Legal

How will the fossil fuel car ban affect new buildings?

29 February 2020 | By Megan Coulton

Bringing forward the ban on petrol and diesel car sales will likely mean increased provision for EV charging infrastructure, explains Megan Coulton.

Megan Coulton

The government decision to bring forward the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to 2035 – or even 2032, according to some reports – has implications for how new buildings and infrastructure will be constructed.

In 15 years, the only new cars on sale will be electric or hydrogen – hybrids are also being outlawed – but the cost of electric vehicles (EVs) and the lack of charging infrastructure remain significant barriers to wider take-up.

Two legislative proposals to be implemented in 2020 seek to address this. The first key change addresses infrastructure. To develop the necessary charging infrastructure, the government recently consulted on changes to the Building Regulations to require electric charging infrastructure in new buildings and those undergoing major renovations.

This builds on the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018, which legislates for the installation of chargepoints in motorway service areas and large fuel retailers and aims to introduce a consistent approach to charging infrastructure in buildings across the country.

The consultation (see below), which closed in October 2019, proposed changes which will have a significant impact on all buildings in England (Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have their own arrangements) and are likely to go a long way to achieving government intentions of making chargepoints widely available (particularly for new residential buildings).

“Securing the necessary power capacity at an early stage is likely to become increasingly important, and decisions on cable routes, equipment and installers need early consideration.”

For some, it will be business as usual, but for others the challenge is to adapt to these new requirements on scale – and to do so rapidly. Securing the necessary power capacity at an early stage is likely to become increasingly important, and decisions on cable routes, specification of equipment, and choice of installers/operators need early consideration.

The second change is aimed at accelerating the transition to EVs. Draft legislation published by the Treasury last summer reduces the benefit in kind tax rate for electric company cars to 0% from 6 April 2020 (set to remain at low levels through to 2021/22). This adds to existing tax benefits for low emission vehicles, including exemptions from vehicle excise duty, lower VAT rates on electricity (compared to petrol/diesel), and ability to participate in salary sacrifice schemes.

If the government’s joined-up policy approach on EVs increases uptake, then attention will turn to chargepoints. The commercial property market is already seeing early adopters, particularly in the retail and leisure sectors, but will the infrastructure keep up with demand? Let’s see what the Budget on 11 March brings.

Megan Coulton is an associate at Trowers & Hamlins

Building Regulations consultation on EV infrastructure: key recommendations

All new residential buildings with associated car parking spaces each to have a chargepoint. This would include buildings undergoing a material change of use to create a dwelling.

Every residential building undergoing major renovation with more than 10 car parking spaces to have one chargepoint, and cable routes for EV chargepoints in every space.

Every new non-residential building and non-residential building undergoing a major renovation with more than 10 car parking spaces to have one chargepoint and cable routes for an EV chargepoint for one in five spaces.

At least one chargepoint in existing non-residential buildings with more than 20 car parking spaces, applicable from 2025 (to be implemented in separate legislation).

Some exemptions are proposed, including for listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas – and where installation costs exceed particular thresholds.

The revised Building Regulations are expected in the first half of 2020.

Comments

Like many people, I live in a terraced house with no off road parking. I often have to park some distance from my house. How would I be supposed to charge my car at night? The road is full of cars so there is nowhere for a communal charging area.

Graham Turner, 4 March 2020

The measure is doomed to fail, given the large swathes of so many towns and cities which will simply not be set up to accommodate the required charging infrastructure.

Unless that is the point of course, one way or the other?

Charles, 6 March 2020

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