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UK charging infrastructure increases by a third compared to this time last year as EV sales surge

August was yet another strong month for EV registrations here in the UK. Some 5589 joined the nation's roads in that time – 77.6 per cent up on last year, claiming 6.4 per cent of the new car market. For the year-to-date, the figures are even more impressive: despite there being four months left of 2020, EV registrations have surpassed the year total for 2019 with 44,708 new EVs on the road – 157 per cent up on this time last year.

When you add PHEVs into the mix, the total figure for new plug-in vehicles registered to date is 74,585 which is an 8.2 per cent market share.

With the increase in plug-in vehicle numbers now set to continue unabated – as we move towards getting rid of new petrol and diesel cars – there's the inevitable strain on the charging network. But new initiatives and connected services are helping to mitigate the demand placed upon it.

Growth of the network

According to charging network oracles, Zap-Map, the charging network has gained 393 individual charging points in the past 30 days (until 14 September) alone. This means that as of now, there are 12,378 locations at which to charge with a total of 19,520 devices. Given that some charging devices have more than one connection, a total of 33,922 individual charging connections are now available throughout the country.

This time last year, the number of charging locations stood at 9300, so over the past 12 months there has been 33 per cent increase. Given the ongoing pandemic, that's a significant uplift and goes some way towards demonstrating the head of steam built up behind EV infrastructure.

Faster charging speeds

Whilst the sheer number of charge points is a significant part of making EVs viable for more people, the speed at which they can be charged in public is just as important, and in many circumstances, arguably more important. Breaking charger categories down into slow (3-5kW), fast (7-22kW), rapid (25-99kW) and ultra-rapid (100kW+) figures from Zap-Map, show that the biggest increases are at the upper end of charging speed.

There are now nearly 32 per cent more ultra-rapid chargers than this time last year, though proportionally they make up just 3.4 per cent of total charging connections. Rapid charger connections have increased in number by 17 per cent and make up 21.4 per cent; fast chargers are up 13.2 per cent and make up the largest chunk at 54.9 per cent of all chargers. Whilst low speed chargers are less useful in areas where journeys are typically longer, in cities they make a lot of sense as journeys are far shorter. Compared to last year there are 15.5 per cent more of them and they make up 20 per cent of all connections, but this increase has been driven in the main by projects such as lamp post charging and similar schemes.

£12m of additional government funding

On 9 September – aka 'World EV Day' –, it will be funnelled through long-time EV R&D partner, Innovate UK, and will enable a series of competitions to help progress the development of new EV technologies by SMEs and other innovators.

The DfT stated the funding would “support a range of ground-breaking projects designed to open up significant commercial opportunities, one of which could see cars of the future benefitting from a six-minute battery charge”. Sadly, the DfT didn't elaborate on what that technology is. However, further cash is being released through the Niche Vehicle Network to support competition.

On top of this, a £9.3m fund has been made available through Highways England to allow businesses to trial EVs for two months before committing to purchase. Following a successful pilot scheme by Leeds City Council, the aim is to help businesses understand how an electrified fleet can both work for, and benefit them.

Zap-Map launches Zap-Pay universal payment system

Whilst the government has committed to ensuring all charge points installed through its funding accept card payment and is pushing other suppliers in the direction of a single roaming solution, there is still an ongoing issue facing EV drivers in the form of myriad subscription connection and payment services. With Zap-Pay from Zap-Map, the company is aiming to bring multiple charging suppliers into one simple management app, allowing them to connect and charge through a single source.

The first charging company to get involved is Engenie with ten charge points included at launch, and the remainder of the 150-plus network of rapid charge points coming online in the coming months. Engenie CEO, Ian Johnston, reckons that Zap-Map's position in the market makes it a logical solution: “With more than 250,000 downloads and 90% of our surveyed EV drivers regularly using the service, Zap-Map is the most used and trusted EV charger mapping tool available in the UK – it is perfectly placed to bring this game-changing solution to market.”

In the near future, ESB EV Solutions, LiFe and Hubsta will also come on board as charging suppliers utilising Zap-Pay, with even wider uptake envisioned for 2021.

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