A step change in ambition of the UK’s electric vehicle (EV) charging rollout is required to deliver the 2030 ban on new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, industry experts have warned.
This has been detailed in a new report published by EV charging technology provider Connected Kerb, which draws on new consumer research and insight from eleven industry organisations, including EY, UK Power Networks, Motability, Osprey Charging and Mitie Group.
While the uptake of EVs is rising significantly – with a 196.3% year-on-year increase in battery EV sales recorded in February – the pace of the charging rollout isn’t keeping up, the report said. Indeed, it found that the ratio of EV chargepoints to plug-in cars deteriorated by 31% during 2020.
This puts Britain’s current ratio of 16:1 behind other countries including South Korea (3:1), the Netherlands (5:1), France (10:1), Belgium and Japan (both 13:1).
On-street charging will need to be a focus, the report found, as while the rollout of rapid and ultra-rapid charging is developing well in public spaces such as car parks and motorway service stations, new consumer research released as part of the report indicates that drivers require affordable and easy-to-access chargers to be installed on virtually every residential street. Within a survey commissioned by Connected Kerb and carried out by YouGov of 2,294 UK residents, 80% of respondents said that reliable and affordable chargers located where their car is parked while at home is either “essential” or “very important” to their decision on switching to an EV.
As such, the report details a variety of areas where action must be taken. The first of these is that those deploying EV charging, in particular local authorities, which the report said are in a unique position to deploy at scale, must step up their ambitions for EV charging deployments and install thousands of chargers, not tens.
However, while some local authorities have embarked on large EV charging rollouts, there has been slow progress in others. Additionally, research released in 2021 by Centrica showed that in the preceding four years, only 9,317 on-street chargepoints were planned for installation by local authorities, equivalent to only 35 chargers per council.
The report also recommends that those deploying EV charging use an evidence-based approach to determine the size of the user base and dwell time and forecast how this will change over time. It gave the example of a location where most parking is overnight or all day, which may mean many 7kW long dwell chargers would be better than a few expensive rapid chargers.
Additionally, those deploying EV charging should anticipate how EV use will grow, and install the “behind-the-scenes” ground infrastructure from the start such as grid connections and passive ducting. This will enable more flexible expansion once EV uptake increases as charging sockets can be simply added later, in turn saving money and time.
There should also be a focus on future-proofed, long-life durable chargers, as this will unlock long term contracts. The report detailed how five-year contracts will attract short term finance looking for fast returns, with this then limiting deployment of chargers to areas of high early EV uptake. Meanwhile, 20-year contracts will attract infrastructure capital willing to forgo profits for 10+ years, which in turn unlocks low capital costs and enables large scale rapid deployment ahead of growing demand.
“Long term infrastructure finance is the key that will unlock large scale deployment,” Thierry Mortier, global digital and innovation lead for energy at EY, said.
Others areas requiring action include inclusivity, with there to be 2.7 million UK drivers or passengers with a disability by 2035, with this group disproportionately living in homes without private parking according to the report.
As such, they are less likely to switch to EVs without very reliable access to charging.
There is therefore a need for all parties to provide sufficient charging that is designed to be inclusive of drivers with disabilities.
This is an area of increasing focus, with Motability along with the Department for Transport commissioning the British Standards Institute to develop new accessibility standards for EV charging last year.
Research into the challenges faced by disabled drivers when it comes to EV charging has also been published by Motability and Designability, as well as by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, which later partnered the Energy Systems Catapult to create solutions to address the barriers disabled drivers encounter.
Lastly, there should be more focus on centralised education programmes and community engagement on the benefits of driving electric.
Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of Connected Kerb, said: “The industry is migrating from early adopters, tolerant of patchy performance, to a mass market of mainstream drivers that rightly expect consistent high performance.
“This demands a radical change of mindset amongst national and local government, investors, developers and charging point providers.”
The report follows a similar call from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which recently highlighted the need to accelerate public chargepoint provision, with the rollout lagging behind plug-in vehicle uptake.
The SMMT also called for VAT on electricity used for public chargepoints to be cut to match that for home use so that EV drivers “are treated equally regardless of where they charge their vehicle”.