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The future for government/private collaboration in EV infrastructure

Image: Hybrid forum at Bow Bells House London in operation with (on screen) Matthew Vickerstaff (IPA), Neil Slater (abrdn), Lloyd Lee (Yoo Capital), Craig Wright (abrdn), Iain Jenkinson (CBRE), Owain Lloyd-James (Historic England), Gareth Mason (Stride Treglown) and Gavin King (Chapman Taylor) - and (in room from left) - Ben Walker (LDA Design), Fred Pilbrow (Pilbrow & Partners), Heather Fearfield (Future Cities Forum), Simon Moscow (abrdn), Angela Dapper (Grimshaw) and Gavin Miller (MICA Architects)

Future Cities Forum was very grateful to abrdn PLC for hosting our recent debate 'The Making of the Modern City' in London with the Infrastructure & Projects Authority. The discussions, which involved senior investors, developers, planners and architects, focussed in part on the future success of the continued roll out of EV infrastructure.

The discussions were held the morning after an announcement by Shell of the opening of its first dedicated EV infrastructure charging forecourt in Fulham London, and the debate included the important issue of the best private/public collaboration to be designed in ensuring that the UK meets its climate action targets.

The Fulham electric hub replaces a petrol station forecourt, where drivers can re-charge in ten minutes using 100% renewable electricity through nine ultra-rapid175kW points.

Deputy Chief Executive of the IPA, Matthew Vickerstaff said:

‘The levelling- up paper from Michael Gove will come out at end of the month and it will be a really important document from a city development, mayoral authority perspective, and how central government works together with devolved local authorities.

‘Also, it’s three years since we at the IPA launched the EV charging infrastructure fund. We spent nine months doing market soundings, and then we went out to the private sector putting £200 million into a pot and saying can you match it?

‘Almost three years ago, there was lots of uncertainty about the electric vehicle market – the classic range anxiety, and also Jeremy Clarkson saying 2028 would be earliest for an EV for him but now he has one!

‘What that taught us was that there is no single solution, no fixed way of addressing EV and predicting how the market will evolve. This has created a tension between private and public sectors. What we often hear from the private sector is ‘can’t you just mandate this? Why not phase out petrol and diesel faster?’

‘Frankly, there is a lot of similarity with a fund we created for ultra-fast broadband with the turning off of copper wire. EV is more complicated. We established it with a sovereign wealth fund (Mubadala) as anchor investor, then raised additional money from the fund manager Zouk so we now have £450 million of available money to put into EV infrastructure charging. This could be for technology solutions, universal adaptors, or the underlying infrastructure - we have not been prescriptive.

‘Since we closed this fund, the pace of the investment has picked up, from Shell and BP who from an energy transition perspective are keen to show their ability to move but we have also seen other private equity investors grasping the nettle to invest in organisations which are working with cities to develop EV capability…but it’s really early.

'My main point is that I don’t think government should be prescriptive but rather should create the right environment so we can work with local authorities, shopping centres, fleet operators, universities, to ensure capital is available but there are regulatory issues to iron out. Zouk has invested in Instavolt, but also in fixed infrastructure in other cities and we can see networks growing and developing. Investor Infracapital and other funds are deploying capital, and solutions are being developed.

Head of National Planning at CBRE, Iain Jenkinson, commented on this trend:

'We have gone from early adopters of space and land for EV charging with grocery retailers leading the charge, but now it's has become an asset class in its own right, sought by opportunistic developers. It doesn't matter whether it's city centre, historic places or greenfield sites.

News was also announced by the BBC on the morning of Future Cities Forum's debate at abrdn, of Google's investment of £730m to re-invigorate its offices, saying that it wanted to increase its UK capacity by 50%, expanding its headcount from six to ten thousand. Google's idea is to create less densely populated offices, more hybrid meeting rooms and covered outdoor spaces to work in.

Iain Jenkinson described his own take on the trend of employees returning to the office in a flexible fashion:

'2021 saw a real bounce back from the leasing and advisory perspective for CBRE and 2022 looks as if it will get better than pre-pandemic levels, so I think that many are looking at bringing offices back into play, like Google. Prime assets in important locations will be driven upwards.

'However, a key feature is that there is no settled model for hybrid working, and a third of our clients will try new flex working this year. There will be a natural settling down overtime. Alongside pay and bonus the ability to flex will be just as important for new joiners to the workplace.

'The de-densification of offices is progressing with Covid-19 exacerbating the trend as health, wellness, and safety have become of great importance. The net effect will be that new office development will balance out before returning to a healthier position.'

Image below: Shell all electric charging forecourt in Fulham, London (Courtesy Shell)


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