The scale of the challenge in creating a publicly-run electrical vehicle charging network in Richmondshire has been laid bare as it emerged the cost of installing the first such infrastructure had soared by 37 per cent since the plans were unveiled 21 months ago.
Members of Richmondshire District Council’s corporate board expressed astonishment over the £110,000 rise in estimated cost and the length of time it had taken to progress plans for 18 charging points.
The council originally aimed for the network to have been completed before the end of 2020, but a meeting of the leading councillors heard the scheme had suffered significant delays.
Senior officer Colin Dales told members installing charging points at its car parks in Nuns Close, Richmond; Hawes; Leyburn; Muker; Hildyard Row, Catterick Garrison and Langthwaite had proved “a very very difficult project to progress”.
He said he was optimistic the scheme, from which the authority had aimed to learn practical and strategic lessons to develop a more extensive charging network in the coming years, would start to move at a fast pace as orders had now been placed to create the charging points.
However, the meeting heard Northern Powergrid was the only firm which could supply electricity for the project and while its charge had risen from an estimated £97,000 to £190,000, the cost could go up even further.
Councillors were told there may also be supply chain delays over the charging units and connection boxes, the cost of which has risen from £36,000 to £51,000, and the installing charging points at Muker may not be possible due to “significant infrastructure issues”.
Mr Dales said while it was relatively easy to get an electric vehicle charging firm to install points at different locations the aim of the project was that the council remained in control of how it charged for the electricity.
He said the project had been about encouraging electric vehicle ownership rather than making money, so users will only be charged for the cost of the electricity and a small amount to fund the facilities’ maintenance.
The meeting heard the original estimate had been generated by a computer program and the potential costs had “leaped up from nowhere” when engineers visited the proposed sites, and considered the differences between locations in the Upper Dales and urban areas.
Councillor Richard Ormston said described the increase cost as “outrageous”, while Councillor Yvonne Peacock said the “huge difference” in estimates would have been regarded as unacceptable by private businesses.
Councillor William Heslop added: “The aim of this project was indeed to be a flagship, show everybody the way forward on charging electric cars, but we seem to be being left behind on that. It’s not fulfilling that original aim.”
Councillor Leslie Rowe urged the authority to set a target date to ensure the project was completed before the council was abolished next year, but officers said it was not yet possible to do so.
Coun Rowe said: “I really am at a loss as to why this is taking so long still.”