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Last week I wrote to Milton Keynes Council regarding both the current and new charging rules, regulations and rates.

There's a lot of confusion locally about this, and I'm sure some wider interest (not least in the response provided) so I asked if I could pass this all on to you here.

Below is an unedited question and answer session we had via email. I have to thank Sara Bailey at MK Council for taking the time to answer so thoroughly, I hope you all find this has useful and interesting as I did.

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1)Signage. For the new triplex rapid chargers, they are currently positioned in non-designated EV spaces. For example there is a rapid charger on double yellow lines at the bus station, and others within red and purple parking zones within CMK, will these spaces be re-marked for electric vehicles?

We will be reserving the rapid chargers parking spaces for EV’s only, and for a maximum stay period of 30 minutes (to prevent an EV ‘parking’ in the rapid charger bay rendering it unavailable to other EV motorists). However, the legal work required to create the 30 minute max stay restriction is with the Councils ‘Traffic Regulation Order’ team and is subject to their other workload and priorities. We can’t paint the ‘EV only’ text on the tarmac until the legal restriction has been created. We took the decision to make the rapid chargers available to users as soon as we had installed them, rather than wait until the legal restriction has been created, although of course the downside to this is that there may be some abuse (whether accidental or intentional) of the rapid chargers spaces in the meantime.

2)Rules for EV vehicles. I have been told previously (as have several others) that you can park in any EV space, in an EV, for free, regardless of whether you are charging or not. Put another way, there is no obligation to plug in your plug in vehicle to park for free in an EV space in Milton Keynes. Is this correct?

This is currently the case although we are amending the legal restriction to make 64 (out of 170) of the most frequently used EV bays available to EV’s only (rather than the dual use restriction) and only when charging. This is happening because of the forthcoming charges for use of the charging points – we don’t want to undermine the scheme by allowing EV’s to park in all of the charging bays free without charging. This would prevent those that genuinely need to charge from being able to access the facility.

However, the reason we are not applying this restriction to all of the 170 EV spaces is because we are trying to strike a balance and don’t want all of our EV bays to empty once fees for the charge points are introduced. All EV’s are also entitled to purchase a ‘Green’ parking permit which allows parking in all standard rate spaces (approx. 9000) for just £75 per annum.

3)Rules for "ICE" vehicles. Currently only a few spaces appear to be EV dedicated parking only. For those sometimes this applies only at limited times of day (morning and afternoon, for example).

At the moment, just 14 of the 170 EV spaces are reserved solely for EV’s at all times. These were chosen as they were the most frequently used EV charging facilities and can be found at Civic Offices, Debenhams, Travelodge and Iceland. However, we plan to make an additional 50 (taking the total to 64) EV only at all times, although we will also be introducing the requirement to be charging referenced in point 2 above.

The remainder of the spaces operate a dual use facility whereby they are reserved for EV’s between 7am and 10am and 4pm and 6pm, but can be used by ICE’s during the key busy hours of 10am – 4pm. EV’s can stay in these spaces all day free of charge and irrespective of whether or not they are charging but ICE’s can use, subject to abiding by the surrounding restrictions (which in most cases is pay and display).

This dual use restriction was created in the early days of the scheme (2010) when there weren’t that many EV’s on the roads and we wanted to prevent criticism that we had reserved loads of spaces (in prime locations as this was a requirement of the grant) that sat empty all day (due to lack of EV’s). It was always envisaged that as EV usage grew, we would increase the number of spaces available only to EV’s, which is what we are doing. The 64 will over time increase until hopefully, we can eventually justify making all 170 ‘EV only’.

I have also spoken to drivers of non-EVs who have said they park in EV allocated spaces "all the time", and that they "never get a ticket". It was also highlighted that spaces, such as those by The Food Hall do not use the word "only" and therefore people (including wardens it would seem) take this to mean anyone can park in the spaces, they are not EV exclusive despite the large "ELECTRIC VEHICLES" painted on the road.

As mentioned above, some of the spaces are reserved solely for EV’s and some operate a dual use restriction. This is the reason for the different text. We still have some of the EV spaces that do not have the legal restriction to designate them as EV, which is why ICE’s aren’t issued a fine for parking in them. The reason for this is the same as my text in point 1 – basically we have installed and made the facilities available quicker than the Council has been able to create the relevant legal orders (taking into account workload and other priorities).

