Comment: Public sector can power EV adoption

Gareth Smith, category manager at ESPO (Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation), discusses the role of the public sector in bringing about the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) and a new purchasing framework launched by his organisation to help drive this forward.

This summer saw the UK’s EVs agenda become turbo-charged. As a result, crucial breakthroughs in delivering the charging infrastructure needed for EVs are also gathering pace with inspiration coming from a surprising sector: public sector procurement.

With the number of EVs newly registered in the UK reaching around 110,000 this year (a 30-fold increase over 2013), the ability to charge in workplaces, on streets and at home is becoming more critical.

Increasing the amount of charging points will help ensure drivers of EVs can top up their charge when they need to and will reduce any fear that their vehicle won’t reach its destination; commonly known as ‘range anxiety’. Government funding is also fuelling this growth in the popularity of EVs, with grants available to both electric vehicle drivers and owners of charging equipment.

There are currently around 13,000 charge points in the UK and it is expected that the public sector will take the lead in offering EV charging equipment to its staff and customers to encourage the general public to follow suit and take advantage of the cost savings and environmental benefits.

Public sector buyers are often hampered by the time it takes to purchase goods like charge points due to the time consuming tendering and pre-vetting process that needs to take place before orders can be placed. Framework agreements can offer a way to shortcut the process and cut the bureaucracy. Established in 1981, ESPO has the purchasing power to achieve savings to pass on to customers and is jointly owned by its six member authorities: Leicestershire County Council, Lincolnshire County Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, Norfolk County Council, Warwickshire County Council, and Peterborough City Council.

The Vehicle Charging Infrastructure framework (636) was launched in July by ESPO and is available for UK public sector bodies to utilise.

The framework gives buyers access to the key brands in the ever-growing EV charging market from 15 UK-based suppliers and covers a wide spectrum of equipment. For example, standard, fast and rapid chargers are available via purchase or lease, and with back office networks where required. There is also a range of emerging technologies on offer such as battery energy storage, ‘vehicle 2 grid’ chargers, solar car port chargers and chargers for buses.

This is a positive move for the public sector. Until the launch of this framework, the public sector had to struggle with either running procurement processes themselves from scratch or using frameworks which were not fit for purpose. We have created the Vehicle Charging Infrastructure framework to specifically cover this equipment and its installation to make it as easy for customers to use as possible.

With 15 suppliers awarded, including offerings from all key manufacturers, we feel that the public sector finally has a competitive solution which will make buying charging equipment a straightforward process. ESPO and the suppliers are on-hand to guide prospective customers through the options in this exciting market to ensure it is right for them now and in the future.

While initially for use by local authorities served by ESPO – a central purchasing body as defined by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 – the framework may also be open for use by any ‘public body’, defined in the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970 that also falls within one of the following classifications of user throughout all administrative regions of the UK:

  • Local Authorities, and certain
  • Central Government Agencies and Ministries
  • NHS and Emergency (Blue Light) Services
  • Schools, Academies, Colleges and Universities
  • Registered Charities
  • Registered Social Landlords

Further details can be found on ESPO’s website (www.espo.org), by searching for framework reference ‘636’.

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