In a two-part series, IP Harbour explores the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018  which received Royal Assent in July.  The Act is a marked step in furthering the UK in its ambition to tackle climate change by improving electric charging infrastructure across the country and modernising insurance rules to cover self-driving vehicles.

Roads Minister, Jesse Norman, describes the Act as ensuring “that the UK’s infrastructure and insurance system is ready for the biggest transport revolution in a century”. Part 1 looked at the liability of insurers in relation to automated vehicles (AVs). This Part 2 looks at the UK’s infrastructure for electronic and hydrogen powered vehicles.

The Act aims to ensure that charge points are readily available to the public, and enables the Secretary of State to enact regulations which require operators of public charging points to provide specific payment methods and methods of access to charging points. Regulations will also state the required methods of connection, availability of charging points and performance maintenance. This includes requiring large service stations to provide public charge points and guarantee availability at particular times of the day.

The Act also details the need for interoperability (the exchange of information via various computer systems) and aims to ensure that charge points are compatible with all vehicles. There is also an obligation to have specific component connections. This builds upon the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulations 2017 which requires all charge points from November 2018 onwards to be available to Electronic Vehicles (EV) without a pre-existing contract. This is likely to be welcomed by EV users as currently payment methods vary – the main bug bear being that most require an account to be set up prior to charging.

The Act places an obligation (rather than enables) the Secretary of State to consider any requests by city Mayors in relation to certain regulations they deem to be required for their specific area. It is only an obligation to consider the requests, and these are likely to be in relation to charging points for smaller petrol stations.

The Act also specifies which information should be available to users at charging points, including charge point data and smart meter data. Smart charge points interact with the grid and based on intelligent algorithms can decide how much power will be supplied at specific times to enable the management of excessive demand at peak times. If charging can be controlled so that tolerances are not exceeded on the grid during peak time, EV users will also see benefits such as “EV tariffs” which will make electric bills cheaper.

The Government launched its Road to Zero initiative as part of its Industrial Strategy, which details the government’s approach to improving its green infrastructure. A key part of this is to reduce emissions, with the Government aiming to have half of new cars produced by 2030 to be low-emission. By 2040 the UK will stop selling new petrol and diesel cars and vans.

The Act could be criticised as being too vague, especially with there being no indication of a commencement date. On a more positive note, the Act does go some way into setting the direction for the UK be a world leader in the zero-emission revolution and improving the economy as a result.

It is perhaps, no coincidence that the Act comes in prior to the UK hosting the first ever zero-emissions vehicle summit on 11 and 12 September 2018. Attendees to the Birmingham event will include ministers, industry leaders and sector representatives from around the world and by hosting the event the UK is at the forefront of what looks to be interesting economic times.