• A £250m-a-year capital investment fund granted to the nine Metro Mayors is doing little to support the UK’s electric vehicle (EV) transition, argues Novuna 
  • Analysis of the annual accounts and transport strategies of the Metro Mayors and combined authorities reveals little evidence of EV infrastructure expenditure 
  • Lack of investment in public EV infrastructure leaves UK at risk of failing to fulfil pledge to phase out sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 

EV maintenance

A quarter of a billion gross annual capital investment fund granted to the UK’s nine Metro Mayors to support local transport projects is not providing adequate support to the UK’s rapidly growing electric vehicle (EV) market, according to new research conducted by vehicle leasing specialist, Novuna Vehicle Solutions, the new name for Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions.  

It claims that despite a mandate to invest the money in significant open-to-all EV infrastructure projects, just a limited number of charging points were installed in 2021 across the nine City Regions, which account for over 14 million residents. In addition, it is unclear from publicly disclosed information whether any have been funded by the Metro Mayor capital investment fund.

The nine Metro Mayor positions, created as part of the Government’s devolution agenda, are held by directly-elected leaders of the UK’s major city regions (full list below). They are responsible for overseeing the maintenance and development of each region’s public services and infrastructure, including transport. Combined with Greater London, overseen by Sadiq Khan, the Metro Mayors account for 43% of the UK’s economic output.

Each Mayor has access to a relative share of a £7.45bn capital investment fund over a 30 year period, equating to £250m for each calendar year. These budgets are in addition to the availability of the £6.8bn City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, which allows the Metro Mayors (with the exception of North of Tyne) to bid to fund initiatives that work towards decarbonising transport, in line with national priorities. Novuna claims there is no evidence that the fund, set to be shared from 2022-2027 between the eight eligible Mayors, is being put towards EV infrastructure.

The research compared the funds allocated to each city region in their respective devolution deals with the number of publicly funded EV chargers installed last year in each city. Investigation of the official Statement of Accounts of the Metro Mayors and their Combined Authorities turned up scant evidence of investment in EV infrastructure over the 2020/21 tax year. West Yorkshire was the only city region to explicitly reference expenditure on charging points in its accounts, with the installation of 88 EV charging points as part of the region’s £3.2m ULEV Taxi Scheme.

Robert Gordon, CEO of Novuna, said: “The Metro Mayors were installed with the clear goal of boosting the economic and infrastructural development of strategically important regions across the UK. There are understandably a number of competing priorities, however, if the Government hopes to fulfil its headline pledge to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, a top priority for city transport projects needs to be upgrading regional EV infrastructure. As it stands, we see very little evidence that this is happening at the pace required.”

He said that despite the considerable capital made available to plug the gap, major shovel-ready EV infrastructure projects that benefit the 14.2 million people living in these regions are, so far, few and far between.

The projects that had been announced and delivered have made up a tiny proportion of the allocated budgets. In West Yorkshire, a project completed in October 2021 saw the installation of 88 charge points as part of the region’s £3.2m ULEV Taxi Scheme. However, there is no evidence of any subsequent schemes, despite the authority listing the development of EV charge points as a major priority in its Transport Strategy 2040.

Novuna research shows that in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the only instance of an EV-related scheme in its Local Transport Plan is a £90,000 project to install four rapid EV chargers for the local taxi trade. Greater Manchester meanwhile, which has the one of the highest allocated investment funds (£900m), does not have a single mention of EV infrastructure in its Statement of Accounts.

Gordon believes the lack of tangible action is at odds with other public and private sector initiatives to support the UK’s EV transition. Salary sacrifice schemes – which allow for motorists to lease an EV from their employer and save up to 50% on the monthly cost by using their salary before tax is deducted – have created cost-effective options for motorists. Plug-in grants and benefit-in-kind schemes have had similar positive impacts, however these initiatives are being wound down amid greater organic demand for EVs.

Gordon said: “As a major UK vehicle leasing provider and leading advocate for EV adoption, Novuna has long welcomed the provision of grants and salary sacrifice schemes which have provided an invaluable boost to the number of EVs hitting UK roads.

“However, the clock is ticking on the Government’s commitment to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030. With the number of EV motorists only growing, it is vital that there is more transparency on how public money is being spent on public charging infrastructure, especially for the 40% or so of people who do not have access to off-street parking and will rely on the public network. The sizeable capital investment funds represent a significant opportunity to close the EV infrastructure gap, and greater evidence that they are being used to support this pledge will allow motorists to make the leap to an EV with confidence.”