Improvements on the way for motorway electric vehicle charge points

Improvements on the way for motorway electric vehicle charge points

Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean, has announced new legislation that will improve electric vehicle charging on motorways. The rules are expected to make electric vehicle charging on motorways much more reliable and accessible.

Under the new set of rules, every motorway service area in England will need to have at least six open-access charge points by 2023. This will increase to 2500 charge points across the road network by 2030. It will more than double again to 6000 by 2035.

The rules will form part of the government’s ‘build back greener’ plan, says Maclean, and will support the proposed 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles.

Maclean also made it clear that any new charge points installed will be ‘obviously reliable’ and high-powered, allowing electric vehicle drivers to ‘charge your car in the time it takes you to get a cup of coffee.’

The announcement has been met positively by motoring groups, including the RAC. Spokesman Rod Dennis said:

‘This is extremely welcome news as charging electric vehicle cars at motorway service areas needs to be fast, reliable and easy to pay for so drivers can make longer journeys with the minimum of fuss.’

Mr Dennis also addressed some of the critical issues preventing drivers from making the electric vehicle switch, including ‘range anxiety’. The term is one coined by drivers concerned by how far electric vehicles may be able to travel before they need charging again. A lack of charge point options has only served to worsen the anxiety. Mr Dennis hopes that the new legislation will quell this particular concern:

‘It should also go a long way towards showing would-be EV drivers that ‘range anxiety’ is a thing of the past, further speeding up the switch to electric.

‘Nothing is more frustrating to an electric car driver than the sight of an out-of-order charge point, so the fact that there will be a commitment to having chargers ‘in service’ will make a big difference.’

To conclude his comments, Mr Dennis also suggested that allowing drivers to establish how much they will be paying to charge their vehicle before they charge it will help to encourage an electric vehicle switch:

‘The promise of clear pricing is also important as drivers are used to knowing what they’d be paying before filling up thanks to petrol price ‘totems on forecourts.’

While this new legislation is a positive move towards greener transport, its first stage will not be complete for another two years, leaving motorists wondering what to do between then and now.

Improvements on the way for motorway electric vehicle charge points

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

The current state of motorway electric vehicle charge points

Ecotricity’s Electric Highway currently dominates England’s motorway charge points. However, a recent Zap-Map study found that Ecotricity was ranked the worst by drivers for satisfaction and reliability. One user stated that Ecotricity had ‘kickstarted the market, but now they are out of date and unreliable.’

In the same study, Tesla charge points came out on top. However, this excludes non-Tesla drivers, meaning that unreliable charge points persist for the majority. Their main concern is that any long car journey with an electric vehicle immediately becomes unpredictable due to the lack of reliable charge points.

Technical office and co-founder of Zap-Map, Dr Ben Lane, suggests: ‘Poor performing networks will need to take a long, hard look at the quality of services they offer if they want to retain their customers as the EV market grows apace.’

There are also concerns about off-motorway charge points, or lack thereof. A recent study found that only 9,300 on-street electric car chargers are set to be installed between now and 2025, despite the numbers of registered electric vehicles continuing to climb.

Amanda Stretton, sustainable transport editor at Centrica, warns: ‘charging infrastructure and energy systems will need to be upgraded to cope with the demand and support drivers.’

In her announcement, Rachel Maclean addressed this issue, suggesting electric vehicle drivers should get in touch with their local council if they felt there was a lack of reliable charging points near their home.

Despite a few more hurdles to jump, it seems that the announcement of new legislation to improve motorway electric car charging reliability is yet another positive step towards making a success of the government’s 2030 petrol diesel plan.

Are you pleased with this new announcement? Will the improvements make you more inclined to switch to an electric vehicle?

Let us know in the comments.

Price of electric vehicles impacting uptake in some areas

Price of electric vehicles impacting uptake in some areas

While the switch to electric vehicles is being encouraged, it seems that the government’s go-green scheme has failed to take into consideration the price of these vehicles and what that means for overall uptake.

New research has revealed that there is an apparent rise in uptake in more affluent areas, while other areas are lagging behind. There are concerns that this could impact the success of the proposed 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars.

Data shows that out of the 172,500 electric vehicles registered, 86,310 are privately owned, and 36% of all EVs are registered in the South East and London, compared to just 2.7% in the North East.

This is Money suggests that this North-South divide is largely to do with the cost of electric vehicles: ‘Even the smallest of EVs, like the new Fiat 500, cost from around £20,000. And drivers wanting the latest technology from brands like Tesla will need to fork out in the region of £50,000 and £100,000.’

