The government has discreetly backtracked on plans to force every shop, office, or factory in England with a significant parking lot to have at a minimum of one electric car charger, triggering outrage from environmentalists. Every new and current non-residential facility with parking for 20 automobiles or more was required to install a charger under the original plan. As per response to a survey, the Department of Transport (DfT) has recently announced that it would only require chargers to be fitted in new or rebuilt commercial buildings, citing concerns about the expense to businesses.

The plan has sparked concerns in the auto industry and among specialists that public charging infrastructure would fall behind demand as sales of electric vehicles rise ahead of the 2035 ban on new fossil-fuelled ICE (internal combustion engines). According to industry data, a quarter of new cars purchased in the United Kingdom in November can be connected to recharge.

“Car parks are a great site for drivers of electric vehicles without driveways to charge,” said Greg Archer, who works as the UK director in charge of the Transport & Environment, a lobbying group. The government has wasted a simple opportunity to balance the charges available for far less privileged drivers who do park overnight on the road by failing to oblige business buildings having car parks to add a limited number of charge points.

“It’s absurd that a government determined to phase out conventional vehicles has failed to adopt its ideas from over two years ago, instead claiming that it needs more time to study the choices.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated last month that, starting next year, every new or remodeled residential structure will be required to have a charging port, calling the standards “world-leading.”

However, by dropping the need for existing non-residential buildings, the UK risks falling behind the EU, which is requiring existing buildings to provide charging cable lines by 2025. More ambitious criteria for existing car parks, such as a specific number of charges per parking place, could yet be imposed by the government. The Office for Zero-Emission Vehicles is reviewing feedback on a separate consultation on the future of transportation regulations that ended last month.

In its answer to the consultation, the Department for Transport stated that it sought to establish “a more targeted strategy” for existing non-residential structures. Despite concerns about the financial implications, the cost of constructing a charger point, which is around £1,500, can be recouped in several years by charging customers for electricity.

On cost considerations, the Department for Transport refused to reveal the names of those who opposed the policy. The most common issue in the consultation comments was a total absence of ambition in terms of the quantity of charging stations for larger premises. “Only a small minority of respondents expressed anxiety about who would pay.”  The Department for Transport stated that it would prepare an alternate policy.

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