All of this leads to a great deal of confusion amongst just about everyone concerned, and so this really becomes a three part question:

a)Will this continue, or will Milton Keynes Council be improving and clarifying both signage and the rules for the EV spaces?

We are improving the situation regarding the legal orders. The signs are set out by central government and we do not have any flexibility over these unfortunately.

b) Can you explain the rules in simple terms for me to pass on to the local (and wider) EV community

1, 2 and 3 should cover this. I am planning to create some new text with an overall explanation for the website and when complete, I will be happy to share this with you

c) Are there any plans to "normalise" the rules for EV spaces, so they all have simple, clear rules across the town?

Eventually we hope to be in a situation whereby all bays with EV charging facilities are available to EV’s only at all times and only when charging (as to allow EV’s to park in the bays free of charge when not charging prevents those that may need to do so from accessing the spaces). This will be dependent upon EV uptake as we do not want to do this for the spaces to all remain empty because there are not enough EV’s and/or the EV’s do not want or need to pay to charge.


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Following on from the above, I made a more general comment about the rapid chargers, prices etc, and the reply from Sara on that was also quite interesting...

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For what it worth, I get the impression the council is trying to encourage EVs in the town, which is of an obvious health benefit for all in regards to local air quality levels, this is much appreciated for both myself and my children's health and future.

However, I do believe Chargemaster's excessive fees will massively reduce EV charging in town, and I also believe that the new rapid charger locations around CMK are quite frankly bizarre, but what's done is done, and I'm sure they will learn the hard way that to encourage EV take-up, electricity on the go must be cheaper than petrol!

The rapid charger locations are largely driven by locations that have a suitable power supply (as this vastly affects the installation costs), although of course we have tried as best as we can to put them in locations we hope they will be useful and well used.

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Anyway, plenty of "take aways" in there for folk to mull over I'm sure, locals or otherwise.
 

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Interesting that the free parking without charging is going. I hope that the council are getting a good price for the parking spaces reserved for CM customers!
 

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Thank you for taking the time to write and explore this in detail - it's really useful to those of us who do live/charge in MK. I'm also grateful to Sara for the detailed reply: it's good to know that there are conversations about EV charging happening behind the scenes even if sometimes the kerbside experience looks and feels a bit chaotic!
 

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If they could just provide a colour coded map as a PDF or web page (PDF most universal/cheap) of what will be what and where that would be most helpful.

No surprise that it's the wheels of local government grinding slowly by that's causing the mistimed roll-out of things and lack of co-ordination.

Milton Keynes is so car-centric we'd be great for an EV revolution. We have so many charge posts and electric buses already... I do fear they've leapt into bed with Chargemaster too readily though, but again time-pressures from central government and lack of choice seem to be the driving force behind these decisions more than anything.

Case in point...

2014-03-12 09.14.27.jpg


Although sadly, someone I know has a new i3 as of last week, and this is their first tweet about Milton Keynes...

 

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If they could just provide a colour coded map as a PDF or web page (PDF most universal/cheap) of what will be what and where that would be most helpful.

No surprise that it's the wheels of local government grinding slowly by that's causing the mistimed roll-out of things and lack of co-ordination.

Milton Keynes is so car-centric we'd be great for an EV revolution. We have so many charge posts and electric buses already... I do fear they've leapt into bed with Chargemaster too readily though, but again time-pressures from central government and lack of choice seem to be the driving force behind these decisions more than anything.

Case in point...

View attachment 523
The current pdf map (latest version is Nov 13) is pretty useful as it is for spotting the EV spaces.

http://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/str...arking/parking-maps-for-central-milton-keynes

It'll be great if they could update it with a new symbol for charging only EV spots.
 

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So, takeaway points for me:
  1. Rapid charger use is now limited to 30 minutes - even if you can't get enough charge in that time you are not allowed to stay longer
  2. The council believe they can't paint "EV Only" on the road until they have the regulations in place - this seems odd
  3. It is SO confusing!
 

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More from MK Council. I asked about the confusion surrounding if they profit from the Chargemaster scheme, and if they have any influence over pricing etc. I asked as there was some conflicting information and opinions considering some documents online and the fact Cambridge remains largely free. Here's the response.

