Designing schemes that cater for electric cars

With the prevalence of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) increasing, and with pure combustion vehicles to be banned in the UK after 2040, modern building design will have to take this relatively new technology into account in the coming years. The UK Department of Transport (DoT) is currently proposing that it be compulsory for all newly built houses, apartments and offices to have external charging points installed.

Governments and the car industry are pivoting towards EVs because they offer an increasingly sophisticated and environmentally sustainable alternative to polluting and CO2-producing petrol or diesel. With a large proportion of the UK's electricity supply now derived from natural renewable sources, such as wind and water, as well as from nuclear energy, the use of EVs will aid the move away from non-renewable fossil fuels, help reduce urban air pollution and contribute in the fight against man-made climate change.

EVs are powered by a battery-driven motor, which can generate most or all of the necessary power required. These obviously require a source of electricity for recharging, and the charging requirements can differ by vehicle – fully electric vehicles have less range than hybrid vehicles which are still partly powered, if necessary, by fossil fuel sources.

There are now over 30,000 charge points across the UK and it will soon become commonplace for vehicles to be charged at the owner’s home, at the office, in the hotel or shopping centre car park, or at lampposts along the street (a third of British homes have no off-street parking, and proposals have been put forward by the DoT to retrofit lampposts to cater for off-street parking).

That brings a number of challenges for designers and contractors – in particular, how to distribute electricity efficiently within a built environment in a way which avoids the grid being overloaded by demand at key points (such as if everyone charges their cars as soon as they get home from work). Variables such as the differing needs of, for example, taxis, freight lorries and urban run-around cars, will need to be considered also.

Building design needs to be future-proofed for EV charging now – we need to build in a manner which allows adaptation to future EV charging requirements – making sure that the size and format is correct, building in methods of efficiently storing energy to avoid grid overloading and researching the best battery storage technology.

Owners of new buildings which do not incorporate this technology will very quickly find that they need to be expensively retrofitted – and that would be a major failure on the part of today’s developers and designers. By building with EVs in mind right now, a lot of unnecessary cost and hassle can be avoided.

Nick Thursby (BA (Hons) Dip Arch RIBA)

Director, UK

Nick joined Chapman Taylor’s London studio in 1999 and worked on the award-winning Princesshay scheme in Exeter before joining the UK Concept Design team.

He was jointly responsible for establishing Chapman Taylor’s Bristol studio in 2012 and, as a UK Board Director, is now responsible for the ongoing development and management of this part of the UK business. Nick also leads Chapman Taylor’s Sustainability Group, responsible for researching best-practice environmental design initiatives and innovation.

He has 20 years’ experience spanning all project stages.

Areas of expertise:

Retail / Residential / Mixed-use / Concept Design / Detailed Design / Sustainability

Nick joined Chapman Taylor’s London studio in 1999 and worked on the award-winning Princesshay, Exeter scheme before joining the UK concept design team.

He was jointly responsible for establishing Chapman Taylor’s Bristol studio in 2013 and as a UK Board Director is now responsible for the ongoing development and management of this part of the UK business. Nick also leads Chapman Taylor’s Sustainability Group responsible for researching best-practice environmental design initiatives and innovation.

He has 20 years’ experience spanning all project stages.

Areas of expertise:

Retail / Residential / Mixed-use / Concept Design / Detailed Design / Sustainability

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