Electric Charge Points – Where Are We?

charge points

Let’s imagine the not too distant future. The year is 2030, new petrol and diesel cars have been banned from sale and the popularity of electric cars has soared due to the amazing blog posts that EVision Electric Vehicles keep producing (OK, I can’t take all the credit for it). The world is a much greener place to live, and not to mention much quieter with fewer combustion engines roaring along the roads. But what will the charge point situation look like in just 8 years’ time?

To judge where we will be in the near future we need to see where we are at present. Who is involved in the roll out of the charge points, what issues still need to be addressed and how likely are we to achieve the desired level of charge points by the 2030 date.

According to our friends at Zap Map, the current state of play with public electric charge points is as follows. There are 19,150 locations, with 30,412 devices and a total of 51,002 connectors. We can see that the number of charge points has soared in just a few years. However, we are still a very long way from the 400,000+ charge points that it is predicted we will need by 2030.

Electric Charge Points – The Trends

With the charge points that are already in existence we can see a real disparity in where they are. Most, as you would expect, are in the major cities. Particularly London, with fewer being located in rural areas and along the coast.

However, 1 in 5 people live by the coast in the UK and 1 in 3 live in rural areas. It is obvious that more needs to be done. At present there is 1 charge point for every 1,200 people in the London area. With 33% of all UK public charge points being in the Greater London area. In the South East, where there are a lot of residents in rural areas and along the coast, that figure is 1 charge point for every 2,800 people. If you venture into the rural North you will see even fewer charge points per capita.

Another trend that can be seen is that there has been a greater take-up of electric vehicles in areas where there is greater visibility of electric charge points. London has a very high take up of electric cars. However, if you go to the rural areas in the North of England where there is a low number of charge points, there is a much higher reluctance to make the switch. It isn’t rocket science. The more chargers we can see around the country the more comfortable people will be about making the change.

Grideserve charging station

What Other Issues Have Been Raised

As well as the lack of charge points, there have been a number of other issues identified that will certainly need to be addressed when moving forward.

The cost of public charge points has been noted as an issue, with the cost of charging on the road sometimes up to 10 times more expensive than charging at home. Reliability has been frequently touted as a major annoyance for electric vehicle drivers. Payment at public charge points is a nightmare that we can all relate to. How many of us have a special folder on our phones just for EV charging apps! I know I do. And don’t get me started on RFID cards.

As well as these issues which will be familiar to all electric car drivers, there are also other issues that many will not have even considered. For example, there doesn’t seem to be any consideration for charging on the road for larger vehicles such as lorries and buses that will be expected to take longer journeys than the vast majority of electric car drivers. This will be a real issue as we move forward and want more larger vehicles to become electric. Where will they refuel?

Vehicle charging

What Will be Done

Having attended a recent live webinar hosted by GreenFleet. Featuring Sophie Lyons, the head of EV Infrastructure Strategy for the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) and a number of other EV industry insiders. I was able to get a bit of an idea of where we are heading in the near future.

Sophie stated that the goals set by OZEV include wanting to keep the price of electric charging down. So that it will always be far cheaper than petrol or diesel. There is a focus on reliability with a 99% operational charging network aim. They want a much more visible network of charge points that will be easier to find on a map. Easier payment options are being looked at with several proposals being considered. And OZEV will be continuing to support new technology and business models that support the rollout of electric charge points.

Reliability

In regards to the reliability of charge points, both OZEV and the AA discussed this point in more detail. OZEV are prioritising smart charge points that can relay information back to a server. Notifying when a charge point is faulty so that repairs can be made as quickly as possible. The AA are also rolling out training to assist customers who have issues with charge points. They are hopeful of getting people back on the road much more quickly.

Although OZEV are playing a massive role in the expansion of the electric charge point network, it will largely be down to local governments to put the rollouts into practice in their own areas. This was noted during the webinar Q&A session and it was stated that there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between central government and local government. More communication needs to be in place if these schemes are going to be successful. Another issue that was raised was that local governments need larger allocations of money pledged so they can make longer term plans for electric charge point expansion.

Final Thoughts

Although there are a lot of good ideas and intentions coming from many different directions it is concerning how far behind we are with the rollout. We are currently at a point where we should have been 3 or 4 years ago. There is a feeling of panic amongst those who have been charged with rolling out these schemes. The pandemic has not helped, but we were all aware of the quickly accelerating electric car evolution and more should have been done much earlier.

Will we reach the ultimate goal of 400,000+ public charge points by 2030? I really hope we can do it, but I remain a little sceptical. I think 2035 will be a more realistic goal. Governments, particularly at a local level, are not well known for acting with speed. Nothing suggests to me that this will be any different. So I challenge all local authorities to prove me wrong. I really hope you do.