The UK’s Electric Car (EV) market is constantly growing and the growing demand for charging capacity will be met by dedicated charger companies, utilities and the government, rather than car makers themselves.
Research shows that very few of the 60 plus car brands operating in the UK are putting funds towards charging infrastructure. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders admitted: “We consider it is up to the private operators and the government.”
The boss of the PSA group, which owns Peugeot, has declared he does not see charging networks as a core business activity, even with this potentially affecting the sales of EVs due to concern over the lack of charging opportunities – as well as the EVs lack of range.
Ford buck the trend
However, Ford is an exception and has opened 350kW fast-charge sites in the UK as a plan to mirror the Tesla supercharger network.
Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini and Porsche are all part of Ionity, founded by Ford. Ionity has three sites that are operational with a fourth being built.
In 2012, Nissan became co-funder of the Ecotricity 50kW charging network, which has now got up to 300 charging points. This marked the limit of its public charging investment, though.
If the government aims to expand EV use, with the aim of sales going up 50%-75% by 2030, a significant expansion of the charging network is needed.
UK government’s commitment to Net Zero Carbon emissions – they’ve pledged to ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2040 – and improvements in battery technology, allowing even faster charging, have also contributed to an upsurge in sales of Electric Vehicles (EVs).
However, there are still a number of obstacles that need to be overcome before the United Kingdom catches up with other countries where the take-up has been much higher.
Here’s our rundown of some of the challenges faced.
Change takes time
Encouraging people to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is at the heart of the government’s efforts to tackle climate change. This is due to transport accounting for 23% of the UK’s CO2 emissions.
With sales of electrical vehicles up 70 per cent on last year, things seem to be moving in the right direction; however, these are still only relatively small gains.
One of the UK’s best-selling cars is the all-electric Tesla Model 3. But its success doesn’t change the fact that only about 1.1% of new cars sold this year are electric
Bigger changes are needed to meet the government’s net-zero carbon emission target, starting with improved infrastructure (more EV charging points).
Changes to the tax system may also be required due to EV users paying lower taxes and having a zero-spend on fuel: both good sources of income for the government.
Consumers also need to be convinced that electric vehicles suit their needs, which is perhaps the hardest challenge.
Nonetheless, the government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2040, a move criticised by MPs who want the U.K to fall into line with nearby countries such as Ireland and Iceland and have the change made by 2030,
One of the consumers’ major concerns is range anxiety i.e. how far you can drive without your battery running down.
A petrol or diesel car is simple to fill up when fuel gets low, and doesn’t take long – unless you get distracted by the goods on offer in the garage shop!
If things were as straightforward with EVs, selling them wouldn’t be that much of a problem, but they’re not.
The vehicles currently on the market don’t last more than 100 miles and take over 8 hours to charge – this is a hurdle that needs overcoming before silencing the doubters.
2 Limited choice
The number of vans on the UK roads are increasing faster than any other type of vehicle due to the increase in online shopping.
Small e-vans are already available, and the choice is likely to increase. However, it is a lot more expensive to lease an EV version of a popular van than diesel, meaning they are still too expensive to be the vehicle of choice of smaller businesses.
There is much more choice for car buyers, although the upfront cost for buying an EV is still much higher than buying a petrol/diesel car, at a minimum of £20,000. Prices are likely to fall as electric vehicles are cheaper to run than gas but not for the foreseeable future.
3. Backing the right technology
There has been accelerated developments in battery and charging technology, but where will people charge them, especially those without a driveway or designated parking space.
The expense of battery technology is one of the major challenges the industry faces.
Electric cars could also be less expensive if the makers could ramp up the production volume and use economies of scale. However, for this to happen more consumers need to buy electric cars in the first place which won’t happen without prices coming down.
There is also the potential to have induction pads embedded in the roads that charge the vehicles as you drive over them. With chargers currently in low supply, the benefits of this technology are obvious.
4. Who will pay?
It has been widely assumed that both the private sector and local councils will build, operate and maintain charging infrastructure in the UK.
Businesses have been slow to get involved due to small profit margins and the government having heavily subsided the development of charging points. Yet, this is slowly changing with BP and Shell taking over as market leaders, while Tesla is putting its own charging network in place at motorway service stations.
5. The zero-carbon fantasy
A world in which all vehicles are electric is not the total zero-carbon solution. True, EVs don’t produce the same emissions but there would still be an environmental cost.
Sourcing minerals for batteries and dismantling old ones, as well as delivering and building vehicles all involve substantial CO2 emissions.
That said, Electric vehicles are a crucial part of the UK’s attempts to drastically reduce transport’s emissions.