Opinion

Free parking for battery electric vehicles in this town from next month

From 1 April, anyone parking their battery electric vehicle (BEV) in one of Maidstone Borough Council’s car parks will be able to park for free for the maximum length of stay permitted in that particular car park using the RingGo App.

This council says this concession demonstrates its commitment to meet its climate change target of making the borough carbon-neutral and encourages more people to consider electric vehicles (EVs) as their preferred form of transport. Though, that said, it would probably prefer that you access the town centre by bus to reduce the number of cars coming in. But, that’s a whole other story.

The free parking move, I feel, is definitely one to be applauded and, on a very local level, represents yet another spoke in the collective wheel of ICE (internal combustion engine – petrol- and diesel-powered) vehicles. I like to refer to this as breaking the ICE.

Cllr David Burton, chair of Strategic, Planning and Infrastructure Committee, says: “Offering free parking for electric vehicles is an example of what we are doing to improve the air quality around the town centre and across the borough. Electric vehicles eliminate exhaust emissions while driving and will help to improve air quality, especially at air quality hotspots. We know that air quality is a major heath concern to many of our residents and this is something we can do to encourage a change to electric.

“The money saved on parking fees by a daily user of our car parks will be a significant contribution to (the reduction of) the higher cost of electric cars*. 

“Also, we currently have 18 Pod Point charging bays in various locations in the town centre car parks which use ticketless machines. Anyone charging their electric car will only need to pay for the electricity and still enjoy free parking.”

To make use of this concession, BEV owners will need to register their car using the RingGo Smartphone App so it can be identified and not be charged for parking.

All Maidstone council car parks have the facility to pay for parking via the RingGo smartphone app or by phone, which speeds up the transaction process and allows drivers to opt for a reminder text before expiry.

Find out more information here

As stated earlier, I think the council is to be applauded for this move. But, I would like to sound a note of caution. Unsurprisingly, no time frame is mentioned for this initiative. I guess, for it to be effective, it needs to last a fair while. However, what constitutes a fair while is anyone’s guess. But consider this … long-term, the council could face a similar dilemma to the one facing central Government. Namely, how do you replace the income?

The Government is coming out with all sorts of incentives to lure drivers away from ICE vehicles, but the Catch-22 it faces is that the more success it has in reducing ICE vehicles on our roads (and they want the sale of new ICE vehicles to stop within the coming decade), the less money will go to the Treasury from the duty on fuel. That money needs to be replaced.

There is much talk at the moment about ‘taxing’ our road use. This will mean cameras just about everywhere tracking your road usage through number plate recognition. Like the Dartford Crossing, only countrywide. Can’t say as I’m too keen.

Similarly, if Maidstone council tries to extend its free parking offer for a long time, that will leave a hole in its income. Of course, it may be that if this road taxing comes in, the council will get a slice of that income ‘pie’. Maybe! I’m just saying that the short-term gain from reducing pollution, might end in longer-term pain as the council will be obliged to come up with other ways of replacing the parking fee income.

One wonders how many other councils in the county will follow suit.

*While it is true that the upfront cost of an EV is significantly higher than that of an ICE vehicle, there is a school of thought that, when the wholelife costs are taken into account, they can work out cheaper. For example, the cost of recharging a battery is currently a lot less than the price of filling up with petrol or diesel. The savings, over a period of years, mount up.

Note: There are currently 20 car parks and 12 on-street parking areas throughout Maidstone. Lockmeadow is free after 6.30pm every day and all day Sunday. On-street bays are free every day from 6pm to 8am and all day on Sundays. There is no change to the charges for bank holidays.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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