Thinking about buying an electric vehicle? With prices falling and technology improving, more people than ever are making the switch to a greener drive. But is the lack of UK charging points a roadblock to us all going electric?
Electric vehicles are becoming cheaper
Buying an electric vehicle (EV) is one way to play our part in reducing carbon emissions and the rate of EV sales in the UK is growing rapidly. Last year saw the biggest annual increase with more than 175,000 electric vehicles registered – that’s a growth of 66 percent in 2019.
There’s no doubt that the UK is about to undergo an electric revolution. Just as the combustion engine revolutionised our towns and cities in the 20th century, we are set to change again to accommodate a new breed of vehicles.
Prices are becoming more affordable all the time. An increasing number of companies are offering EVs as company cars with tax incentives.
Lack of charging points for electric vehicles
For the whole of the UK to move to EVs, a coordinated network of public charging points is essential.
One of the biggest issues especially for rural areas is ‘range anxiety’, in other words, where and how they’ll charge it up. So the dream of a net-zero future hinges on our EV charging infrastructure. But this doesn’t seem to be happening, as the North Yorkshire County Council website says:
“We currently have no plan to roll out on-street charging infrastructure on a large scale or in response to individual requests for on-street charge points”.
Ofgem recently approved £300m of upgrades to support the installation of more EV chargers, including 1,800 new ultra-rapid points at motorway services. Steve Bratt of Actuate UK, which represents eight of the UK’s major engineering services trade bodies, says any new hardware must be reinforced by joined-up thinking. He says:
“Without an integrated plan to install a comprehensive charging network, customers will not make the necessary switch to EV. Drivers are understandably worried about being stranded without fuel. We must make the EV charging network a priority in the shift to fossil-free motoring.”
North Yorkshire County Council recognises the need to coordinate provision of charge points between all local authorities within the county. But with the clock ticking are intentions enough?
Reducing our carbon footprint
With a planned uptake in EVs and other green initiatives, the UK is aiming to reach its net-zero target by 2050. There are rumours that some of the big names such as BP and Shell will soon make the switch to all-electric forecourts.
“To reduce our carbon footprint we must also change our habits. “Thinking ahead how we use our cars, charging the car overnight and noting charging stations before a long journey will become commonplace.
“With our driving habits so firmly established, it is currently hard to visualise the future shape of our roads and service stations, and it may seem frustrating to make changes to our lifestyles.
“But if we want cleaner air and quieter roads, embracing EVs now is essential. In another 100 years no-one will remember how we used to drive and EVs will be the norm.”
However, other countries appear to already be in the fast lane. Steve, who is chief executive of leading electrical trade association, ECA, says:
“Germany has already committed to spend nearly £5 billion during the next three years to provide EV charging points at every service station to boost consumer demand for EVs. The UK must step up to provide a similar infrastructure to show the world we are serious about the switch to EVs.”
Electric is the future, we just need more charging stations
Adam Smith of NRT Eco, which install EV charging points in England, says:
“We need more charging points in businesses and on the streets. If you go to your local service station, you are lucky if it has one electric point. If there is a car already charging, you could have up to an hour’s wait.”
Besides creating a joined-up plan, Actuate UK says it is also concerned about the many aspects of large-scale charging installation yet to be considered. Adam added:
“A system of mini-grids with battery storage is one-way to capture electricity generated in homes and other small-scale ventures. This would generate enough electricity to power local charging points.”
But what about installing an EV charging point at home? The good news is that grants are available, and it can be done quickly, with most installations taking less than a day – although it’s important to ensure it’s done by a qualified electrician. Adam commented:
“As with many new technologies, installing a domestic EV charging point is slightly more complicated than just plugging it in.
“For example, the installer needs to see your ‘permission to park’ and check the amount of power available in your house. They may also need to fit ‘load limiting’ equipment. This prevents power loss for normal household activities by limiting the car’s charging speed. We believe the solution to cheaper and readily available charging points is to make more of them public.”
The future is electric – but people need incentives to start switching to that future now. We need a plan, not just promises to kick start the electric revolution.
Parts of this article appeared first on the Actuate UK website. Jane Dawson is head of public relations and public affairs for ECA, the electrical contractors’ association. You can find her on social media.