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Government preparing hunt for private electric vehicle charging fund manager

The government is preparing to procure the services of a private fund manager to raise £200 million in support of its electric vehicle charging infrastructure fund announced as part of November’s Budget.

In November, chancellor Philip Hammond made the surprise announcement that a £400 million charging infrastructure fund would be established to support the transition to zero emission vehicles.

Over the past six months, Clean Energy News can reveal that the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), which reports to the Treasury, has hosted around 50 meetings with private sector stakeholders, particularly fund managers, with at least 20 more planned.

These have been held to determine how best to deploy these funds, which will be made up of a £200 million cornerstone investment from government to be matched by private capital.

The launch of a formal Request for Proposals (RfP) has been slated for this summer to procure the private sector fund manager, although CEN understands this timeframe has been dubbed an ‘aim’ rather than a firm commitment.

The current investment perimeters being considered would see direct equity investment and potentially some debt investment used to fund the deployment of electric vehicle chargers by private sector companies via project-focused special purpose vehicles (SPVs).

All elements of charging infrastructure are being considered in the broadest definition however the focus will be on deployment rather than development of new charging options.

It is hoped that the new charging infrastructure fund will be established and in use at some point in 2019.

More information is expected to be included in the Department for Transport’s 'Road to Zero' strategy for reducing emissions from road transport. CEN has been told this could be released as early as next month however this could again be pushed back to later in the summer, but will contain a section on the charging infrastructure fund.

Private sector pushback

Despite grabbing headlines with the fund announcement back in November, opposition to the government’s involvement in the provision of charging infrastructure has been voiced in the months since.

Tom Callow, director of communication and strategy at Chargemaster, has stated that the private sector is delivering the number of chargers needed to accommodate the rise of EVs in the future.

“If the government really wants to throw money at charging it should throw it at the complex stuff like DNO connections that actually is the expensive slow bit of getting out infrastructure. That is where I would plead the government to throw money in, not trying to buy charge points and become a charge point operator, it makes no sense for government to get involved in that,” he said back in January.

There have also been concerns over where the charging infrastructure is likely to be placed, with Chargepoint’s European managing director Christopher Burghardt claiming low cost solutions could be located “in places where people don't actually have the use for it”.