Report: UK's EV stock grew by more than 50% last year, despite infrastructure challenges

The number of electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK rose by more than 50% between 2016-2017, with consumer demand for electrified transport outstripping the installation of charging infrastructure, a new report has found.

Published by professional services firm PwC on Wednesday (24 October), the report reveals that the UK’s EV stock reached 134,000 vehicles in 2017 – a 54% increase on 2016 figures.

It also notes that the nation’s EV stock has almost doubled each year between 2011 and 20117, with figures growing at a compound annual growth rate of 89% during this six-year period. The majority of this growth was found to be accounted for by plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, rather than fully-electric models.

In order to support this EV surge, the number of charging points installed across the UK has almost doubled between 2014 and 2017, the report claims, with numbers rising from 7,743 to more than 13,500.

But it appears consumer demand is outstripping infrastructure supply, with charge point installations experiencing a compound annual growth rate of just 44% during the four-year period. 

“The UK’s EV charging market is arguably one of the most advanced in Europe - we have one of the largest EV stocks of any EU country with a large conventional car fleet,” PwC UK’s lead for energy and utilities Steve Jennings said.

“Therefore, it is essential we retain the momentum of success. We need to nurture the commercial environment that allows multiple business models to flourish and provide a diversity of charging options for customers.”

The report echoes the findings of a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance (Bloomberg NEF) study, which predicted that EVs will account for more than half of new car sales by 2040. That report suggested that the pace of the shift away from petrol and diesel could be hindered by far slower investment growth in infrastructure.

Similarly, the Department for Transport (DfT) has identified a lack of charging infrastructure as one of the three biggest barriers to EV adoption in the UK, along with distance travelled per charge and vehicle cost. 

Low-carbon catapults

 The research from PwC comes in the same week that Business Secretary Greg Clark launched an additional £215m fund for the UK’s Transport, Future Cities, Digital and Medicines Discovery catapult centres. The move forms part of the Government’s pledge to spend 2.4% of GDP on research and development by 2027, which it claims will speed up the nation’s low-carbon transition.

The transport proportion of the funding will be used to spur R&D projects around EVs, zero-carbon electricity, Artificial Intelligence (AI), automated travel and big data. In total, the four Catapult schemes will collectively receive more than £1bn in Government funding over the next five years. 

Taxis: Is green the new black?

In related news, ride-hailing firm Uber has this week pledged to spend £200m on its ambition to electrify its entire London fleet of passenger vehicles by 2025.

In a bid to help its drivers in the capital make the EV switch, the company is planning to add a 15p per-mile “eco-charge” to all journeys taken within the capital from early 2019.

Once the new tariff goes live, Uber will ring-fence the profits as grants for London-based drivers who require help to purchase EVs. The amount of support drivers will receive towards the cost of an EV will depend on how many miles they have logged on the Uber app, with a full-time driver working 40 hours a week expected to receive a grant of around £3,000-£4,500.

According to Uber, more than half the miles on UberX journeys – which seat up to four passengers - in London are already in hybrids or EVs.

Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement that the new measures were spurred by the upcoming implementation of Ultra-Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) in central London, outlined in the recent launch of the Government’s Clean Air Strategy.

“Our £200m Clean Air Plan is a long-term investment in the future of London aimed at going all-electric in the capital in 2025,” Khosrowshahi said.

“Over time, it’s our goal to help people replace their car with their phone by offering a range of mobility options – whether cars, bikes, scooters or public transport – all in the Uber app.”

The move follows on from Uber’s diesel scrappage scheme, which it launched last year in a bid to remove 1,000 of its most polluting vehicles from London. Under the scheme, drivers with a pre-Euro 4 standard diesel vehicle can receive up to £1,500 of credit to spend on Uber or UberPOOL, the company’s ride-sharing app with other users.

Elsewhere, the multinational recently unveiled plans to make pedal bicycles, electric scooters and e-bikes available to rent through its app in 46 of its markets.

Sarah George


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