Delivering on-street residential charge points to address air quality issues

Portsmouth City Council tackles our role in addressing the air quality priorities head on. Through the provision of innovative and accessible charging infrastructure, residents are encouraged to shift towards owning electric vehicles, leading to a reduction in conventional petrol and diesel vehicles and resulting in a reduction in air pollution within the city.

In July 2017, alongside many other busy cities around the UK, Portsmouth was identified as a city that needs to reduce air pollution levels as quickly as possible. The council is proposing a number of different solutions, one of which is the investment in a network of charging facilities, both on and off street, to encourage public and private uptake of plug-in vehicles.

The challenge

In February 2020, the government launched a consultation into the ban on sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles by 2032 in order to achieve the UK's target of emitting virtually zero carbon by 2050.

Innovative use of alternative fuels is one way of improving air quality. As Portsmouth is a densely populated island city with narrow streets and terraced housing, many areas do not benefit from off-street parking and suffer subsequent parking congestion. This poses a real challenge in providing accessible EV charging infrastructure for residents.

Following a High Court ruling in 2018, Portsmouth City Council was issued with three ministerial directives, placing a legally binding duty on the council to undertake a number of steps to improve air quality in the city. One of these directives, issued in October 2018, requires PCC to produce an air quality local plan setting out the case for delivering compliance with legal limits for NO2 in the shortest possible time. Work on this plan is currently underway, with the full business case estimated to be submitted to government before the end of 2020.

The solution

With improving air quality at the forefront of our objective and following a successful bid for OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles) central government funding, the council received £100k towards 75% of the costs for installation and infrastructure for the on-street residential chargepoint scheme. 

Portsmouth became the first city to introduce an innovative technical solution which combined a lamp column chargepoint with a designated marked bay and the accessible pay as you go option for payment. The chargepoint is retrofitted directly into the lamp column using the surplus supply as a source of electricity to charge electric vehicles. This reduces the installation costs by using existing power supplies and negates the need for further street furniture overcrowding pavements. This solution, whilst it best met the needs of the city in addressing the parking challenges, also received a Transtech E-Mobility Progress Award which acknowledged and commended Portsmouth City Council's goal to encourage electric vehicular uptake amongst its residents.  

In instances where the placement of a street lamp column is not adjacent to the kerb, a slimline bollard housing a chargepoint is installed and connected to the street lamp electricity supply underground. This eliminates trailing cables and ensures that charging facilities can be provided regardless of lamp column positioning.

Portsmouth is leading the way in this field, not only with its high number of chargepoints in a relatively small area, but with its innovative usage of reserved parking bays, for the exclusive use of electric vehicles. By marking the bay, and therefore reserving a space on-street, we are guaranteeing that residents who shift to EV ownership can charge within close proximity to their home.

The use of lamp column electricity best meets the needs of the city's residents, allowing them to be located in close proximity to residences, whilst the reserved EV bays address the parking challenges. The offer of a monthly tariff or pay as you go option to pay for charging encourages usage by all EV users, whether they are residents or visitors to Portsmouth.

Following the successful application of further OLEV funding, we are progressing with increasing the provision of on street chargepoints with the aim that the scheme will continue to encourage EV ownership by Portsmouth's residents and visitors. This will not only improve air quality but will also work towards achieving the council and the government's climate targets. 

The impact

It is widely accepted that electric vehicles (EVs) have lower running costs, are quieter, better for the environment and simpler to repair. 

The environmental benefits are partly attributable to the zero exhaust emissions from electric vehicles. A popular diesel car's engine will produce on average 52mg/km of NOx emissions and 0.51mg/km particulate emissions compared to 0mg/km of NOx emissions and 0mg/km of particulate emissions from a popular electric car.

Although there is no financial gain to the council, residents are able to save money as a result of the reduced running costs of an electric vehicle. The Go Ultra Low study has compared the average cost of £400 per year for the servicing and maintenance of a petrol or diesel car with the equivalent £96 annual cost of maintaining an electric car.

Similar statistics show the average annual fuel, tax and service costs for a popular diesel car are £944 compared to £439 for a popular electric car.

How is the new approach being sustained?

OLEV grant funding contributes 75% towards the supply and installation of the capital costs for the on-street chargepoints with the remainder of the capital costs, ongoing maintenance costs and officer resources coming from the Portsmouth City Council's corporate capital programme. Officers continue to monitor the usage of the scheme and are currently working on further roll outs of chargepoints within the city.

Lessons learned

  • Extensive preparatory work, investigations and customer liaison to be carried out to ensure the chargepoint placement best meets the needs of the user.
  • Reserved bay sizing should be sufficient to accommodate the varying sizes of electric vehicles e.g. Teslas
  • Bay placement to optimize charging angles (EVs have varying socket placements that make parking difficult) and to accommodate other street linings


Joanne Eldridge

Links to relevant documents

Electric charge point scheme wins national award | Portsmouth City Council

EV owners save hundreds each year on maintenance costs | Zap-Map

Portsmouth local air quality plan outline business case

2019 Ford Fiesta 1.5 TDCi vs 2018 40kW Nissan Leaf

Next Green Car comparison tool

Fuel Costs used rates from and then using the average annual UK mileage of 7,134miles | Department for Transport