Mer tackles infrastructure problems to successfully scale EV charging across Durham

Infrastructure Durham

Mer has helped Durham County Council transform its EV charging infrastructure. The two-year partnership has resulted in 150 EV charge points (EVCPs) installed across the county and brought charging stations to many formerly unserved communities.

In 2019, less than 50% of Durham County Council’s EV infrastructure was functioning. Many EV charge points had stopped working and the companies that installed them were no longer trading. Two problems inhibited the use of electric vehicles throughout the region. Rural communities lacking coverage because charging providers saw little potential for commercial return, and legislation stopping on-street charging in towns.

With funding from Innovate UK for the Scaling on Street Charging Infrastructure (SOSCI) project, the Council partnered with Mer to install 150 charging points at 67 locations across the county. By consulting with locals, Mer’s new charging points were strategically placed in areas of residential demand. In recognition of this approach, Durham County Council was awarded the 2022 Best EV Charging Project award from the Municipality Journal.

Alex Hinchcliffe, Sales Director at Mer UK Public charging, comments, “Durham needed a future-fit solution to their problem, and that’s exactly what we helped deliver. Our parent company, Statkraft is the largest renewable energy producer in Europe and our chargers are powered by 100% renewable energy. There’s also no risk of our charge points becoming redundant or falling into disrepair. We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to achieve in Durham, combatting the dual problems of rural and city coverage.”

Tracy Millmore, Electric Vehicle Project Officer at Durham County Council says, “Durham is a unique county. We’re 862 square miles of rural communities contrasted with some densely populated towns and cities. 40% of our residents live in terraced houses where there’s no space for off-street charging points. We can’t wait for legislation to change in order to let people run charging cables across pavements, and research has shown us people are happy to walk five minutes to a charging point. So, getting Mer’s help to expand our network was the right solution.”

Since the completion of the project, Durham has reduced its carbon emissions bringing it closer to its target 75% reduction by 2030, and due to its success, it has secured a second wave of EV charge point funding from Innovate UK, this time for the Regional Electric Vehicle Unified Plan (REV UP) project. Mer charging stations have recorded 67,474.3 kWh of usage to date, which is over 190,000 miles of clean driving.

The introduction of Mer charging stations in some villages, like Shotley Bridge in Consett, has allowed local not-for-profit EV car sharing clubs to expand their reach, bringing green, affordable options to smaller communities. The roll-out has been touted as best practice, and reports have been requested to help inform future Government policy at the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV). Durham County Council has also used its learnings to produce a guide for local authorities to install EV charge points.

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