Research by consumer group reveals just 13 per cent of EV and plug-in hybrid vehicle charging currently takes place via UK’s public charging network
A major nationwide upgrade programme is needed for the UK’s public charge point network to prepare it for a rapid influx of electric vehicle (EV) drivers who will not have access to charging at home.
That is the conclusion of leading consumer group Which? in a fresh report today that calls for urgent action improve the accessibility, reliability and quality of public charging, noting the number of drivers who will be completely reliant on public charge points is set to rise sharply as the UK’s 2030 ban on new fossil fuel vehicles draws closer.
The findings reveal that the overwhelming majority of EV and plug-hybrid (PHEV) owners – 93 per cent – are currently able to power up their vehicles using charge points installed at home, with mere 13 per cent of battery car charging taking place on the public charging network dotted around offices, retail car parks, motorways and other locations across the UK.
However, these stats are expected to shift significantly in the coming years as more and more drivers switch to EVs, with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) estimating that some eight million households across the UK will not be able to charge their car at home due to limited access to off-street parking, the research notes.
Yet concerns about public EV infrastructure continue to be a major barrier preventing many consumers from purchasing EVs, the research suggests. Three out of five of the most significant barriers preventing drivers from purchasing EVs relate to anxiety about charging, with a third of consumers surveyed in the report pointing to a lack of availability of charge points on long journeys, and 29 per cent raising concerns about a lack or charge points close to home.
The findings, which echo many of the conclusions of a separate report published by industry body SMMT yesterday, warn that the public charge point network remains inadequate in many areas of the country, with significant regional and national disparities across the country when it comes to capacity. There are four times as many public chargers per 100,000 people in London than there are in England’s North West, it notes, and nearly three times more in Scotland per head that Northern Ireland.
Sue Davies, head of consumer protection policy at Which?, said steps to enhance public charging would be critical to accelerating uptake of EVs and decarbonising road transport. “Improving the UK’s flawed charging infrastructure will support more motorists to make the switch to a zero emission vehicle,” she said. “The current confusing and complex system needs to be quickly overhauled if the network is going to be ready for the ban on new fossil fuel cars in 2030. Charging must be easy, accessible and affordable if people are going to make the move to an electric car.”
The consumer group has set out a number of recommendations for policymakers, local authorities, automakers and charge point companies. These include a call for these actors to work together to significantly ramp up the number of charging stations around the UK – both on-street and at service stations – as well as for a ban on charge points being limited to certain brands of car.
It has also urged stakeholders to work together to simplify a system that currently has more than 60 charging networks, many of which demand users to download a specific app or sign up for a particular Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card. Which? said drivers should be able to pay with their bank card where possible, or use a single app or RFID card accepted by all networks.
Moreover, it stressed that improving public charging points was an issue of equity, noting that those unable to charge at home due to a lack of off-street parking would be likely foot higher bills for driving if action is not taken to ensure that public charging rates were comparable to home charging rates.
Commenting on the report, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh blamed the Conservative government for failing to support the provision of public charge points, while also highlighting its recent decision to cut grants for consumers purchasing EVs. “The government is so distracted by to save the hopeless Prime Minister, that it has abandoned its climate commitments,” she added.
The Department for Transport was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press, but it is expected to soon publish an EV Infrastructure Strategy for the UK.
However, in its response to SMMT’s appeal yesterday for a “nationally coordinated, but locally delivered” EV infrastructure plan overseen by a new EV charging watchdog, a government spokesperson highlighted the £1.3bn support it has allocated to the roll-out of charge points for homes, businesses and on residential streets, which it claimed would help ‘level up’ chargepoint provision while supporting the deployment of charging on motorways and major roads.
In total, the government claims to have allocated £950m to rapid and ultra-rapid charge points, £620m for zero emissions vehicle grants and infrastructure, and has committed to introduce legislation that would require all new build homes that can to include an electric vehicle charging point. It has also pledged to regulate on payment methods, reliability, pricing transparency and open data at chargepoints later this year in a bid to enhance EV drivers’ charging experience, it said.
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