As the UK’s average household income currently stands at £29,900 per year, it is clear to see why the switch to electric vehicles may simply not be possible for many drivers.

However, experts believe that the beginning of the UK’s endeavour to make the electric vehicle switch is still a positive one, despite pricing concerns.

Rod Dennis, RAC’s data insight spokesman, said: ‘While starting from very small beginnings when you consider there are around 32 million cars licensed for use in the entire United Kingdom, the growth in the pure electric vehicles is extremely promising.

‘There is a long way to go, not least as only half of these vehicles are in private hands, compared to nine-in-ten of all cars, but it’s clear that the numbers are only going one way.

He also suggested that as more companies invest in electric vehicles, other motorists may have to resort to buying these second-hand in a few years to avoid high prices:

‘The biggest annual rise in the number of vehicles among those licensed by companies, which suggests clear tax benefits given to company car drivers are beginning to stoke demand . It’s vital this continues, as in many cases the new company vehicles of today will be the ones appearing on the second-hand consumer market in three or more years from now.’

While the cost of electric vehicles is having a noticeable impact on uptake in some areas, experts are concerned that other factors are at play when it comes to putting off the switch to electric vehicles.

Price of electric vehicles impacting uptake in some areas

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

Lacking infrastructure also impacts electric vehicle uptake

A recent study of Zap-Map (electric vehicle mapping service) enabled experts to conclude that good-quality EV charging point suppliers were lacking, causing concern amongst electric vehicle drivers and those looking to make the switch.

One of the most widely used charging providers, Ecotricity, was deemed unreliable in a Zap-Map driver survey. This is especially concerning as this is a key charging provider installed at many motorway services.

The survey also found that Tesla charging points ranked first overall, with a five-star rating. This, again, excludes drivers who do not have the means to fork out hundreds of thousands of pounds for an electric vehicle and leaves them with unreliable charging points – another clear deterrent.

Technical office and co-founder of Zap-map, Dr Ben Lane, said: ‘As the survey demonstrates, EV drivers are very clear about the factors that make for a good charging experience, with reliability and ease of use being key priorities.

‘A new generation of drivers want to arrive at a charge point and be confident that it will be simple to use and a trouble-free experience.

‘Poor performing networks will need to take a long, hard look at the quality of services they offer if they want to retain their customers as the EV market grows apace.’

Overall, combined issues with electric vehicle pricing, unreliable charging points and lack of infrastructure are all having an impact on the electric vehicle uptake. Without being addressed, it seems that the divide in uptake between areas and lifestyles will continue to grow, putting the 2030 new petrol and diesel vehicle ban in jeopardy.

Would you be able to fork out for an electric vehicle? Are you surprised by the divide in uptake based on location and lifestyle? Do you think it will impact the overall success of the 2030 petrol diesel ban?

Let us know in the comments.

Fuel duty freeze won’t stop rising pump prices, experts warn

Fuel duty freeze won’t stop rising pump prices, experts warn

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the fuel duty freeze will be extended for its tenth year, but experts warn that pump prices could continue to rise significantly in the coming months.

Since 2011, fuel duty has been at a fixed rate of 57.95p-a-litre, accounting for approximately 47% of what drivers pay for at petrol pumps. Before the Chancellor announced the budget last week, there were concerns that the fuel duty freeze may be revoked, resulting in higher petrol prices at a time of economic difficulty.

The revelation that fuel duty would still be frozen, therefore, was met positively by many.

RAC Head of Policy, Nicholas Lyes, commented on the positive impact the fuel duty freeze would have on drivers: ‘Drivers will breathe a sigh of relief that the Chancellor has decided not to ‘rock the fuel duty boat.’

He added: ‘We feared this would only pile further misery on drivers at a time when pump prices are on the rise, and many household incomes are being squeezed as a result.’

He also hinted at how devastating the alternative outcome could have been, considering the already colossal impact of the pandemic on drivers everywhere:

‘Many drivers see their cars as a safe way to carry out essential journeys and believe having access to a vehicle is even more important as a result of the pandemic. If the Chancellor had raised fuel duty, he could have risked choking any economic recovery as it would have led to increased costs for consumers and businesses.’

Chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, Brian Madderson, also praised the decision to extend the fuel duty freeze: ‘As the PRA has campaigned heavily against any rises in fuel duty, we naturally welcome the Chancellors decision today.

