‘Yes, there are charger concerns, but don’t press pause on EV roll out’

 (Getty Images/Westend61)
(Getty Images/Westend61)

Over the past few weeks, there has been a raft of negative headlines around the UK’s public charging network, saying it’s 20 years behind where it’s needed to be, and it’s growing too slowly to support those who want to go electric.

The reality is much more nuanced ‒ and far more positive ‒ than those headlines make out. The UK’s public charging network will be ready to support all those who choose to go electric: it just needs a little help in getting there.

In the UK today, there are more than 330,000 chargers in total, to just over 1 million plug-in vehicles but around 260,000 of these are home chargers. Public chargers currently number only 35,000, but they are growing by around a third every year and are set to reach 300,000 chargers by 2030.

Rather than pressing pause, we need to fully embrace the shift to electric cars

Recently there have been calls to hit pause on the transition to electric cars, or to at least slow it down, for the infrastructure to catch up. This would actually have the opposite effect, and would effectively mean pausing the roll-out of new public chargers as the charge point installation companies need to be assured of future demand for the charging industry to grow.

Rather than pressing pause, we need to fully embrace the shift to electric cars. The Government has proposed a Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, which will give manufacturers a minimum number of EVs they must produce each year in the lead up to 2035. It needs to bring this in immediately to ensure future demand for public charging is guaranteed.

The charging infrastructure industry currently faces other barriers to success, too. The cost-of-living crisis makes chargers more expensive to install and to use. The installation process can be dogged with issues, such as planning permission and delays. Some local authorities fail to make installation a priority, leading to inequality in levels of infrastructure.

It is important that we make it easier to invest and install new chargers

One shining example of how it’s best done is in Coventry, where the city council has introduced a dedicated EV charging network that costs users less than the domestic price cap on electricity. The city has secured huge amounts of government funding, equal to all London boroughs combined, and showed what can be achieved when dedicated resources are given to the transition.

In Scotland the price of electricity at public chargers is also lower for users than in the rest of the UK. New Automotive’s 2022 data shows the average cost of charging for the whole of Scotland was below the domestic tariff. There are 3,500 chargers that cost below the cap, meaning the savings available to those charging at home can be accessed by those who don’t have off-street charging.

These examples need to become the norm, not the exception. We need to make sure we’re helping the charging industry navigate the energy crisis and continue to thrive, so that drivers without access to home charging aren’t penalised. We need to help local councils deliver consistently so they are able to support industry in their local area.

The EV transition is well under way, so it is important that we listen to the charging industry and make it easier for it to invest and install new chargers. The infrastructure will be ready and able to overcome any challenges fired its way. But in the meantime let’s work together to make every area charger-friendly ‒ and more EVs, please!

New Automotive is a non-profit organisation that works to support and accelerate the UK’s transition to electric vehicles.