My understanding is that most local authorities (LA’s) have plans to introduce charges for their charge points but that Milton Keynes has been one of the first to do this. Perhaps some LA’s that only have a few charge points will be in a position to offer free charging for a lot longer as the less charge points you provide, the less the cost to the Council.

Unfortunately, for MK with its 170 standard charge points, it simply was not financially viable to continue to subsidise these and therefore we have sought an operating partner who will operate the facility for the Council, eliminating our costs such as electricity, maintenance, back office system etc. Last year we spent £22K on this – not a huge amount admittedly but it was increasing all of the time. In the last quarter, use of the charge points doubled. The savings have been based on this £22K, i.e. over £100K during the 5 year contract period, but in actual fact, had we retained operation of the charge points (with them continuing to be free to use) our costs would likely have been far higher. The MK tax payer was subsidising this and a decision was taken to tender for a partner and commercialise the scheme.

The Council do not profit at all from the charges levied for the standard charge points.

This is different for the rapid charge points which have been installed under a different scheme and have different arrangements and it is correct that the Council will receive 40% of the NET income from use of the posts.
 

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Unfortunately even though 'use doubled' they don't state what proportion of the £22k was from electricity cost vs. standing back-office charges and maintenance of the 170 posts, so it is difficult to extrapolate the impact of increased use.

The lesson appears to be for LAs to roll out fewer charging posts and wait for them to actually be used. Whacking them in the ground as fast as you can with free OLEV money turned out to be a bad idea?

Rather than throw the towel in out of fear of increasing cost above £22k it perhaps would have made more sense to introduce charges gradually and keep within the same budget each year. I guess they really needed that £22k back.
 

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What is most upsetting is that they handed the entire 170 posts over in one contract rather than splitting it up and encouraging some competition.

It's like only approving planning permission for BP petrol stations.
sounds like politicians washing their hands of the whole thing, its now a comerical entity and were done with it.

I was mistakenly under the impression we paid our council taxes for the councils to provide services to us, not to get comercial entities to do it, if thats the case why do we need the council.
 

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sounds like politicians washing their hands of the whole thing, its now a comerical entity and were done with it.

I was mistakenly under the impression we paid our council taxes for the councils to provide services to us, not to get comercial entities to do it, if thats the case why do we need the council.
Agreed, but the service the council provided in this case was clearly never to EV users but to central gov' mint to help them meet targets and to themselves in cozy green wash!

The charge posts have been declared to be nothing but a means of mollifying range anxiety to help EV uptake! That is why there is no need to put them in sensible places, prevent ICEing, or make them work and fix them!

The council was just a middle man between Desperate Doner (Gov' mint grand green roll out) and any Ready Ravenous Revenue Recipient before the green roll out was quickly rolled back in again to keep fuming electricity consumers' bills down.

Gov' mint of the day couldn't risk loosing too many votes once the energy utilities called their bluff and spilled the beans on the added costs they had to pass to their customers of gov' mint green.

Estonia, Norway and Ireland have shown the way.
We get a useless cash scatter gun approach with no comprehension of what was, is and will be needed in future for charging electric vehicles. Each council left to decide how it implements fees for car charging and parking spaces and with different ID cards needed in every region which take 2 weeks to get before you can visit! You couldn't make it up.

"Political Leadership" is an oxymoron. They only follow votes.
 

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I think in those countries (certainly in Ireland and Estonia) there is a single power supplier so a single entity installing the infrastructure.
 

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I think in those countries (certainly in Ireland and Estonia) there is a single power supplier so a single entity installing the infrastructure.
Yes, and I am sure some would argue our big 6 utilities are a single entity when it comes to a price rigging cartel.
However if they are not willing to work as a single entity in making more sales of their product to a new revenue stream then that diversity of interests just strengthens the need for a top down joined up thinking nationwide electric car charging plan doesn't it?
It is a shame national networks and institutions can't be trusted to this government probably due to the one size fits all blinkered free market ideology. [email protected]@s up...Brewery.
Thank goodness for Ecotricity, Nissan and the motorway service stations stepping up to the plate to organise and create and fill the void!
 
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