As the UK continues to decarbonise its road transportation network ahead of the internal combustion engine (ICE) sale ban from 2030, the need to provide accessible EV charging sites is paramount.
Increasing the amount of EV chargers available is vital for the continued success witnessed within the EV market in recent years. The RAC revealed in early October that pure battery electric vehicle (BEV) figures had exceeded half a million to reach 519,266 at the end of June 2022.
But how many public and private EV chargers are there across the UK? According to Zap-Map, at the end of October 2022, there were 35,778 EV charging points across the UK, across 21,378 charging locations.
In comparison, there are 400,000 people in the UK with access to a privately-owned EV charger, according to What Car? Research. With the ongoing energy crisis, this has enabled those with access to home EV charging to be supported by both the Energy Bill Relief Scheme – which is currently providing £500 in support to households across six months from October – and the Energy Price Guarantee, which has capped the electricity and gas units at 34.0p/kWh and 10.3p/kWh respectively, inclusive of VAT for standard variable tariffs.
The result? In September 2022, the average weighted price of charging at a slow or fast charger – typically found on-street or at a destination such as supermarkets or car parks – was 39p/kWh in the UK. The price for a rapid or ultra-rapid charge point, typically used for high speed en-route charging, was 56p/kWh.
This is significantly more than private charging and thus is creating disparity in the market. However, it is not only disparity in charging costs that is impacting the industry, but geographical locations are also contributing to this, with higher densities of chargers in urban areas.
Private EV chargers highlight the disparity in costs
Private chargers, which encompasses home-based EV chargers, have grown in popularity across the UK to provide a safe, relatively cheap solution. In doing so, more and more drivers in the UK have been willing to transition to clean driving solutions due to this increased access.
Lauren Pamma, programme director at the Green Finance Institute, which includes the Coalition for the Decarbonisation of Road Transport (CDRT) under its arm, said: “Currently, 82% of EV drivers can charge at home – a far higher percentage than the total drivers with off-street parking – as early adopters of EVs have typically been more affluent. There are many innovative, reliable charge point operators that are delivering a public charging infrastructure network at both pace and scale.
“However, to ensure that we can have chargers in the ground ahead of the demand, and to drive the transition to EVs, changes to the traditional financing structures will be key, and doing so will play a significant role in overcoming public charging disparities around the country.”
As indicated by Pamma, there are a significant number of EV drivers that have the confidence in charging their EVs from home. With this comes cheaper rates. However, those that are exposed to on-street chargers are susceptible to volatile energy prices during the energy crisis.
According to research conducted by Savills, in suburban London a driveway adds 4.7% to the overall price of a home, while a driveway in London’s most expensive central postcodes can add 33% to the price of the property. This figure adds further fuel to the fire that only the most economically able can benefit from access to charging from home.
“While the Savills research certainly provides food for thought, the London housing market is a very specific example, and is not generally replicated elsewhere in the UK,” said Melanie Shufflebotham, chief operating officer and co-founder of Zap-Map.
“Research from Field Dynamics and Zap-Map this summer also showed that, whilst there is still some way to go, on-street charging provision is improving. The research found that the percentage of households without the space to charge at their own property – but live within five minutes’ walk of a public charger so they can easily plug in their car and walk home – has risen from 12% to 17% since 2020. That’s a significant overall increase, of more than 40%.”
This rise is a positive for the sector. Although many are unable to access private chargers, there are opportunities to scale on-street charging as a means to provide assurances when it comes to charging anxiety. However, Connected Kerb still does not believe this enough and further highlighted the disparity witnessed in the EV market.
“Clearly there is a disparity here which is why public on-street charging is so critical. With up to 60% of UK residents unable to charge their vehicle on their own property, supporting people without driveways has to be the way forward,” said a spokesperson from Connected Kerb.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) confirmed the VAT on public EV charging was to stand at 20%, last year. HMRC explained that de minimis – a mechanism that allows a 5% VAT rate for supplies of small quantities of electricity – does not apply to public EV charging, and that there is therefore no relief or exemption to the standard VAT rate of 20%.
This is a crucial issue that the sector has emphasised needs to be urgently addressed in a bid to reduce the disparity witnessed in the EV market.
“We recognise that the electric vehicle transition to date has been predominately led by drivers with access to driveways. The 5% VAT on home charging, which is significantly lower than the 20% VAT on public charging, makes it cheaper to charge at home,” said Pamma.
“People that charge at home also have the luxury of selecting a preferred energy tariff, which could offer ever lower costs for charging overnight when energy demand is low, for example. Yet home charging is only possible for those that have access to off-street parking, making the rollout of on-street residential charging central to breaking the disparities between those that have access to driveways and those that do not.”
A case for supporting a just transition
One primary method that could bridge the gap in charging disparity is to increase the availability of on-street charging. Although susceptible to fluctuating prices due to the energy crisis, the scaling of this technology could further help residential areas decarbonise by offering sufficient EV charging capabilities. Along with this, Shufflebotham believes local high-powered hubs could also reduce disparity.
“The scaling up of on-street charging, alongside the rollout of local high-powered hubs, will undoubtedly have a positive impact – and should encourage anyone considering switching to an EV to do so sooner rather than later,” Shufflebotham said.
“Looking ahead, an appropriate level of charging provision across all areas of the country will involve a mix of solutions. For example, our latest survey shows that supermarkets and other retail car parks are currently the most popular charging locations. So one way to avoid disparity is to build charging into people’s everyday routines: ‘destination’ charging.
“Another is through high-powered hubs, situated locally – which EV drivers would visit to charge up in a similar way to a local petrol station – or en-route, near to the main road networks for longer journeys. Then of course there’s on-street charging with slower chargers installed on residential streets.”
Destination chargers could be created in various locations often used by the general public. In doing so, this will increase the number of available chargers on a day-to-day basis. Destination charging locations include shops, supermarkets and places of work and thus allow EV drivers to have an accessible area to charge. This reduces charging anxiety amongst drivers and thus could vitally see more drivers transition to EVs.
Pamma believes that the solution to decreasing disparity within the EV market lies in the financial structures used for the development of charging sites.
“The current, traditional financing structures have followed the user demand and commercial returns, driving the rollout of electric vehicle chargers in cities and areas with high EV uptake,” said Pamma.
“Both investors and installers have identified the uncertainty of short to medium term utilisation rates as a key barrier to installation. This risk means that installers are not prioritising areas where there are concerns that short-term liabilities will exceed revenues.
“These financing structures pave the way for charge point operators to get ahead of the demand across the country and ensure that regardless of where you are in the country, or what your preferences are for charging, the infrastructure is already in place and ready to be used.”