In 2018, we decided to take a key step in improving air quality across the West Yorkshire combined region and pledged to make West Yorkshire a net-zero carbon economy by 2038.
To protect the health of residents and to deliver our target, we needed a solution that would not only improve air quality but at the same time, develop transport networks that are vital to supporting inclusive growth. We were keen to ensure that any solution also included the provision of green energy and supported residents in the switch to greener transport.
With transport accounting for 40% of total carbon emissions, in the Summer of 2018, we began to develop a regional electric vehicle charging programme, with the ambition to encourage taxi drivers, business owners and the public to adopt electric vehicles (EV).
We proposed a network of 88 charging points across the West Yorkshire region, all placed in convenient locations, such as city-centre car parks and supermarkets. A large number of charge points were selected to address 'range anxiety', a key concern of drivers who were hesitant to make the switch to EV.
To fund the development of the network, we were able to secure almost £2 million from the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles for the project and we provided an additional £1.2 million in matched funding. To deliver the charging network, we selected EQUANS as the Charge Point Network Operator, to supply, install and deliver the charging network.
For every charging point installed, EQUANS delivered two bays – one which is specifically for taxis and private hire vehicles and the second for all other users. Each of the 88 chargers is powered by 100% renewable energy.
To help drive EV uptake in the area and to support the public and local businesses in the transition to EV, EQUANS provided free of charge energy for all drivers. The chargers remained free to use for over two years, until 29th October 2021. Since launch, the charging points have provided more than nine million free miles to over 10,000 registered drivers.
Before launching the project, we carried out extensive research to inform the design of the charging network and forecast the success of the programme. We were able to predict that around 500 diesel taxis and private hire cars could be converted to hybrid and pure electric vehicles as a result of us rolling out these charge points, which would have a significant, positive impact on transport pollution levels. These forecasts enabled us to secure almost £2 million in funding from the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles.
The design of an electric vehicle charging programme is a significant project and therefore, required that we spent some time looking at successful schemes in other regions. London had recently rolled out a successful network, so we were able to take inspiration and lessons learnt from their project and implement these learnings into the design of the West Yorkshire network.
As a combined authority, we focus heavily on listening to the needs of our residents, which is why we were keen to ensure that the network design was influenced by the public and those who would be using the charge points. To gather these insights, we held a series of focus groups with the support of EQUANS. These focus groups enabled us to speak directly to taxi drivers, in order to understand their needs and concerns. This uncovered several learnings that we were able to implement, such as the need for rapid charging in key taxi pick-up locations.
The programme development involved extensive cooperation from several parties due to the scale of the project. Working closely with EQUANS, we ensured all key stakeholders were informed and engaged throughout.
Since its launch, the partnership has achieved significant milestones, with over 2,164 tonnes of CO2 saved by drivers. The chargers have also dispensed more than 2.7 million kilowatt hours of green energy – enough to power a typical EV around the planet 380 times.
The network of chargers has also supported Leeds City Council with the launch of their EV Trials Programme. The programme helps organisations to understand the benefits of electric vehicles and make a business case for switching to greener transport options, by allowing local organisations to borrow an EV.
Recent data from the Department for Transport has suggested that since the scheme was introduced, the purchase of ultra-low emission vehicles in West Yorkshire has risen by 162%. The region also now boasts the most rapid EV chargers across any county (excluding London); suggesting the scheme has raised awareness of low emission vehicles and promoted purchase.
Total number of free miles provided.
Total CO2 savings.
Total kWh dispensed of green energy.