It’s fair to say that there are significant fears about the readiness of public infrastructure for the end of petrol and diesel sales in 2030, and the huge increase in EV uptake between now and then. Whilst private charging providers are creating their own networks, a centrally-driven, publicly-funded effort is also needed – especially with regards charging for those who live in locations where off-street, private infrastructure isn’t a possibility.
The government’s announcement of a target of at least 300,000 public charge points by 2030, backed by £1.6bn in funding (albeit not all of which is new funding), is designed to make charging “easier and cheaper than refuelling a petrol or diesel car”. Crucially, the plan also introduces “new legal requirements on operators” that will “see drivers of EVs able to pay by contactless, compare charging prices and find nearby charge points via apps”.
Funding is being pulled from several areas and will be spent on specific infrastructure. One of the most welcome investment and schemes in our eyes is the £500m which will go towards charge points for communities where off-street parking isn’t feasible. A Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) fund is backed by £450m which local authorities can bid for to boost charging in areas that need it most. Mandatory open data sharing by government-backed charging devices will also ensure that usage and therefore future installation locations are assessed based on real-world need.
The existing £950m Rapid Charging Fund is designed to support the much-lauded, but less important, high powered network. This aims to install at least 6000 high-powered chargers on the UK’s motorways by 2035.
Coverage of the entire country as well as improving consumer experience – through provision of both slower charging for communities and fast charging on the strategic road network – is particularly exciting. Furthermore, the expectation of ‘99 per cent reliability’ of charge points should (if achieved) help with the current network’s reputation for sketchy availability and reliability. The government has produced a report to its findings on consumer experience whilst charging which highlighted reliability, ease and clarity of payment as massive factors for consumers.
Broadly speaking, the news has been welcomed by the automotive and EV-specific industry.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Government has rightly recognised that Britain’s electric mobility revolution must put the needs of the consumer at the heart of the transition. Every stakeholder will have to play their part in this transition but, if industry and consumers are to have the certainty they need to invest, commensurate and binding targets must be set for infrastructure provision. Deployed nationally and at pace, this expansion would give drivers confidence they will be able to charge as easily as they would refuel, wherever they are.”
Toddington Harper, CEO of GRIDSERVE, highlighted the need for action over words: “We welcome the Government’s commitments to expanding the UK’s charging network, and it’s crucial these commitments are met with action. The race is now on for the industry to accelerate the deployment of chargers across the country, giving drivers in all corners of the UK access to dependable charging, and in turn, complete confidence to make the switch to electric vehicles.”
The need for a greater number of lower speed, affordable and convenient charge points was highlighted by Octopus Electric Vehicles. Fiona Howarth, CEO, said: “The reality is that most people won't use rapid chargers often – alternatively using home, workplace, kerbside and community charging that cost as little as £5 to fill up, instead of up to £40 at a rapid. But having an increasing base of reliable rapid chargers will continue to build confidence and encourage more people to make the switch to clean, green driving.”
Finally, CEO and co-founder of DevicePilot, Pilgrim Beart, reckons that regional equality and quality over quantity is needed: “There needs to be a more even distribution of EV funding across the nation, since many local councils are yet to receive a penny from the Government, while others are flush for EV investment. First and foremost, chargers need to work. They need to provide the same experience as the petrol pumps, but they are too often malfunctioning, occupied or in need of repair. We need investment in the quality of the UK's EV infrastructure, not just its quantity.”
The need for local councils, especially in the nine biggest metro areas of the UK, to spend their funding on the EV transition has also been highlighted in a report by Novuna Vehicle Solutions which found that only West Yorkshire explicitly referenced EV charging point investment in its accounts, having installed 88 a part of a £3.2m ULEV taxi scheme. None of the others had done so, despite each Mayor getting a share of £250m a year from the capital investment fund.
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