Builders ‘lobbied against plan for electric car chargers in new homes in England’ | Automobile industry

Britain’s biggest housebuilders have privately lobbied the government to ditch rules requiring electric car chargers to be installed in every new home in England, documents reveal.

FTSE 100 construction firms Barratt Developments, Berkeley Group and Taylor Wimpey were among the companies to oppose the policy in responses to a formal consultation seen by the Guardian. The “blatant lobbying efforts” were criticized by Transport & Environment, a campaign group.

Replacing fossil fuel-powered cars with zero-emission models is seen by scientists, environmental activists and the government as the key to achieving net zero carbon emissions – alongside increased public and active transport. However, the lack of chargers is seen as a barrier to uptake.

Rules requiring all new homes to have a charger were announced by Boris Johnson in November 2021 as the flagship policy of a speech to business leaders. While details were obscured at the time, as the former prime minister meandered his speech with a riff on children’s cartoon character Peppa Pig, the government hopes the rules will see 145,000 charging points installed.

However, builders who responded expressed opposition to the policy, citing cost concerns. They also warned that mandatory installation could lock homeowners into outdated technology, that there could be a risk of electric shock with some car chargers and even that the plan could prevent owners from choosing between cars with different types of plugs used in Asia and Europe.

Taylor Wimpey warned that installing chargers could lead to fewer homes being built. “We see practical and economic challenges associated with the proposed approach,” he wrote, citing “significant uncertainty about economic costs.”

The Berkeley Group said it didn’t think chargers would be needed in every car park because people would charge at work or when “going to the gym”.

But auto industry leaders say home charging is more attractive to users because it removes the need to search for available power outlets during the day and because smart tariffs allow people to charge overnight when the energy is cheaper.

Builders argued that their responsibilities should end with the installation of “cable runs” in homes, which could then be used for charging points, saying this would avoid installing unused infrastructure. In most cases, these would be simple – and cheap – pipes or gutters that could later carry cables to parking lots.

Matt Finch, T&E’s UK policy director, said: “It is unreasonable for builders to try to hold back progress and slow the move towards net zero. In the future, all cars will be electric, and future-proofing new homes with charging infrastructure is an obvious step.

“The government should be applauded for standing up to these egregious lobbying efforts.”

Cost concerns were a common theme in builders’ warnings. Barratt said the mandatory chargers could cost up to £63m. Vistry Group, which recently changed its name from Bovis Homes, claimed the claim would cost the FTSE 250 company up to £14m.

Details of the lobbying efforts emerged in freedom of information disclosures obtained by the Guardian as part of the construction industry’s response to ministers consulting on new charge point rules in late 2019 – before the government introduced the measure.

Spokesmen for Berkeley Group and Taylor Wimpey said they supported moves to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles. Companies now install charging points in accordance with the law.

A spokesman for Taylor Wimpey said it had provided “constructive feedback” before the rules were introduced, while arguing that a “wired approach” would have reduced the “need to retrofit in the event of incompatible technology should EV charging technology progress”. . .

A Barratt spokesman said its view in 2019 was that there was “insufficient supply chain capacity to support the full deployment of electric vehicle charging points nationwide”. It has since worked with the government on regulations that give customers choice while “being practical for the industry to deliver at scale”.

Vistry did not respond to a request for comment.

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