secondment to liquidated company

More 'significant weaknesses' found in city council governance and financial and performance management arrangements while St Sidwell's Point valued at £7 million less than build cost and £370,000 ex-CEO final year pay and benefits confirmed.

Devon County Council SEND spending 2019-20 to 2024-25 bar chart

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

SEND deficit deal demands £50m budget cuts, £13m asset sales and use of £20m financial reserves

Department for Education to contribute £95 million over nine years, but terms of deal require Devon County Council to break even on SEND within two years despite five years of multi-million pound overspends.

Devon & Torbay Combined County Authority governance structure diagram

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Devon devolution deal to create unaccountable local government layer for paltry £16 million payoff

Democratic deficit to increase as city and district councils lose control over housing and prosperity funding and transport policy powers moved out of reach, while county council plans to approve deal irrespective of public consultation outcome.

Exeter St Thomas station

COMMENT  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Access for all? Mobility-impaired passengers still cannot catch their train from some Exeter stations

National railway accessibility policies fail to deliver local transport network access as Exeter St Thomas station improvement funding bid decision awaited.

Wonford Community Wellbeing Hub option seven plan crop

ANALYSIS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

£1+ million for Wonford community hub project development but £7 million build finance not yet found

City council presented £750,000 'feasibility proposal' as progression of existing plans despite having to start again after three years to cut costs, with Exeter City Living awarded £550,000 project contract.

On Our Radar
More stories
Proposed Heavitree Road bus lane bus priority signals

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Bus corridor consultation presents more incremental changes to Exeter road network

£2.4 million Heavitree and Pinhoe Road 'upgrades' have 'potential for an approximate four-minute journey time saving' at peak times along length of each corridor.

Southgate development site heritage map

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Secretary of State overturns council decision to waive Southgate site Environmental Impact Assessment

Proposals for up to 200 flats in high-rise tower blocks have potentially significant impacts on Exe Estuary avian flightpaths, Exeter Cathedral skyline, listed buildings and ancient city walls placing protected landscapes and heritage assets at risk.

Devon County Council 2023-24 vs 2024-25 service delivery budgets bar graph

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

£50 million county council 2024-25 service delivery cuts concealed by £93 million costs increases

Figures essentially unaffected by budget scrutiny process during which councillors sought details of where and how cuts would fall but received few proper answers.

Stagecoach subsidiary operating companies 2022-23 pre-tax profits bar chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Stagecoach South West posts largest losses in sector despite greatest growth in journey numbers

Lowest year on year revenue rise compounded by above average staffing costs increase as £2 bus fare cap continues to prop up passenger demand.

Liveable Exeter Placemaking Charter cover image

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Liveable Exeter Placemaking Charter consultation skewed towards only one of five 'core tools'

Private developers' forum and other major components of new charter not mentioned in council communications, but transparency and new 'culture of openness' to 'help build trust in the planning system' emphasised throughout.

Empty studios at The Gorge

COMMENT  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

The Gorge stands 70% empty nearly six months after opening as mounting council tax liability looms

Council development director claims developer interest demonstrates need for co-living in Exeter but works have yet to start on all other such schemes.

Spotlight
Devon & Torbay Combined County Authority governance structure diagram

Devon devolution deal to create unaccountable local government layer for paltry £16 million payoff

Democratic deficit to increase as city and district councils lose control over housing and prosperity funding and transport policy powers moved out of reach, while county council plans to approve deal irrespective of public consultation outcome.

All topics

ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY   ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY   AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY   COP26 COP26 COP26   COVID-19 COVID-19 COVID-19   CITYPOINT CITYPOINT CITYPOINT   CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE   CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS   CO-LIVING CO-LIVING CO-LIVING   COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY   CONGESTION CONGESTION CONGESTION   COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX   CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE   CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING   DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT   DEVON & CORNWALL POLICE DEVON & CORNWALL POLICE DEVON & CORNWALL POLICE   DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN   DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL   DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND   EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT   EXETER CANAL & QUAY TRUST EXETER CANAL & QUAY TRUST EXETER CANAL & QUAY TRUST   EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL   EXETER CHIEFS EXETER CHIEFS EXETER CHIEFS   EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL   EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES   EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING   EXETER CLIMATE ACTION HUB EXETER CLIMATE ACTION HUB EXETER CLIMATE ACTION HUB   EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE   EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE   EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND   EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER   EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN   EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX   EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE   EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK   EXETER ST DAVID'S EXETER ST DAVID'S EXETER ST DAVID'S   EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE   EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER   FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION   FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER   GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS   GUILDHALL GUILDHALL GUILDHALL   HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS   HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP   HOUSING CRISIS HOUSING CRISIS HOUSING CRISIS   LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+   LIBRARIES UNLIMITED LIBRARIES UNLIMITED LIBRARIES UNLIMITED   LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD   LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER   LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY   LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS   MAKETANK MAKETANK MAKETANK   MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON   MET OFFICE MET OFFICE MET OFFICE   MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER   NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS   OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE   PARIS STREET PARIS STREET PARIS STREET   PARKING PARKING PARKING   PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT   PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY   PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY   PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT   PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION   PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH   PUBLIC PARKS PUBLIC PARKS PUBLIC PARKS   PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM   PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT   RAMM RAMM RAMM   REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING   RETROFIT RETROFIT RETROFIT   ROYAL DEVON NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON NHS TRUST   SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET   SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION   SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER   SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY   SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT   ST JAMES NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN ST JAMES NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN ST JAMES NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN   ST SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE   ST SIDWELL'S POINT ST SIDWELL'S POINT ST SIDWELL'S POINT   STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST   STUDENT ACCOMMODATION STUDENT ACCOMMODATION STUDENT ACCOMMODATION   TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL   TRANSPORT POLICY TRANSPORT POLICY TRANSPORT POLICY   UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER   WATER LANE WATER LANE WATER LANE  

More stories