In 2021 a quarter of all new vehicles sold in the UK were fully electric, compared to just 2% in 2020. The transition from petrol and diesel to electric is happening at pace. This is necessary because by 2030 all new cars and vans sold must not emit any carbon dioxide at the tailpipe.
Barriers for change
There are however two significant barriers stopping many drivers from making the change. The first is the cost of electric vehicles (EVs) themselves. But this is becoming less of an issue as there are now many more affordable EVs in production and prices are expected to continue to fall over the next few years. So the most significant barrier that needs addressing is the UK chargepoint infrastructure – will I be able to charge my vehicle anyway in the UK affordably?
Changes to infrastructure need Government to take the lead
The Government is acutely aware that anything that relates to national infrastructure requires a significant state effort to effect change. After all when it comes to increasing chargepoint supply many public functions and responsibilities are involved and there needs to be significant co-ordination between the public and private sector. Think of all the various stakeholders – energy companies, service and petrol stations, housing developers, local authorities, the National Grid and the energy regulator Ofgem are the obvious ones. It can only really be Central Government that leads and co-ordinates.
So it’s good to see that in recent days the Government has launched Taking Charge: the electric vehicle infrastructure strategy. It sets out some key objectives between now and 2030, with the intention of ensuring that the chargepoint capacity needed is in place way ahead of 2030. This is a summary of what is being committed to under the strategy:
- A minimum of 300,000 public chargepoints to be made available by 2030 (with the suggestion the actual figure could be double). There are just under 30,000 currently with 5,400 rapid charge points (capable of fully charging a vehicle in 30 minutes)
- At least 6 high powered chargepoints at every service station by the end of 2023
- Work to support the rollout of at least 6,000 high powered chargepoints (rapid or ultra-rapid charge points) by 2035
- Support for local government to develop chargepoint strategies – this will be crucial in catering for the 10 million households that will rely on street chargepoints outside their homes along with other public locations within towns and villages
- Improving planning and building regulations to enable local councils and operators to install chargepoints more easily
- Improving standards to ensure that chargepoints are user friendly and incorporate technology that allows easier payment options such as card payments to be made. There has been criticism made that many public chargepoints require users to pay over a telephone line.
- Work with the energy regulator Ofgem to make sure chargepoints are easier to integrate to the electricity system
- Ensure fair pricing of public chargepoints and price transparency – this will include easy access to electricity price information and the ability to compare prices. Government action will serve to promote competition between operators to help keep prices low. There is also a suggestion that negative price tariffs could be implemented so long as drivers are willing to charge their vehicles flexibly. The main aim – to ensure the price of electricity remains cheaper than the cost of petrol or diesel in the lead up to 2030 and beyond
The strategy seems to respond to all of the key barriers that consumers and industry have reported. But only time will tell if its stakeholders can work together efficiently enough to deliver on these commitments, both at a local and national level.