£2m funding effort to improve Kirklees air quality

Car exhaust
Car exhaust

Taxi drivers in Kirklees are being encouraged to convert their vehicles to electric as part of the fight for better air quality.

Funding totalling nearly £2m will help pay for 88 rapid charge points across West Yorkshire designed to support the conversion of 500 private hire and hackney carriage vehicles.

The grant, which has been given to West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), has been made available through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

And it comes following criticism of some local authorities for failing to join the electric car revolution.

News of the grant was welcomed by veteran Green Party campaigner Andrew Cooper, who said authorities such as Kirklees needed to “think intelligently” about how they reacted to the ongoing roll out of electric vehicle technology.

And he highlighted neighbouring councils in Bradford and Leeds which, he said, were doing more than Kirklees.

“We need to be doing this in every car park in Kirklees,” he added. “The council should be looking at this as an opportunity to provide something that people need.”

In 2016 the Department for Transport launched the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme, offering funding for local authorities to buy and install electric car charge points.

But there was disappointment after it was revealed that just five councils across the whole of the UK had taken advantage of the technology.

Free charge points are already provided by some retailers, such as Lidl, which has rapid chargers with three connectors at its store car park in Doncaster and at three sites in Leeds.

It also offers a fast charger, with two connectors, at its store in Holmfirth.

A Lidl spokesman said: “The speed to charge depends on the car/battery model. We offer free charging to our customers and currently have no plans to change this.”

It is not yet known whether the charging points paid for under the new scheme will be free or paid for.

The money coming to Kirklees as part of the scheme is allocated exclusively for the electric charging project and cannot be spent on anything else.

It follows on from a £50,000 feasibility study into poor air quality with funding also provided by the WYCA.

The charge point project is currently in the procurement phase with a delivery partner expected sometime this autumn.

Karl Battersby, Kirklees Council’s Strategic Director for Economy and Infrastructure, said: “We have put a number of sites forward for the charging points but until the tender process is complete we won’t be able to confirm where or how many there will be.”

In light of the rising number of electric vehicles being bought in the UK – up nearly 30% last year – the government is spearheading the introduction of infrastructure to support drivers.

It is also committed to ending the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

In last November’s Autumn Budget the Chancellor said a further £100m would be made available to help consumers purchasing electric vehicles.

And, the following month, the Prime Minister announced that the UK would host a Zero Emission Vehicle Summit in Autumn 2018.