We're already at a point where statistically speaking, an EV driver is never more than 25 miles from a rapid (i.e. 50kW) charge point along England's motorways and major A roads. In total, this amounts to 809 publicly available locations across the country. As part of the rapid charging fund, which was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak within the budget back in March, £500 million is being made available to improve charging infrastructure, and now we have more details about how this will happen.
The fundamental plan is to ensure that England's charging network along its strategic roads is fit for purpose as we march towards the end of petrol and diesel car sales in the UK, which is currently set for 2035. Cash from the £500m pot will be available to fund ultra-rapid charge points where otherwise it would be financially uneconomical to install them. This will be predominantly at motorway service stations and locations along major A roads.
We reported on the lack of grid capacity in some areas back in January and how expensive it was to overcome this issue. Charge point providers have had to stump up the cash in advance to get the necessary capacity added to the local grid to install ultra-rapid chargers – something that can amount to millions of pounds before a charger has even been hooked up.
At the time, BP Chargemaster told us: “Currently, a new connection that takes any existing local grid capacity over a certain threshold resulting in significant reinforcement work being required incurs all of the cost of that reinforcement upfront, with any subsequent new connections paying a much lower cost as the upgrade work will have been done. We need a fairer way of dealing with these upgrades – which will no doubt be necessary at many if not most motorway sites – to ensure that one party is not obliged to bear all of the cost.”
The announcement by the DfT should help take the edge off of these costs and allow for significant local grid upgrades in a greater number of locations, with the official blurb stating: “[The fund will] assist where the electrical connection costs of upgrading sites to need charging demand is not commercially viable.”
There are several mileposts set out over the next 15 years which the fund is going to support. Before we go into these, something important to note is that the government is making good on its promise to provide charging that is accessible by all. All charge points installed through the Rapid Charging Fund will accept card payment (something we commentated on last July) and be open access, which means there is no registration required and charge point mapping services – including Google maps and vehicle sat navs – will be able to provide accurate, live information about them.
Furthermore, the aim is for 99 per cent up-time, 24/7 technical support, charging connections for any EV and clear pricing per kilowatt hour. From our point of view, this is an exercise in ticking all of the boxes that are required for a truly robust and – importantly – consumer-friendly charging network.
Back to the mileposts, and by 2023 the aim of the scheme is to have at least six ultra-rapid (150-350kW capable) charging stations at motorway services across England, with some larger sites having up to 12 individual charging points. Rapid charging will enable a quick turnaround of around 15 minutes for over 100 miles of range at a minimum.
By 2030 the expectation is that the network will extend to around 2500 ultra-rapid charge points across England's motorways and major A roads. This will cater for the much higher levels of EV adoption that are expected over the next ten years and – at an estimate – be similar to the existing petrol station provision along similar routes.
By 2035 the expectation is for 6000 ultra-rapid charge points along the strategic road network in England, and whatever way you cut it, that's a huge number and a very significant goal by the government.
In short, this is very, very welcome news. As we said, the types of charge points that are being planned are precisely what are needed to encourage more people into EVs – easy to use, no sign-up required and open access for maximum integration with third-party technology such as sat-nav. It's extremely refreshing to see the government take a strong, proactive stance on this, and we're glad that it has raised its game to answer some of the main questions we, and many other commentators and EV enthusiasts have been asking.