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The Future of Roads - The Parking Problem

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You may or may not have heard of ‘Road to Zero’. It’s the government’s plan to become a world leader in zero and ultra-low emission vehicle technology, and one of the plans primary ambitions is for at least 50% of all new car sales to be ultra-low emission or better by 2030.

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE…

Electric Vehicles are coming, and there doesn’t seem to be anything slowing their arrival down. Having a plan for this future is worthwhile, and it’s an admirable ambition to be a world leader in their uptake given the benefits they can offer.

To realise this eventuality and encourage the uptake of EV’s by the masses, a raft of measures were proposed to that effect:

  • A push for chargepoints to be installed in newly built homes, where appropriate, and new lampposts to include charging points, potentially providing a massive expansion of the plug-in network
  • The launch of a £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund to help accelerate the roll-out of charging infrastructure by providing funding to new and existing companies that produce and install charge points. The request for proposal to appoint a fund manager will be launched in the summer
  • Creating a new £40 million programme to develop and trial innovative, low cost wireless and on-street charging technology
  • Providing up to £500 for electric vehicle owners to put in a charge point in their home through the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme. And an increase in the value of grants available to workplaces to install chargepoints so people can charge when they are at work
  • The extension of the Plug-In Car and Van Grants to at least October 2018 at current rates, and in some form until at least 2020, allowing consumers to continue to make significant savings when purchasing a new electric vehicle
  • The launch of an Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce to bring together the energy and automotive industries to plan for the increase in demand on energy infrastructure that will result from a rise in the use of electric vehicles

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A key measure from this list is making the installation of charging points in all new homes and offices mandatory, removing a significant obstacle to EV ownership in the long term. The £500 grant offered to existing homes needing to install a charging point is also helpful.

However, a large proportion of the nation has to park their cars on the street, not in drives or garages - so it was also welcome to see the provision extended to incorporating charging points in all new street lamps in future.  It also has the effect of putting more a bit more at stake in the fight for a place to park your car.

Further to this is the £40m research fund to explore wireless and on-street charging technology. Interestingly part of this will be used to explore the use of wireless underground charging pads.

These would potentially work in the same way wireless phone chargers do, by utilising induction to charge EV batteries without needing to plug them in.

This is mightily convenient as we’d never have to visit a refuelling station again other than on exceptionally long journeys, and even then it would be a case of parking up for lunch while the car does it’s thing.

Although some details would have to be worked out, such as who and how it’s paid for, I think it’s fair to say it would be a good example of technology making everyone’s life a bit easier.

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...BUT FORGETTING ABOUT THE PRESENT

Now, all this road side charging does sound great and all, but one downside is it would bring forward the ignition time on the parking time bomb that’s been continuing to tick along unabated and unchecked for years.

Parking is already a major problem in most towns and cities, and for charging pads and lamp post outlets to work spaces would have to be specifically marked out - and more importantly, resized for modern cars.

Cars have continued to grow in size as like for like models incorporate more and more technology with each new update and generation, and the nations preference for SUVs is also showing no sign of fading.

As larger cars naturally take up more space (shocking, I know) these factors would result in a true reduction in the number of parking spaces available - which are already in short supply.

Add to this the increasing number of cars on the road, with a greater ratio of cars to people than there’s ever been before - all fighting to park their cars for the 96% of the time they’re not actually in motion.

If new technology like those proposed is to be realised, densely populated areas are going to have to get quite inventive with how they plan on solving the issue – beyond doling out the usual charges and fees as a discouragement.

Congestion charging may work to keep non-essential drivers away from primarily commercial and business focused districts, but when you can’t park outside your own home in a vehicle you need to get to work I don’t think the idea of paying even more to do so is going to fly so well.

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