The number of electric cars on the road continues to increase at a rapid rate, and Government initiatives to drive the expansion of the UK charging infrastructure are starting to take effect. But is it happening fast enough? Cecilia Routledge, Global Head of E-Mobility for CTEK, gives her views on the trends and developments that will shape the growth of the UK charging infrastructure in 2021.
The UK Government has committed to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, 10 years earlier than originally planned. This is a key step on the ‘road to zero’ for the UK to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. And, as the number of rechargeable vehicles on Britain’s roads increases, the need for a robust and extensive charging network becomes ever more critical – not only to meet the needs of today’s electric cars, but also because the availability of public charging stations is a key driver for motorists considering making the switch to electric overall.
Research just out from UK think tank Policy Exchange1 reveals that, by 2030, the UK is likely to need around 400,000 public charge points, meaning that, during the 2020s, charge points need to be installed five times faster than at the current rate. So 2021 really is the year when the EV charging infrastructure needs to start shaping up.
At CTEK, we closely follow and research industry developments, and we see the following trends for the UK charging infrastructure during 2021.
1. Government funding and incentives will drive expansion. In line with the Government’s stated vision to have one of the best electric vehicle infrastructure networks in the world, their 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution published in November 2020 has committed £1.3 billion to accelerate infrastructure roll out. The focus will be on rapid charge points for motorways and major roads to counter ‘range anxiety’ on long journeys, as well as more on-street charge points near homes and workplaces, in a bid to make electric vehicle charging as easy as refuelling a petrol or diesel vehicle.
As part of this initiative, grants of up to £750 per charging socket, available through the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, will aim to encourage local authorities, businesses and homeowners alike to install electric charging points, which will all contribute to the overall growth of the charging network.
2. Charging infrastructure will become a ‘must have’ for new builds and refurbs. Charging infrastructure will increasingly be front of mind for urban developers and architects as they go through the planning process. In order to support the current and future take up of electric vehicles, action is needed right now to make buildings e-fit for the future, which is why the Government has consulted on proposals to make charging points mandatory for all new builds.
If adopted, this would make England the first country in the world to introduce mandatory charging points for residential properties.
For non-residential buildings, the proposals for mandatory EV charging points go further to also cover buildings undergoing refurbishment and, longer term (by 2025), existing non-residential buildings, too.
3. Smart charging will come to the fore. As the number of vehicles needing to charge up increases, focus will turn to the impact this may have on the National Grid, and how we can start to spread the load away from peak periods.
CTEK’s research reveals that the majority of people plug in when they get home from work, which of course coincides with the peak time for domestic energy use as people prepare meals and turn on the TV. Smart charging, which allows drivers to plug in and set their vehicles to charge during off-peak periods when energy demand is low, gives access to cheaper electricity and would help avoid unnecessary expansion of the grid. EV charging can also be shifted to periods where there is lots of clean, renewable electricity generation available.
Last year, the Government also consulted on proposals to require that all electric vehicle charge points sold or installed in the UK must have smart charging functionality included.
4. Continued debate on the charging infrastructure. We can expect almost everything relating to charging infrastructure to come under further debate, from payment standards to smart charging, to transmission capacity and load balancing. The market as a whole is also under review by the Competition and Markets Authority, whose market study on the charging sector is looking to establish how investment can be encouraged, while also making sure this new and fast-growing sector works well for UK drivers.
5. Increased education in charging infrastructure. With new requirements for charging infrastructure, there also comes a need for increased training and education for architects, builders and property owners looking to install electric charging points. The joint government/industry campaign Go Ultra Low aims to provide a well presented, central source of information on electric vehicles and charging requirements, for consumers and installers alike. With more and more electric cars hitting the roads, the need to keep up to date with the latest charging technology will inevitably also increase.
The future of sustainable transport lies with rechargeable vehicles, and we expect 2021 to be the year when charging infrastructure is placed at the forefront of development, to support the Government’s drive to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles, on the road to zero.
Of course, we at CTEK welcome this, and we will continue to contribute to both the debate and the development of knowledge.