Case study (UK): Inclusive access in electric vehicle charging

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Publication date

Industry sector

Distribution Network

A project run by distribution network operator SP Energy Networks is exploring the benefits of a network approach to speeding up the availability of universally accessible public electric vehicle (EV) charging in Scotland, particularly in rural and high social deprivation areas or areas with low levels of off-street parking. 

This case study is provided by Louise Addison, Policy and Economics Analyst at SP Energy Networks.

  1. The challenge

    Electric Vehicle (EV) ownership today is largely concentrated among households and businesses who have their own garages or driveways, so charging needs are mostly served by private domestic energy supplies. For others without these facilities, EV ownership and access to greener transport options can be more difficult due to few public charging points.

    Although it is widely agreed that EV charging infrastructure must be available for all, the roll-out of public EV charging remains low. This is partly due to the current scale of EV take up right now which creates a low investment incentive for commercial EV charging operators in many areas.

  2. The approach

    SP Energy Networks’ Project PACE was a £7.5m innovation project (including £5.3 million of Scottish Government funding) launched in 2019 to demonstrate the strategic benefits of an alternative public EV charger delivery model in areas where the market isn’t delivering.

    The project explored how distribution network operators (DNOs) could lead faster and better value deployment of universally accessible public EV charging points than current approaches in a pilot covering two local authority areas of Lanarkshire in Scotland. We think that the DNO ‘provider of last resort’ regime in our licence, which allows DNOs to deliver public EV charging infrastructure where the market is failing to do so, will be key to ensuring there are no gaps in the public EV charging network. This is particularly important as the UK moves more and more towards sustainable transport. Additionally, by owning and operating the charging infrastructure for a five-year period, DNOs can act as a market stimulus supporting more EV usage.

    The project particularly focused on making sure communities don’t get left behind in the rollout of public EV charging points, such as in rural and high social deprivation areas or areas with low off-street parking. It also looked at how charging hubs could support EV adoption by groups that provide critical services to customer groups who may never own an EV.

    Through the project, we’ve delivered 44 universally accessible EV charging hubs. Once commissioned, all chargers became the responsibility of the relevant Local Authority and were registered and run on the Charge Place Scotland grid network.

    SP Energy Networks invested £500k of our Green Economy Fund (GEF) to carry out a comprehensive site selection process, which included assessing network availability, environmental issues and land ownership, to identify optimal locations for public EV charging hubs.

  3. Impact and outcomes

    The first step in Project PACE was completing a detailed DNO-led ‘optioneering’ study. We selected sites collaboratively, combining our extensive knowledge of the network and operating environment with key stakeholder input to ensure local community needs were met.

    In doing so we expect to have brought significant time savings in infrastructure role out by identifying optimum sites, eliminating problematic sites and agreeing in principle upfront planning and land rights. The first hub was live less than 12 months after the project launch, with all hubs delivered in the following 12 months despite the pandemic.

    Additionally, investing £500k from SP Energy Network’s GEF has enabled Project PACE to forecast savings of £30k to £60k per site in connection costs alone. This represents around £2.6m (including VAT) savings across 44 EV charging hubs overall (a reduction of between 50% and 66%). We have forecast that to scale Project Pace methods across the UK for public charging infrastructure would cost approximately £94 million, but could save £310 million in potential avoided connection costs.

    The project sped up delivery of 44 charging hubs, totalling 173 individual EV chargers, and increased the number of Charge Place Scotland EV chargers in Lanarkshire by over 200%. These chargers are expected to support the needs of 5,000 more EVs in the area, enabling a potential carbon reduction saving of over 6,200 tonnes CO2 per year.

    Of the 173 EV chargers, we installed 50 standard, 62 fast and 61 rapid chargers to suit charging requirements across our different communities, with an accessible bay at each charging hub. We used our EV-Up Project database to inform our decisions. The database forecasts EV uptake on our network using key indicators, such as off-street parking, combined with demographic information such as age profiling and economic activity.

    Project PACE, supported by GEF, has also facilitated around £1 million EVs, including minibuses, vans and people carriers, for six local community transport groups across Lanarkshire with the location of some EV charging hubs supporting community projects.

    SP Energy Networks delivered Project PACE assets safely, securely and responsibly. This included ensuring suitable earthing arrangements were considered for public safety. We also ensured that ongoing inspection and maintenance was carried out to a high standard. For example, many of the hub installations required mitigating actions to be taken to avoid the risk of touch potential between the charger hub equipment and other street furniture.

To find out more about the project, see the following factsheets on Project PACE and Project CHARGE, or contact SP Energy Networks at

See also, University of Strathclyde EV reports:

Consumer benefits

1. Cost and time efficiencies in local transport planning

Project PACE has highlighted the benefits of involving DNOs in strategic site selection, enabling local authorities to deliver plans in a timely, universally accessible and cost-effective way. We forecast that to scale Project Pace methods across the UK for public charging infrastructure would cost approximately £94 million, but could save £310 million in potential avoided connection costs.

2. No communities left behind

There will be areas of the UK where EV uptake is forecast to be low, such as in rural locations and areas of deprivation. There is a risk that these low uptake communities, who are often more vulnerable, could end up subsidising the EV transition. Tools such as DNO-led optioneering can help ensure community needs are accommodated and that communities are served by public EV charging infrastructure and accessible decarbonised transportation.