Ben Fogle: People using their front gardens to park EVs should get out and plant trees

Electric vehicle drivers tempted to “rip up” their front gardens to make room for a charging bay should personally plant trees in their local park or green space to make amends, according to TV presenter Ben Fogle.

Speaking to i, Fogle said people removing turf and flowerbeds to make room for a charging bay should “make up for that loss of natural habitat elsewhere”.

Electric cars are surging in popularity but for those without a private driveway – a full one-third of households – charging can be problematic.

Without a home charger, drivers are forced to rely on sparse on-street chargers, or ‘destination chargers’ at leisure centres, supermarkets or motorway service stations that can be costly and unreliable.

Charging an electric car at home is cheaper, more convenient, and better for a car’s battery life. Fogle, an electric car driver himself, predicts a coming surge in people sacrificing lavender bushes and lawns for easy charging.

Demand for charging spots close to home is therefore an “upcoming problem” as growing numbers of people switch to electric cars, Fogle said.

RAC research bears this out. It estimates that 18 million households either already have, or could create, space to park and charge right outside their homes – but warns this could see more front gardens replaced by “dull, barren hardstanding areas for cars”.

Fogle reasoned the loss of front gardens may be a price worth paying to speed the shift to electric vehicles.

“I think electric cars are the way forward so therefore taking those gardens away is probably a logical least-worst option,” he said.

But he called on people to make up for the lost habitat elsewhere. And rather than paying someone to restore nature, he said people should get their hands dirty.

“What I’d say, if you do rip that land up, you should personally go and plant those trees and engage with your local park or garden, or area that’s doing tree planting,” he said. “I think we need to have a visceral connection to it.”

Fogle, who is working with tech firm HP and the Arbor Day Foundation to promote HP’s plans to plant two million trees by the end of this year, said people would find joy in their efforts to restore nature.

“The act of planting trees is beautiful. It’s really empowering,” he added.

Others insist parking bays and wildlife-rich front gardens can co-exist. TV presenter and gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh has outlined a vision for front gardens with two narrow paving strips for parking a car, surrounded by greenery such as heather and thyme.

“If we all block pave our front gardens, we are paving our way to disaster,” Mr Titchmarsh told the The Times newspaper. “The wildlife which visits your garden — whether bees, butterflies or birds — needs you every bit as much as the planet needs you.”

No driveway? Here’s how to charge an electric car

At least eight million households across Great Britain – excluding London – do not have access to off-street parking and have no potential to create a parking spot. For these households, driving an electric vehicle is going to require a bit of creative thinking. Here are the main options:

  • Run a charging cable from your house to the car: This is controversial, because it requires draping cables across a pavement, which many claim is a trip hazard. Some councils ban the practice altogether, others will insist on a rubber protector or even a gully dug to sink the cable into the pavement.  
  • Use an on-street charger: There are some on-street chargers dotted around residential streets, with some even hidden in lampposts. But be warned, these are few and far between, as local councils struggle to triangulate demand, funding and expertise. Even if you ask for a charger on your street, you might not get one. Many local authorities claiming government money to install on-street chargers are not even logging residents’ requests, let alone installing chargers in response, research by i has revealed.  
  • Drive to a charging hub: Dedicated EV charging hubs – like modern day petrol stations – are springing up across the country. Drivers can charge their cars while having a coffee or running errands at the on-site Post Office. But it still involves a dedicated ‘charging trip’ to power up.  
  • Use a neighbour’s driveway: CoCharger is one of a handful of new peer-to-peer charging apps which lets people with a home charger and a private driveway rent their chargers to those who don’t. Hosts set the price, and can earn £700 – £1,300 for sharing their plug. 
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