Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister for Infrastructure what steps she is taking to support the transition to electric vehicles in rural areas.
Minister for Infrastructure: The Road to Zero Strategy outlines how the UK Government will support the transition to zero emission road transport and reduce emissions from conventional vehicles during the transition. The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) continues to provide a broad range of funding in Great Britain and Northern Ireland including Plug-in grant for cars, vans, taxis and motorcycles including the provision of grants for home, work and on-street residential charging infrastructure. It also provides a £400 million infrastructure investment fund to support private sector investment in charging infrastructure by providing greater access to finance on a commercial basis.
It is important to recognise that the majority of charging should take place at home rather than on the public network, with the majority of electric vehicle drivers, including in rural areas, having availed of the OZEV home charge point grant. The requirement of the grant is that the driver’s home has a driveway or garage.
Recently, I have been able to support the EU INTERREG VA Funded FASTER electric vehicle network project. The project will complement and enhance the existing EV charging infrastructure, which was co-financed by the EU through TEN-T funding. The project is to install a total of 73 EV Rapid charging points across the island of Ireland and the West of Scotland by 31 March 2023.
In addition, I am also making changes to the planning system, through permitted development rights, to make it easier to expand the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. This will allow expansion work to proceed without the need to apply for planning permission helping to make e-charging more accessible across the North.
I fully recognise the importance of having modern, reliable public electric vehicle charging infrastructure in providing confidence for users of ultra-low emission vehicles and in respect of the connectivity improvements this would bring.