Safe switch to EVs
In December 2020, the Scottish Government brought forward the phasing-out of sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles to 2030 as part of its wider policy to decarbonise transport by 2045. Here, leading charity Electrical Safety First explains what it is doing to help ensure a safe transition for the electric car revolution
Last October, Electrical Safety First undertook research that included a look at Scotland’s adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles. Our research contributes to further policies, campaigns and tools we have been developing to support consumers and industry in our move to a low-carbon economy. Not surprisingly, all our activities emphasise the need to use suitably qualified and competent installers – and the electrification of heat and transport heightens their importance.
Our survey found approximately 12% of Scotland’s drivers use an electric vehicle (EV) or hybrid, while around a third claimed their next new car would be one. To ensure the mainstreaming of EVs, it’s essential that drivers have access to convenient and reliable charging points, so these are now being installed in various Scottish locations, from supermarkets to motorway services. But, as expected, most people would prefer to be able to charge their EV at home.
Apart from convenience, home-based charging, particularly if it’s undertaken overnight, is usually cheaper. Dedicated home EV charging points are also safer and quicker than using a domestic plug and socket — they communicate directly with the car and provide a higher power output, allowing a faster charge. However, of all those intending to buy an EV or hybrid within the next decade, more than 19% said they wouldn’t install a home charging point and of these, over 15% blamed the expense.
Around half the respondents to our survey were not planning to make their next car an EV/hybrid, with a third of these giving the cost of installing a home charging point as the reason.
But almost another third quoted a lack of public charging points where they live, or on their regular travel.
Inevitably, a lack of convenient access to charging points means some will ignore a real risk of electric shock, or fire, when charging their car in an unsafe way. More than 60% of the Scottish EV/hybrid owners we surveyed admitted to unsafe charging practices. This includes charging the vehicle from the household mains to ‘daisy-chaining’ extension leads unsuitable for outdoor use, and in doing so creating considerable ‘slip and trip’ hazards from trailing across pavements and footpaths.
In previous research, undertaken in Scotland in 2019, we found 74% of those charging their EV via a household domestic socket blamed a lack of easy access to public charging points.
While new build homes can, and must, plan for the electrification of transport, retrofitting existing ones will be more difficult. In Scotland, around 60% of people live in flats, tenements and terraced housing, where parking options are limited – a particular problem for high-density, multi-storey accommodation.
Installing a home charging point can also be especially problematic for tenants in the private rented sector (PRS). Landlord permission is required before installation and, for various reasons (a concern over insurance, perhaps), this may not be forthcoming. Currently, 14% of Scottish households live in the PRS, and flats account for 67% of all dwellings rented from PRS landlords.
To help address this, and other safety issues related to the mainstreaming of EVs in Scotland, Electrical Safety First offers a series of recommendations in a policy paper, Plugging into the Future. These include calling on the Scottish Government to establish national standards for the EV charging infrastructure, while ensuring local authorities (LAs) can tailor requirements for local needs.
Scotland’s public charging network must keep pace with demand, which requires a strong response and coordination from government. However, the barriers for drivers lacking private parking, or inadequate on-street infrastructure, must also be acknowledged. If not, many without easy access to EV charge points will resort to unsafe charging practices.
So our recommendations include a change to building regulations, to ensure dedicated charging points are installed in all new builds with parking spaces.
This recommendation has been included in the Scottish Government’s consultation on the building regulations, which closed last November.
We are also calling for an amendment to the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004, to allow a tenant or co-owner to install a charging point — without needing consent or ensuring consent cannot reasonably be withheld. And we would like the Scottish Secure Tenancy Agreement updated, in collaboration with landlords and their insurers, so it’s easier for tenants to get EV charging points installed – by a competent and skilled electrician of course.
We believe current government policy, such as the ‘Housing to 2040’ strategy, the new Housing Standards (which covers all tenures), and the Private Rented Sector Strategy, can be used to develop an effective domestic charging infrastructure.
For LAs, we recommend focusing on more on-street charging, including ‘charging hubs’ in areas of high-density housing. However, decisions must involve local residents and people should be provided with appropriate information to make safe and effective choices.
So a key element in our work will be a continued emphasis on the importance of appropriately registered and qualified installers. Because, while transitioning to net zero is critical, it can’t come at the cost of consumer safety.
Boost for charging points
The Scottish Government recently announced plans to double the number of public EV charging points in Scotland with a new £60 million fund.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said the proposal would ensure charging points were installed in remote and deprived areas, with half the money coming from the private sector.
He said: “We can anticipate this investment doubling the size of Scotland’s existing network of charging points over the next few years.
“This new fund will draw in and smooth commercial investment so that the future charging network is there to work for everyone.”
However, Mr Matheson acknowledged that meeting demand would be “a significant challenge because it’s a significant piece of infrastructure that needs to be put in place”.
The ChargePlace Scotland network currently provides 2,100 public charging points around Scotland. There are also an estimated 14,000 domestic units and 1,400 in businesses.
EV Charging Equipment Installation level 3 award
SELECT’s Training team currently runs the Level 3 Award in Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment Installation, also known as course number 324.
Aimed at qualified electricians interested in understanding how to install the current range of EV charging equipment, this two-day City & Guilds course covers the specialised installation requirements of public, private and commercial locations and also includes guidance on electrical requirements.
The candidate will be assessed by a multiple-choice test and practical assessment after covering a range of knowledge and skills including:
Key requirements relating to EV charging equipment.
Advantages and disadvantages of different types of EV charging arrangements and equipment.
Planning and preparation for design and installation of EV charging equipment.
Requirements for inspection, testing, commissioning and handover of EV charging equipment.
Installing EV charging equipment for domestic, commercial and industrial locations.
Inspection, testing, commissioning and handover of EV charging equipment.
The course is designed for electricians with a minimum of 18th Edition qualification who are able to demonstrate these competencies:
Correctly install and terminate PVC/PVC cable (twin and earth)
Correctly install and terminate steel wire armoured (SWA) cable
Carry out an initial verification (inspection and testing) on an electrical installation and complete the necessary paperwork.
Courses are held at West College Scotland, Paisley and Fife College in Glenrothes. The course fee is £345 plus VAT for SELECT Members and £425 plus VAT for non-Members.
For available dates, please see visit the Training section on the SELECT website at www.select.org.uk