Oxford charging forward with their EV infrastructure procurement platform

As arguably the leading local authority in the drive towards ridding their streets of the internal combustion engine, it is not surprising that Oxford City Council have been the trailblazers of EV infrastructure procurement.

This trailblazing journey began when The Go Ultra Low Cities scheme was launched in 2017.  The idea was to create a cohort of eight exemplar cities or regions that lead the way in promoting electric vehicles, tackling air quality, and reducing carbon emissions. The Go Ultra Low Cities were Oxford, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, York, Dundee, London, the West of England, and the North East.

As a result of the research undertaken here, at the vanguard of EV infrastructure, the Oxford team decided to enshrine their achievements in the ‘Oxford City Council Electric Vehicle Dynamic Purchasing System’ (DPS), a free resource designed to enable the public sector to side-step some of the problems they might otherwise encounter in building an effective EV infrastructure.

Local authorities face a confusing environment, with a multitude of technical solutions, installation methods, and regulatory and statutory standards to wade through, as well as a similarly daunting number of companies offering their services.

The situation for confused LAs is made worse by an increasing sense of urgency to get the appropriate infrastructure in place, given the national target of at least 300,000 charge points by 2030.

It was into this landscape that Oxford City Council would launch their DPS. Mish Tullar, Director of Corporate Services at the Council explains, ‘It became apparent we needed a new approach that had longevity. We set up a team of internal procurement specialists, internal EV technical and implementation experts, and external EV legal experts: the architects of the DPS.’

Work on the DPS started in May 2020 and it was first put to use in November 2021, procuring consultants to help the team write Oxford’s EV infrastructure strategy: ‘Procurement started and took less than two months from writing the tender to the consultants starting work,’ says Mish.  ‘It was at this point other local authorities started meeting with us to see if they could make use of it.’

Mish says,: ‘From our conversations with other local authorities, many were concerned they had neither the expertise nor the resource to procure quality EV infrastructure.

‘They tend to get lots of mixed-quality responses to tenders – sometimes just a brochure – which makes evaluation difficult and resource intensive. Others experienced failed procurements or suppliers that did not deliver the quality and value for money they had hoped.’

To examine the other side of the coin, the Oxford team also listened to the perspective of the suppliers: ‘Their feedback was that public sector tenders are often resource intensive,’ says Mish, ‘Many suppliers find confusing criteria and requirements frustrating. This means it is mostly large companies with resource that respond to tenders. And in some cases, it leads to application costs being passed onto the purchaser.’

The project was overseen by the council’s director of corporate services and finance director and was made up of three working groups: the council’s procurement team, EV specialists in the council’s sustainable innovation team and external experts in contract and EV law.

The DPS is a user guide and process flow, complete with contract and templates, to ensure any public sector organisation could use it with confidence.

It has been designed to be particularly beneficial for local authorities without staff designated to EV infrastructure delivery or where EV knowledge is limited. A comprehensive user guide, contract templates, and evaluation process help speed up the process.

Any public sector body using the DPS can:

  • Find a supplier for any stage of implementing publicly accessible EV charge points, from consultants to energy storage providers
  • Apply their own local requirements and standards
  • Award a contract in just 10 days for quality, long-term EV infrastructure
  • Compile documents easily with the help of optional DPS templates and guidance
  • Spend less on the costly legal input often required for major procurements
  • Be confident bidding suppliers meet stringent quality criteria to comply with statutory and regulatory needs

One of the main difficulties, Oxford found, was being able to evaluate the quality of the procurement systems, given that they usually includes several different services in one package.


Some of those elements might be very effective, some might not, but there is a risk that taking an entire package would hold local authorities hostage to fortune.

To ameliorate this risk, the DPS dissected the packages into nine individual elements which can be procured individually, giving local authorities the ability to quickly replace any service from a previous procurement that failed, without having to restart the whole process.

The elements are:

  • turnkey (out of the box) services
  • installation and commissioning
  • manufacturing
  • operation and maintenance
  • inspection services
  • roaming services (one payment method for use with multiple providers)
  • consultancies
  • EV energy storage solutions and capacity management
  • car club solutions

Oxford City Council made an initial investment of about £75,000 into the development of the DPS, covering officer time and legal fees.

To fund the ongoing operation and maintenance of the DPS, suppliers who are awarded contracts pay a small rebate (currently 0.7%). To ensure the DPS is accessible for all companies, including SMEs, the rebate is collected a pre-agreed milestones and only once invoices are paid by the local authorities.

Owing to the repeatable nature of procurement, it is anticipated that Oxford will recoup the initial £75,000 investment through the supplier rebate fee.

The DPS has proved popular since it was launched. To date, 13 contracts have been awarded for 11 public sector bodies, amounting to a total contract value of over £25 million. 38 suppliers are enrolled and 58 access agreements have been signed by public sector bodies

Barnet Council used the system to procure for their EV charging project EV500, funded by the UK government’s on-street residential charge point scheme. The project included a turnkey solution to supply, install, manage, operate, and maintain 510 charge points installed across 34 residential streets.

Paul Bragg, Head of Network and Infrastructure – Street Scene, London Borough of Barnet, said: ‘We found the DPS easy to use, with lots of the key standards and compliance work already completed for us. This was advantageous as our tender writing could focus on our needs and so it was much quicker to compile. This really sped up the procurement process, which is particularly important when delivering a large project within a tight grant funding timeline.’

Barnet have gone on to use the DPS for two additional projects.

The DPS has won the Tomorrow’s Procurement award for Innovative Procurement Project 2023 and was a finalist for both LGC Awards and UK National GO Awards.

The DPS team are proactive in ensuring the DPS remains a viable solution for procuring in this everchanging market by collaborating with Cenex as members of the Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Funding Procurement Forum.

Of the project’s success, Mish Tullar says, ‘It is rare for a local authority to create a UK-wide solution. We used external EV and contract lawyers to ensure what we were creating was both fit for purpose and commercially attractive for suppliers.

‘Supplier feedback is that it cuts down their application time without compromising quality.  As a result, we have received only a handful of supplier queries, which demonstrates the DPS is appropriate and commercially attractive.

‘We have also gained our own insights and expanded our knowledge through this project. In the future, we hope to build on this.

‘Our team is proud of what we have built. The links between departments and the business relationships we have built have led to valuable opportunities. These include invitations to talk at conferences, be part of procurement forums, attend panels, and join discussion groups. These have allowed us to share updates, learn, and develop our skills, which motivate us in our work.’

Top image: Anne-Marie Warren, Vikki Robins and Krista Middleton at the 2022 Go Awards, where the EV DPS was a finalist in two categories: ‘Continuous Improvement’ and ‘Best Procurement Delivery’


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