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EV drivers seeking out fast chargers, but some regions are missing out

Research by charging point experts, Zap-Map, has shed new light on people's EV charging habits, demonstrating that electric car drivers are increasingly favouring fast chargers, whilst also charging their cars more regularly. Alongside Zap-Map's findings, the government has released the latest statistics on the distribution of the UK charging network, and it shows significant disparity in availability depending on where you live.

Higher power, for longer and more often

Zap-Map's EV Charging Survey Report crunches the numbers not only from the most recent 2019 panel survey, it also takes into account the findings from those undertaken from 2016-2018. In it, three main themes were identified, chief among which is EV drivers' desire to plug in at chargers offering a higher power.

Over the past year, 85 per cent of the panel reported using fast chargers of between seven to 22kW and 86 per cent rapid chargers (excluding Tesla units) of up to 43kW. Compared to three years ago, this is a 13 per cent increase in EV drivers using fast and rapid charging. Zap-Map points out that this is directly in line with the overall availability of such chargers, the numbers of which have grown by 27 per cent and 43 per cent respectively.

Whilst the demand for higher power inputs has increased, standard charging (c.3kW) demand has remained stable.

As well as greater use of fast and rapid chargers, EV owners have reported leaving their cars to charge for longer with 16 per cent more people stating that they have left their car on charge for 40 minutes or more, and 18 per cent fewer charging for less than 40 minutes. It stands to reason that this increase (including a 146 per cent increase in charging time on rapid chargers since 2016) is largely down to the fact that EV battery capacity has increased since the survey was first carried out.

Despite charging for longer, EV drivers are potentially more risk-averse as they appear to be visiting chargers more often, judging to their car's state of charge on arrival. Since 2016, the number plugging in at 20 per cent battery charge or less has dropped by six per cent whilst at the same time there has been a six per cent increase in users plugging in at 20 to 40 per cent state of charge.

We reckon that an alternative explanation to people wanting to retain a greater level of charge is that EV owners are simply learning the best way in which to get the most of their cars. Parallels have been drawn between attitudes to plugging in EVs and the way in which people manage the charge of their phone; very few people let the battery in their phone drain all the way before plugging in and will grab energy when it is convenient 'on the move'. The same attitude is quite possibly percolating through the EV owner community.

Disparity in charging network distribution

Whilst people’s attitudes to charging are evolving, whether they have a plentiful supply of public charge points is variable across the UK, according to figures from the Department for Transport. The data has been released as the DfT is offering local authorities £5 million in funding to install new charging points, and it's a case of the further from London you get, the more sporadic the network.

The exception to the rule is Scotland, which with both standard and fast chargers is in the top-four regions for charging infrastructure – Orkney being the second best served in terms of chargers per 100,000 people. As a rule, however, London and the South East have the most charging points by number.

Public charging is at its most inconvenient in the North East, Yorkshire, Wales and Northern Ireland where for both normal and fast chargers, the infrastructure is fairly pitiful. These regions also have some of the highest levels of deprivation in the UK, which demonstrates that there is a lot of work for the government to do in order not only to bring regions up societally, but also enable them to move towards a greener future whilst doing so.

Minister for the Future of Transport, George Freeman, said: “There are now more than 22,500 public charge points and at least one rapid charge point at over 95 per cent of all motorway services areas. To help level up the country, we’ve recently doubled the funding available for councils to build charge points on residential streets.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, is unequivocal in his message when it comes to normalising EVs : “Your postcode should play no part in how easy it is to use an electric car, and I’m determined electric vehicles become the new normal for drivers.

“It’s good news there are now more charging locations than petrol stations, but the clear gaps in provision are disappointing. I urge local councils to take advantage of all the government support on offer to help ensure drivers in their area don’t miss out.”

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