‘Fuel duty is a regressive tax on business and livelihoods, so any attempt to increase it would have been entirely counter-productive as the economy gets back on track.’

However, not everyone is convinced that this extended fuel duty freeze will have the desired effect on reducing costs for drivers.

Fuel duty won't stop rising pump prices

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

Experts warn pump prices will continue to rise

Following the fuel duty freeze announcement, the RAC has warned that there is ‘great uncertainty over the future of forecourt prices, with fears of further rises looming large.’

It has been reported that a spike in oil prices will force pump prices upwards, and we could see prices of up to 130p-a-litre by the end of this year. This would serve to cancel out any money saved by motorists off the back of the fuel duty freeze.’

In describing the issue with oil prices, RAC fuel spokesman, Simon Williams, said: ‘Oil shot up to $10, a barrel price last seen in January 2020, which led to a 3p-a-litre hike on the cost of both petrol and diesel.

‘The worry now is whether analysts talk of oil reaching $80 by the end of the year will prove accurate. If it does, we could see a litre of unleaded top 130p and diesel 134p.’

Williams also suggested that the pandemic coming to an end is what will cause the increase in oil prices:

‘There’s a big concern that they won’t release enough supply to soak up the increased global demand as life begins to return to normal, which could cause the price to go up further. If this proves to be the case, drivers will inevitably be hit badly at the pumps.’

Of course, this news about frozen fuel duty also comes when the Government is supposedly striving towards a more environmentally friendly approach for the motoring industry, with a 2030 petrol diesel ban looming.

Mike Childs – Friends of Earth Head of Policy – was astonished by the announcement and has suggested that ‘Rishi Sunak should be doing more to discourage the purchase of these polluting vehicles – such as slapping a significant increase in road tax on them.’

Despite concerns from all corners, however, it seems that the Chancellor is confident in his decision: ‘Right now, to keep the cost of living low, I’m not prepared to increase the cost of a tank of fuel.’

The Government has suggested that Rishi Sunak’s decision will ‘cumulatively save the average car driver £1,600 compared to the pre-2010 escalator.’

Are you pleased with Rishi Sunak’s decision to extend the freeze on fuel duty? Will it make a difference to you? Or do you think rising pump prices will cancel out the benefits?

Let us know in the comments.

New LitterCam means more fines for motorists

New LitterCam means more fines for motorists

In a bid to rid our roads of rubbish, a new anti-litter scheme is being rolled out in some areas, with the installation of the new LitterCam to begin in April. Maidstone Borough Council in Kent will be one of the first to introduce the scheme.

The LitterCam will be able to identify motorists who discard litter from their car windows whilst driving, with fines being as high as £120. Litter includes items such as coffee cups, fast food, cigarette ends, and even apple cores.

This new initiative comes after Highways England revealed that a staggering 200,000 sacks of litter are removed every single year from England’s road, often including items that take several years to biodegrade.

While motorists can already be fined for littering, catching offenders in the act has previously been the responsibility of wardens, meaning that many motorists have continued to litter unnoticed.

However, with the new LitterCam, offending motorists will be caught on video footage that will then be scanned by high-tech LitterCam software. The video footage and photographic evidence will then be passed on to the DVLA after the vehicle number plate has been verified. As with speeding tickets, an address for the vehicle’s registered keeper will be identified, and a fine will be sent out. The fine begins at £90 and will rise to £120 if left unpaid for 15 days.

The initiative has been met positively by motoring organisations and environmental experts alike.

Freda Rashdi, Highways England, stated: ‘The simple fact is that if litter wasn’t dropped in the first place, it wouldn’t need to be picked up.

‘Litter is not only unsightly and a risk to wildlife and the environment, but it also puts our workers at risk collecting it and diverts time and money that could be better sent improving the network.’

Environmental expert and presenter Jeremy Paxman also praised the initiative and questioned the conscience of those who litter from their cars without thought:

‘What goes through people’s minds, I guess, is that they want to keep the inside of the vehicle clean and therefore throw the rubbish out the window without realising they’re making it a problem for everybody.’

New LitterCam means more fines for motorists

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

LitterCam latest in long line of new fining initiatives

While the LitterCam initiative is a positive step towards improving our roads for all, it has been noted that there appears to be an upward trend in the number of fineable offences coming into play for motorists.

In January of this year, for example, it was revealed that in addition to motoring offences like speeding, drivers will now also be at risk of being fined for more minor offences. These include driving in cycle lanes, failing to follow one-way systems, entering yellow-box junctions without clear exit and failing to give priority to oncoming traffic.

