Volunteers sought for electric vehicle charging trial in Oxfordshire

A project that will aim to break down the barriers that people face in charging electric vehicles at home has been given the green light after grant funding was awarded to Oxfordshire County Council and ODS.

The project will test a new solution to help people who don’t have a driveway to charge an electric car using their own home power supply and funding has been awarded by Innovate UK and the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles. Volunteers are being sought to take part in the trial.

Councillor Pete Sudbury, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change Delivery and Environment, said: “The new administration at the county council is determined to tackle climate change and make the county an acknowledged centre of innovation in the process. Dealing with practical day to day obstacles that prevent people from being able to confidently purchase electric vehicles is one area where we would like to see progress.

“This project will support the delivery of our recently adopted Oxfordshire Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy, and the vision of the zero carbon transport system by 2050. We are on the lookout for residents to come forward as volunteers in Oxford City and Cherwell to take part in this trial with us

“Oxfordshire is ahead of the UK curve in its transition from petrol and diesel vehicles to cleaner, greener electric vehicles, with over 6000 electric and ‘ultra-low emissions vehicles’, currently on our roads.

“We know that electric vehicle uptake is going to increase in the next five years in Oxfordshire, but a lack of suitable charging can be a barrier, especially for the estimated 30-40 per cent of Oxfordshire residents who have no access to off-street parking and can’t install a home charger. This trial will have those people especially in mind. I look forward to seeing them begin.”

The project is the continuation of a successful 2020 scheme which ran in partnership with ODS, a Local Authority Trading Company, owned by Oxford City Council. ODS has a mission of ‘doing good business that’s good for everyone', by finding innovative ways to deliver profitable and sustainable growth that brings genuine benefits to people, communities and the planet.

The University of Oxford predicts that sales of electric vehicles is likely to reach approximately 90% of new vehicle sales by 2025 and 100% before 2030. This means by 2025, there could be up to 40,000 electric vehicles on Oxfordshire’s roads and 100,000 by 2035.

The new project will test on-street electric vehicle charging using a specially designed ‘gully’ or channel, installed into the pavement. The gully allows residents to safely connect their electric vehicle to their home electricity supply when parked outside their home.

The channel is seamlessly integrated into the pavement and has been designed so that cables will not cause a trip or slip hazard. Compared to installing electric charger bollards on the street, the arrangement causes less street clutter, especially where pavements are narrow, and it is much cheaper to install.

Connecting to a household’s own electricity supply means charging is cheaper and more convenient than using an on-street chargepoint, and also means that residents with solar panels can charge their EVs directly from their own renewable energy supply.

The design buils on the learning from the Go Ultrua Low Oxford - a project led by Oxford City Council in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council and funded by the Office for Low Emisssion Vehicles (OLEV).

The trial, which was described to of ‘global significance’, trialled five different charging technologies for 18 residents across Oxford. Phase 1 of the trial found that whilst there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for on-street charging, but that the combination of a home charger and simple cable gully solution was the cheapest and most highly utilised solution. 

ODS Head of Infrastructure, Sophie Hearn said: “We’re developing a deceptively simple solution which will immediately open up the choice of EV ownership to millions more. The phrase ‘game changer’ is bandied about all too often, yet this discreet option could significantly increase EV uptake and will make a difference to decarbonising Oxford.”

Councillor Mike Rowley, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focused Services, Oxford City Council said: “The future is electric and in order to help encourage EV take up, we need innovative and realistic solutions. How we address this is something that both Councils are exploring with our strategic plans for EV charging. I am delighted that ODS are building on the work of Go Ultra Low Oxford and are working to create this EV charging solution. In addition to their target to electrify at least 25 per cent of their fleet by 2023, this is one of the many examples of ODS doing good and working to help create a better future for everyone.”

The county council expects installations will start in December 2021-January 2022.

To qualify for the pilot, volunteers must have, or have frequent access to an EV or plug-in car or van, and must live in a property where they cannot park off the street. Volunteers must also be willing to take part in interviews, workshops and surveys as part of our research. Volunteers will be selected based on these requirements, assessment of the suitability of their property and other research factors.

The registration period for volunteers has now closed.