New data from charge point mapping experts, Zap-Map, has confirmed that there are now over 10,000 public locations at which to charge electric cars. Since June, when the number of EV charging locations overtook petrol stations across the country, a further 1500 have been added with more than 3500 added to the network in total over the past year.
Zap-Map's data doesn't stop at simply the overall number of charging stations; it also breaks down where those chargers are being located and the change vs. 2018. For example, in terms of growth, on-street chargers have seen tremendous year-on-year improvement. Overall they account for 30 per cent of all public chargers and whilst there were fewer than 1000 this time last year, there are now more than 3000 across the UK.
Car parks are the next biggest contributor to the public charging network, totalling 25 per cent of all locations when public car parks, retail, workplace or hotels/accommodation are heaped together. Public car parks make up the largest proportion of this 25 per cent with just under 1500 locations available – up around 250 vs. 2018. More than 1400 charging locations are now available at hotels.
A big driver in the increase in public car park chargers has been down to retail. Supermarkets are investing heavily in EV charge points with the likes of Booths teaming up with InstaVolt and Tesco doing so with PodPoint and Lidl – also through PodPoint – recently promising that it will have rapid chargers at all of its new stores on top of the 40 already online.
The trend of rapidly growing infrastructure is likely to continue unabated not only thanks to the efforts of private firms, but also simply because plug-in cars are more popular than ever. Whilst both petrol and diesel cars saw registrations decline in October, figures from the SMMT show that EVs posted 150 per cent growth (2.2 per cent month market share), with hybrids up 28.9 per cent (5.5 per cent) and mild hybrids also up in huge numbers. PHEVs continue to suffer from the removal of the government's plug-in car grant, but were still only down 1.7 per cent (2.2 per cent market share).
In terms of figures year-to-date, EVs are up a stunning 125.1 per cent with 25,892 registered equating to 1.4 per cent of all registrations. Hybrids are up 4.3 per cent with 85,871 registered and a 4.3 per cent market share. PHEVs are down 26.7 per cent year-to-date, with 25,892 registered and a 1.3 per cent market share.
The other major driving force alongside vehicle registrations that is helping grow charging infrastructure is government funding. There has been a lot of different schemes to help fund charger installation, and most recently the DfT released figures on the spread of charging locations across the country. This showed significant disparity, but the government has put forward a £5m pot and is encouraging local authorities to use it in order to help them meet demand.
However, there is a potentially shady side to how the public pot of money for EV infrastructure is being handled. Recently, the private equity firm appointed by the government to handle a £400m charging infrastructure fund came under fire from the opposition Labour party for awarding millions of pounds to a company in which it holds a controlling financial interest.
Private equity firm, Zouk Capital, is the majority shareholder in aforementioned InstaVolt. Zouk has awarded a large (but undisclosed) sum of the first £70m raised by the infrastructure fund to InstaVolt – the first such award made. Whilst the award is said to be “less than 50 per cent” of the £70m, Shadow Business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey criticised the deal saying that the country needs investment in infrastructure rather than deals between businesses.
Dodgy as all this sounds the government has been quick to point out that all of the necessary due process and transparency has been followed. The issue, however, is that for the public – which is still generally wary of EVs – businesses giving each other financial pats on the back is off-putting. Many people don't exactly like the cartel of oil producers that have been so dominant for so many years; it's pretty bad PR if the companies tasked with providing a 'better and cleaner' solution to future mobility are seen to be acting similarly.
Let's not leave it on a bad note, however. The fact is that in the coming years the infrastructure fund will have had a total of £400m to invest in better public charging facilities and that is something worth celebrating.