Similar to the LitterCam scheme, the minor traffic offences initiative uses Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) to catch offending motorists and issue fines of up to £130.

Understandably, this was met with some contempt from motorists: ‘Most motorists think local authorities will rush to install cameras as a way to generate extra revenue’, said head of road policy, Nicholas Lyes.

He also stated: ‘Two out of five drivers we spoke to fear road layouts and signage will be made deliberately confusing to increase the number of penalties issued.’

Despite concerns, however, motoring lawyer Nick Freeman has defended minor offence fines, including the LitterCam and the penalties that come with it, even suggesting that this may not be enough to deter litterers completely:

‘Plans to use cameras to catch drivers dropping litter is a good idea in principle. But what’s the point of catching offenders if you then don’t punish them in a way that hurts? It’s just doing half a job.’

He continued by suggesting that a fine was not a heavy enough deterrent and should be accompanied by penalty points or even litter picking duties:

‘A fine isn’t enough. An endorsement of three penalty points is much more powerful.

‘What’s more, if offenders have to spend half a day picking up rubbish as part of their punishment, then they’ll literally have to clean up after their crimes.’

He concluded by dubbing the offence of littering a ‘shameful behaviour’ and suggesting that he is hopeful that the new LitterCam scheme will ‘lead to a change in attitude and prevent reoffending.’

Are you pleased that the LitterCam will catch offenders in the act? Or are you concerned about the increase in fines for motorists?

Let us know in the comments.

Motorists blamed for misunderstanding smart motorways

Motorists blamed for misunderstanding smart motorways

It has been announced this week that instructions for using smart motorways will be added to The Highway Code after Highways England suggest they become dangerous when motorists misunderstand how to use them safely.

Head of Road Safety at Highways England, Jeremy Phillips, stated that:

‘We know more needs to be done to help motorists understand exactly how modern motorways and high-speed roads operate.

‘The updated edition of The Highway Code will help inform the next generation of road users as well as giving important updates to those with many miles under their belt, to help us all stay safer.’

The announcement has been met with contempt, however, as those impacted by smart motorway accidents brand the development ‘insulting.’

Claire Mercer’s husband, Jason, 44, lost his life on a stretch of the M1 with no hard shoulder in 2019. She has spoken out against the comments made by Phillips:

‘They keep referring to “educating users”, but how do you educate someone who’s broken down in a car in a live lane of traffic with lorries zooming past? We need action that will result in tangible change. Everyone keeps saying, “It’s not my responsibility”.

‘This change to The Highway Code is just too little, too late. There are 44 people dead already. The fact it’s taken them a year is even more ridiculous.’

Updates to The Highway Code concerning smart motorways could include instructions on what to do if your vehicle breaks down in a live lane, how motorway operators warn of broken-down vehicles ahead with signage, and how to use emergency refuge areas safely if necessary.

Motorists to blame for misunderstanding smart motorways

[Image Source: Shutterstock, March 2021]

Is updating The Highway Code enough to improve smart motorway safety?

Currently, refuge areas on smart motorways are 1.5 miles apart, and high-tech safety measures such as cameras that identify stationary vehicles have yet to be rolled out on many miles of smart motorway.

Advice for motorists broken down in a live lane of a smart motorway includes attempting to reach an emergency refuge area if possible, turning on hazard lights and exiting the vehicle (through the passenger door) to stand behind the crash barrier.

If done successfully, this still leaves a stationary vehicle in the path of fast-moving oncoming traffic.

Over the last few months, issues with smart motorway safety have been frequently addressed, and the update to The Highway Code is just one step in the government’s 18-point plan to reduce the risk of accidents.

Motoring experts are still concerned, however, that updating The Highway Code or making any other small changes to smart motorways when other safety measures are already lacking will not be enough to prevent further tragedy, and instead have suggested that smart motorways should be scrapped altogether:

‘How many people must die before you will make a decision and immediately suspend the use of the hard shoulder for driving traffic? Enough is enough,’ questioned shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon, earlier this year when announcements for smart motorways to stay were made.

Rotherham Labour MP, Sarah Champion, has also previously commented that: ‘The government needs to grasp that there is nothing ‘smart’ about creating death traps.’

However, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has insisted that scrapping smart motorways altogether would do more harm than good: ‘I don’t think there’s a route to simply undo it. We’ve got to make what’s there safe.’

