With the government’s target to reach net zero by 2050, and an aim to phase out internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2030, we are witnessing a significant uptake in the adoption of electric vehicles. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, more electric vehicles were registered in 2021 than in the entire preceding five years combined.
This is a trend that also appears to be particularly influential amongst the younger demographic, with data from the Office for National Statistics showing more than half of motorists aged 16 to 49 are likely to switch to all-electric vehicles in the next decade, meaning that EV uptake is set to substantially increase in the coming years.
While the public may be slowly becoming convinced to make the switch, there remain fundamental changes needed to facilitate the mass transition to EVs.
One of the key challenges currently facing the UK market is the gap between the north and south of the country when it comes to EV uptake. Sales data shows 20% of EVs sold were in London and the southeast in 2021, with the entirety of Wales and northern England accounting for less than 10%. Digging into the reasons behind the disparity in uptake is necessary for the country to be ready for the 2030 vehicle ban.
A key stumbling block for prospective EV users lies in the pitfalls of the UK’s charging infrastructure, namely how it lacks a robust network in the north. On-street chargers make up a quarter of the UK charging network, but the majority are in London – analysis from energy provider Bulb found that the north has 65% fewer EV chargers per 100,000 people than in the south.
Regional disparities in the number of public chargepoints create everyday inconveniences for EV users in regions that are less well equipped, while also disincentivising current ICE motorists from making the switch sooner. Feelings of charge anxiety are also likely to be heightened by EV users in the north if a robust system is not established. These disparities cannot be explained by a lack of interest in EV adoption, so we need charging infrastructure that better reflects the nationwide desire for uptake.
Alongside the north-south divide in public charging, financial hurdles also significantly inhibit EV adoption. Incentives such as government grants are vital in helping consumers make the transition to electric, which in turn will aid the development of the UK’s EV charging infrastructure.
Whilst it is encouraging to see initiatives such as The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), which provides grant funding of up to £350 towards the cost of a home chargepoint, there seems to be little encouragement or support offered to those who do not have the luxury of a private driveway. Currently 20% VAT is added to the electricity when using a public charger compared with only 5% when charging at home.
We need to make it cheaper for drivers to make the switch and easier to use public charging when they take that leap of faith. While the infrastructure does need to improve, technology is being utilised to improve accessibility.
Around 40% of UK homeowners do not have a driveway or garage to install a home chargepoint – so supporting these current and prospective EV owners is vital for the transition to EVs across the country. Platforms such as Bonnet are making it easier for EV drivers to charge and identify available charging points by creating a user-friendly platform that aggregates EV chargepoints across numerous charging networks.
While businesses are investing and increasing the number of chargepoints available to the public, we must ensure this covers all regions. If not, we risk creating severe disparities that could negatively impact the overall drive towards mass EV adoption. Owning an EV is no longer a novelty, but we need to make sure through increased investment, government initiatives and available technology that drivers across all parts of the UK feel confident enough to make the switch to EVs over the coming years.