FOI reveals half of NHS trusts are charging ahead with EV infrastructure, but off track on overall decarbonisation targets

An EV charging station (image credit: Vattenfall, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license).

According to figures released on 17 June by power management firm Eaton, half (51%) of NHS trusts in the UK have installed EV Charging Infrastructure (EVCI) on-site for their staff, patients and the wider community. While this would seem to be a positive step towards a low-carbon future, a similar proportion (53%) of NHS trusts are either behind on decarbonisation targets or do not have a clear set of emissions reduction goals in place. This new data was obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, issued to 173 NHS Foundation trusts across the UK, with 142 of them responding.

Gearing up for more EVCI installations
While half (51%) of NHS trusts already have EVCI on-site, a further 43% either plan to install charging facilities on-site within the next five years or are in early stage planning around how best to integrate such capabilities. In fact, just 6% of NHS trusts had no plans to introduce EVCI at the moment. This promising trend towards upgrading facilities to meet the public’s changing needs while reducing overall emissions is positive news for consumers thinking about switching to an electric vehicle.

Marc Gaunt, segment lead, commercial buildings, Eaton, commented: “Concerns around the UK’s lack of EV charging infrastructure have inhibited EV adoption due to range anxiety: the fear that an EV would have insufficient range to reach its destination and leave the driver stranded. Yet EVs and their underlying infrastructure are a vital piece of our route to a low carbon future. EVs offer a cleaner mode of transport while smart charging infrastructure not only powers the future of travel but embeds more flexibility into our energy grid to enable decarbonisation at a national level.”

Falling behind on decarbonisation targets, but measures are in place
The FOI revealed that over half (53%) of NHS trusts are currently behind on their decarbonisation targets or do not have clear emissions reduction targets in place. Just two fifths (38%) are on track to meet their goals while only 5% are tracking ahead at the moment.

However, when asked about the decarbonisation measures currently in place, the vast majority of NHS trusts reported that they have either already installed, or will be installing, lighting upgrades (93%), increased building control and automation (90%) and upgrades to insulation (69%) within their facilities over the next five years. Only one responding NHS trust reported having no initiatives in place or planned at all.

More opportunity within EVCI?
When asked about the impact of EVCI on existing electrical infrastructure, half (53%) of NHS trusts flagged that they would need greater electrical capacity, while two thirds (41%) said it may incur additional energy costs through greater peak demand. Just a quarter (24%) recognise the potential to create new revenue streams from new charging facilities.
Vehicle to grid (V2G) technologies allow electric vehicles to store energy and discharge it back to the electricity grid when it is most needed, creating a bi-directional relationship that offers up new opportunities for estate and facilities managers. The FOI revealed that very few NHS trusts (11%) are currently participating in selling energy back to the grid through energy storage technologies. One fifth (23%) plan to use energy storage to start selling energy back to the grid in the next five years, but two-thirds (65%) have no plans to do so.

Marc concludes: “Estate and facilities managers often consider building energy first when considering decarbonisation, but travel and transport is a vital consideration. NHS trusts are adopting EVCI rapidly and offering staff, patients and visitors a cleaner alternative to significantly lower their total carbon footprint. Public and commercial buildings will need to follow suit. Every building – not just hospitals – will need to play its part if we are to meet the challenges presented by the rapid adoption of EVs and accelerate the UK’s path to a low carbon future.”