Instead, Mr Shapps feels that ‘an update of The Highway Code to provide more guidance’ will be a positive step forwards in improving the safety measures on smart motorways.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport spoke to support Mr Shapps decision, despite public concern: ‘The safety of the drivers and passengers using these routes remains the Transport Secretary’s personal priority. He will press Highways England to deliver improvements as soon as possible.’ 

While improving motorway safety may be a priority, experts like RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes have still been left wondering whether any changes made will prove successful in reassuring road users that smart motorways are safe:

‘Even when all these issues are addressed, we wonder whether they will go far enough to overcome people’s fear about the permanent removal of the hard shoulder on these schemes.’

Is driver misunderstanding to blame for smart motorway safety issues? Do you think enough is being done to keep prevent further smart motorway deaths? Or do you think the issue will persist until smart motorways are scrapped?

Let us know in the comments.

Petrol prices set to stay high after lockdown ends

Petrol prices set to stay high after lockdown ends

With petrol prices already high despite the current restrictions on driving, the RAC has warned that they may not yet have reached their peak and could soar after lockdown ends.

The concern comes after the revelation that the price of petrol in the week beginning 15th February was up to 122p-a-litre, jumping from 114p-a-litre in December.

During the first half of the pandemic, back in March 2020, petrol prices reached a low of just 106.48p-a-litre due to travel restrictions and lack of demand, but the price has been rising steadily ever since. For example, just in January of this year, it was revealed that motorists were paying up to £3 more than they were in March 2020 to fill up the average family-sized car with a 55-litre tank.

As restrictions begin to lift, however, and demand increases, petrol prices are set to sky-rocket.

After the current lockdown ends, we could see these numbers rise again to record highs of 143p-a-litre for petrol and 148p-a-litre for diesel, says the RAC.

Reasoning behind the sharp predicted rise is based on the assumed jump in the cost of oil due to the rolling out of the global Covid vaccination programme, which will have increased travel and pushed prices upwards.

Some analysts have predicted that this year, the price of oil could reach $80-a-barrel, while JPMorgan has indicated that in 2022, it may reach highs of $100-a-barrel, resulting in those much higher petrol and diesel prices.

Expert motoring organisations are concerned that, with the impact of Covid and lockdowns on people’s personal finances, the hike in petrol prices may not be viable for many motorists up and down the country.

The AA’s fuel price spokesman, Luke Bosdet, stated that: ‘As they struggle to get their working lives and family financiers back on an even keel after Covid, there is going to be a real sense of being under assault for needing to drive a car.

‘The bonus that the fuel trade is giving itself is just part of the financial pressure likely to be heaped on drivers this year – particularly those on lower incomes.’

There are also concerns that when the Chancellor announces the Budget next week, the freeze on fuel duty could come to an end, causing the price of petrol to rise further and pose even more of an issue for those struggling financially.

AA fuel price spokesman, Simon Williams, commented that: ‘With the Chancellor’s Budget now less than two weeks away, the last thing drivers, and possibly the economy, need is a fuel duty increase – not least as petrol prices have been rising for thirteen consecutive weeks.

‘A hike in duty at a time of rising fuel prices could put unprecedented pressure on lower-income households and might have a negative effect of forcing everyone who depends on their cars to consider cutting back on other spending.’

Petrol prices set to stay high after lockdown ends

[Image Source: Shutterstock, February 2021]

What impact will fuel duty have on petrol prices?

Fuel duty has been frozen since March 2011, saving motorists around £1,2000 in the last decade, but the freeze may no longer be possible, with Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, saying that ‘we can no longer afford’ to do so.

Reports state that fuel duty, if unfrozen, could rise by 5p-a-litre in next month’s Budget.

As aforementioned, this has understandably raised concerns about the impact this would have on petrol prices, particularly in a time of such economic hardship due to the pandemic.

The RAC’s Simon Williams explained that: ‘The Chancellor faces a difficult decision as to whether to pile further misery on drivers by raising fuel duty when pump prices are on this rise and many household incomes are being squeezed.’

When speaking to ITV News, Mr Williams also commented that: ‘Storm clouds are once again gathering over UK forecourts.’

‘Ironically and rather unfortunately, as economic confidence grows as measures to combat the coronavirus take effect it is likely to mean drivers end up paying more to fill up in the coming weeks.’

While the loosening of pandemic induced restrictions is a positive step forward in many ways, it seems that the motorists will have to bear the brunt of the impact Covid-19 has had on the price of petrol.

Are you concerned that petrol prices will remain high after the lockdown ends? Do you think now is the right time for Rishi Sunak to revoke the freeze on fuel duty?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.