March 13, 2022 6.00 am

Councillor calls for more electric car chargers as she opens up about “steep learning curve”

“If you’re going to make the change to an EV car, you’re going to have to rely on public charging”

A South Kesteven District councillor who has owned an electric car for nearly three months says the infrastructure just isn’t there in Lincolnshire as she opened up about her experience.

With petrol prices spiking rapidly following the cut-off of gas and oil supplies in Russia, amid outcry over its invasion of Ukraine, many might be looking to alternatives such as electric vehicles.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Amanda Wheeler said her newly-purchased Fiat 500 electric was a “fantastic car”and a “brilliant piece of equipment” and vowed to continue to use electric cars.

However, speaking from a fast-charging point in Cambridge, she told Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Jaines it had also turned her life “upside down” and created numerous complications she hadn’t been expecting.

“I’ve got about 30 different apps on my phone, I’m registered with loads of different providers… I can’t just get in my car and drive, I have to factor this in.

“It’s really the biggest learning curve – and I’ve changed careers and become a parent.

“I love it, but it’s extra challenging and extra logistics and I’ve learned to slow down a little because I have to make more stops and plan my journeys.”

Councillor Wheeler said she is “committed to climate action” and sits as chairman of Stamford  Town Council’s Climate Action Group.

The councillor, who works all around the country, said the biggest problem for her, was infrastructure and the variation in availability.

She said she was recently in Wandsworth where chargers were built into lampposts.

However, in her hometown of Stamford “there are no on-street charging points at all”.

She said there were four in each of SKDC’s car parks, but they were slow chargers which take about four hours to charge.

“The people that are really using them are residents. So they’re leaving their car to charge while they go home or overnight or whatever.

“It’s not massively convenient for visitors to Stamford but for residents it’s essential because there’s very little off-street parking and if you’re going to make the change to an EV car, you’re going to have to rely on public charging.”

Councillor Wheeler in her car. | Image: Supplied

She urged Lincolnshire County Council to bring in public charging on the streets, or to create dedicated parking bays on the streets.

“They don’t have to be fast chargers, they could put slow ones in if we don’t want a surge on the grid,” she said.

She is also calling on SKDC to increase the number of chargers in its car parks, particularly ahead of the government’s aim to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

Councillor Wheeler said she had one hairy moment where she had been unable to find a charger while travelling and nearly ran out of charge on a journey to Watford and back.

The average Fiat 500 can cost up to and above £30,000 but Councillor Wheeler bought hers on a hire purchase leasing agreement.

It usually costs her around £10-12 to charge in Stamford, though some workplaces, hotels and supermarkets offer free charging, however, it can take around 45minutes to an hour on a fast charger meaning a bit of waiting around compared to a petrol car.

However, she can drive up to 200 miles on a full charge.

Despite the steep learning curve – including a wide array of charger types and connections – Councillor Wheeler said she would still recommend buying an electric car.

“The joy I have from driving this car, and the feeling I get that I’m doing the right thing [for the environment], just supersedes all the horrors and anxiety.”

Lincolnshire County Council has recently adopted its Local Transport Plan which includes the Lincolnshire Electric Vehicle Strategy.

Data within the strategy shows there are 2,963 ultra low emission vehicles in Greater Lincolnshire of which 21% are registered in South Kesteven.

The district had 37 chargers in 2021, but there is an aim for between 304 to 1,114 to be there by 2030.

Across Greater Lincolnshire, the council is aiming to have facilitated between 2,106 and 7,708 chargers.

However, leaders have said there are issues in grid capacity which prohibit growth at the moment.

Councillor Richard Davies, executive member for highways at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “As demand for electric vehicles continues to rise, we will support the installation of EV charging points where we can, including through enabling private-sector investment, working with local groups to support community-based charging points, and exploring options to move to electric within our own fleet.

“Whilst demand does continue to grow, it’s important to emphasise that currently, the grid won’t support a huge volume of charging, so underlying supply issues need to be addressed.”

Cllr Mark Whittington, SKDC’s Cabinet Member for Waste and Climate Change said: “South Kesteven District Council has so far installed 12 electric vehicle charging points in our car parks within the district.

“We believe the provision of these, along with other publicly available charge points, encourages the ongoing transition to electric vehicles for residents and visitors to this area while also supporting our wider climate change ambitions.

“To enable us to install further charge points in areas of highest demand, we are collating usage data from all the recently installed charge points and will use this information, along with available grants, to help choose areas where future installations could be focused.

“The capacity of the national grid remains a particular challenge for installing new charge points.

“We continue to review this, alongside maintaining engagement with the highways authority to encourage and facilitate future installations across South Kesteven.”