By now most motorists are aware of the benefits of electric vehicles – they’re cheaper to run compared to petrol engines, they can be charged at home (eliminating the need to go to a garage to fill up on fuel), they create less emissions, and they are generally more eco-friendly than their fossil fuel guzzling cousins. Yet, while sales have increased dramatically since 2014, these vehicles only make up around 1.3% of the total new car market in the UK. So why aren’t drivers ditching their petrol-fuelled cars for these seemingly superior models?
It could partly be because of the lack of model choice, the higher outlay cost, long recharging times, or the limited range. Another reason is that the infrastructure across the UK doesn’t support the uptake of electric vehicles as well as it could, and this ties in with motorists’ “range anxiety” – will the battery last long enough for me to reach my destination, and if not, will there be a charging point along the way? However, steps are being taken to rectify this and to make the UK a more EV-friendly country.
How Many Charging Points Are Available?
In October 2016, Be Wiser Insurance shared some chargepoint statistics in our article “Are Electric Cars Really The Future?” According to Zap-Map, at the time there were over 6,400 charging devices in the UK, at over 4,100 locations and with 11,600 connectors between them. Five months later, there are 6,597 devices, 4,302 locations, and 12,186 connectors. This means that in that time 200 more locations have been created, with around 100 more devices, and around 500 more connectors. If the numbers continue to increase at this rate, there will be around 13,000 connectors by the end of the year, 4,700 locations, and around 6,800 charging devices.
However, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) stated that electric cars and the infrastructure required for them is in need of a bigger boost. This came after a YouGov study found that nearly half of motorists were hesitant to buy an electric car because of the lack of charging points.
On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme
The government announced that it will spend over £600m between 2015 and 2020 to encourage the use and manufacture of ultra-low-emission vehicles, with £38m to be spent on public charging points.
As part of this initiative, the government is providing £2.5 million worth of funding for the On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme. The scheme aims to provide charging capabilities for people who don’t have off-street parking. Ideally electric vehicles should be charged at home for better convenience and value, so this funding could improve the infrastructure of electric vehicle charging points and make the technology available to more people.
Local authorities can apply to receive a central government grant to part fund the purchase and installation of chargepoints in residential areas, and motorists can contact their local authority to register their interest in having a chargepoint on their street. The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) will provide up to £7,500 per installation of each chargepoint in a residential area which lacks off-street parking. With a pot of £2.5m to dip into, this could provide 333 chargepoints across the UK, increasing the total amount of charging devices by around 5%.
Electric Buses and Rapid Response Vehicles
The use of electric vehicles goes beyond consumer use. Electric cars are being rolled out for paramedics in Bury and Rochdale to make the service more eco-friendly. The BMW i3 models - which are being used as rapid response vehicles - feature a small petrol engine that can generate electricity, which will only be used in extreme circumstances should the battery run out.
Elsewhere, Nottingham has one of the largest fleets of electric buses in Europe, boasting 58 buses, and this is supported by energy provider E.ON, who have provided 60 bus charging points in the city.
Electric Car Adoption Requires A Support Network
While Norway is planning to ban the petrol car, hoping to have 100% of all cars on the country’s roads running on green energy by 2025, the UK government is unlikely to suggest this kind of massive change. The closest to a formal position is that proposed in opposition by the Labour party to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
Improved infrastructure across the country could help to support the uptake of electric vehicles, and see motorists become more eco-friendly than ever before. Having more chargepoints would relieve ‘range anxiety’ as even if the total battery life doesn’t cover the entire journey, it will be more likely that there will be a chargepoint somewhere along the route. With positive steps being taken by the government and more models available than ever, the landscape for electric vehicles could look very different in a year’s time.