Report: UK needs to install five times as many EV charging points to meet climate goals

6.5% of cars registered in the UK in 2020 were fully electric

That is according to a new policy briefing from Policy Exchange, developed to help the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for BEIS to work with industry and local authorities to prepare for the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales.

Entitled ‘Charging Up’, the document warns that the government’s approach to rolling out charging infrastructure in the past has been too slow and that progress between regions has been mixed at best. Rural areas are generally lagging behind towns and cities, the report states, noting that this is inconsistent with the Conservative Party’s commitment to “levelling up” all regions.

The Government used the 2020 Budget to announce an ambition that no EV driver should be more than 30 miles away from a rapid, publicly accessible charging point at any time – an ambition it backed with £500m for fast-charging networks.

Policy Connect’s recommendations for delivering against this vision include launching competitive tenders for charging point networks in areas that are underserved, complete with a minimum annual revenue guarantee for owners and operators. Tenders for motorway service areas should have a fast-charging requirement and should be paired with the solutions needed to improve the grid, like onsite battery storage.

The organisation is also calling for the creation of dedicated “Chargepoint Teams” in local authorities, after previous research found that many councils lack the in-house knowledge and access to finance needed to roll out infrastructure.

Should the government fail to change its approach, some areas could become “EV charging blackspots”. This would be detrimental to businesses looking to electrify their fleets, individuals looking to travel more sustainably and, ultimately, the UK’s progress towards its net-zero goal. Transport is notably the most emitting sector in the UK.

Aside from the number of charging points, ‘Charging Up’ also conveys concerns around the user experience for EV chargers. It recommends that the government introduces a maximum price charge to mitigate the risk of “local monopolies” – situations in which one operator charges excessively high prices simply because it is the only option in a region. It also called for more to be done to improve interoperability and levels of reliability. For example, the government could support a universal app for payment and penalise charging point operators for leaving points out of service for too long.

“We’re recommending a new system for the Government to support chargepoint installations,” lead report author Ed Birkett said. “This uses a similar approach to the UK’s successful auctions for offshore wind farms, which involved the Government procuring wind capacity but the delivery was all on the private sector side. That meant companies competing to produce cheaper and more innovative technologies, which has made us a world leader in wind technology.

“If the Government gets this right, then EVs can be a practical choice for drivers right across the UK. We’re concerned about patchy deployment of chargepoints, which runs against the Government’s plans for Levelling Up and a strong and connected Union.”

Transport transition

Under Theresa May, the UK Government had initially introduced the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales with a 2040 deadline. Following criticism from green groups, including its own Committee on Climate Change, over the policy’s alignment with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target, Boris Johnson moved in February 2020 to alter the deadline to 2035.

A further alteration was confirmed in late 2020, with the publication of Johnson’s Ten Point Plan for the green recovery.

Proponents of the accelerated phase-out included green campaign groups and businesses with large fleets, including Royal Mail and Tesco. For the latter, the date provided certainty around investment decisions for transitioning fleets.

Some carmakers and trade bodies, however, have argued that the industry needs more support to change designs and manufacturing equipment; to pivot the skills pipeline and to ensure EVs have adequate infrastructure.

The Government’s answer to these overcoming these concerns and inspiring other nations to follow suit is the ‘Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council’ – a body which convenes ministers specialising in transport, business and the environment from 12 nations alongside representatives from the car sector. The Council will meet in the lead-up to COP26 to develop national emissions targets for transport specifically, or national goals for zero-emission vehicle adoption, along with supporting measures.

Sarah George

Comments (2)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    And the UK will require 5 times as much electricity generation capacity and where is that going to come from? And if we go down the road of battery storage where is all the Lithium, Cobalt and other metals (not to mention all the plastic cases) going to come from? Yes big holes in the ground often in poor countries – now how Green is that?

    The focus should not be on the private car but on the commercial vehicle market. Especially delivery vehicles which are generally diesel and generally do an order of magnitude more miles than the average domestic motorist. And often many more stop start miles than the average motorist which is even worse for pollution.

    After speaking to a delivery driver who runs a Nissan E-Van the future is electric for local deliveries, he loves it and will never go back to a diesel van but he did confirm if he needed to drive from Fort William to Inverness and back he could not do that on a single charge (130 mile round trip), especially in winter.

  2. Roger Munford says:

    Keiron, we will not need 5 times the energy generation capacity for a couple of reasons.
    1. The amount of electricity required to refine oil is very large. Stop refining oil and this existing electricity is available to charge cars. The electricity required to refine enough petrol/diesel to drive 100 miles will enable an ev to drive 50 miles.
    2. There is generation capacity to meet the early evening peak but around midnight the demand is about 60% of that and so generators are simply switched off until morning when demand grows. Most Evs are charged overnight, precisely when the generators are lying idle. So just keep them running . Good for the grid, good for generators. Everybody in electrical supply are more than happy about this.
    Once Lithium and the rest have been mined, they are about 95% recyclable so can be used time and time again. Also the ev world is working on reducing these metal. Check out Elon Musk’s battery day presentation.
    The excitement is with delivery at the moment and there is no going back. Ev’s fit delivery perfectly and are much cheaper to run

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