If the UK is to keep up with the demand for zero-emission electric cars, there need to be another 83,500 public electric charging points added around the UK by 2020 says data firm, Emu Analytics. With the current number at approximately 16,500 nationwide, this would be some feat, perhaps just simply asking too much.

Race to electric

The current locations fitted with charging points are going to see a lot of pressure in the coming months, estimates say that there will be one million electric cars on the road within two years, thus meaning the infrastructure has no choice but to adapt.

In London, for example, 3 in 5 residents will become reliant on public charging spots as they don’t have garages or driveways to charge their car safely and as more and more motorists look to make the switch from diesel and petrol, the government must offer more valuable incentives for implementing EV friendly solutions. Such scheme would be logical considering the ambitious plan to ban all traditionally fuelled cars by 2040.

Lack of infrastructure

Currently, there are around 150,000 electric cars on UK roads, and already these drivers have experienced trouble with the lack of public charging points. There is one charging spot for every nine electric vehicles on the road, leading to problems charging cars when out and about.

If the infrastructure is increased to meet the study’s suggested figure, this will still only be one charge point for every ten electric cars. Industry insiders say that most people will continue to charge their cars at home, but the problems lie when making longer journeys as a pure electric car can typically only run 100-200 miles per charge.

London snapshot

The snapshot from London is an excellent example of the problem. The numbers of electric cars in the capital is booming with over 12,000 models registered, but the infrastructure is well behind. Currently, people with home charging locations such as a driveway or garage are the most likely to buy an electric car and, in London, this accounts for only 40% of the residents.

The remaining 60% would need to rely on on-street chargers which are not being installed quickly enough, according to the London Assembly’s report on the subject. It also points out that funding for the project is ‘heavily over-subscribed.’

Charging point options

Different companies already offer different charging solutions around the world, and it can be confusing for local authorities to know which option to choose. A lack of standard design means that drivers could face having to carry around adapters in case they go to an unfamiliar area and find the charging point is a different specification to the one they are accustomed to using.

Payment methods – paying for electric charging should be a simple process like paying for diesel or petrol. However, again, there is a lack of standardisation that sees options ranging from mobile apps and payment cards to different accounts. It could mean a driver has to sign up for a new service for every different charging station that they use.

Countrywide picture

Currently, around the UK, there are significant differences in the availability of chargers. Newcastle is one of the top cities for chargers with a ratio of 1.45 cars per plug-in point. At the other end of the scale is Peterborough which has a ratio of 485 vehicles per charger – although, the area does have a higher rate of off-street parking than many cities.

Supermarkets are one of the top locations for public chargers, but the picture is varied amongst stores. 19% of ASDA supermarkets have a charging point installed compared to Tesco with just 0.4% of their stores.

The speed of charge must also be addressed. BMW recently announced they are working with a Dutch energy company, Alfen, to supply electric vehicle charging that will mean the cars have ultrafast charging capabilities. However, if the infrastructure in place can’t provide the power at a rate that makes the process convenient, then these added benefits may not be felt by motorists.

Supply issues

The UK electricity network already notices a surge when everyone pops the kettle on during popular TV show finales, so what will it be like when everyone gets home at 6 pm and sticks the car on charge?

When charging an electric car, much like your phone, overusing fast chargers can damage the car battery and keeping it around 80% keeps the car in optimum condition. Overnight the car charges at anywhere between 3kw to 22kw so all that electricity is undoubtedly going to affect us negatively.

The message taught by firefighters to always switch off everything before you go to bed springs to mind here, as one presumes that anything left on overnight poses a potential hazard. If Emu Analytics predict correctly and there are 1 million electric cars on the roads in the next two years, then inevitably the electricity grid will struggle as well as the potential fire hazard.

If you are thinking of buying an electric car then it is always worth checking the charging point availability around you, ZapMap covers all of the UK and shows most of the charging points.
When looking at home charging, the government provide a grant for electric plug-in points for your house, for 75% of the cost up to £500.

Have you considered buying an electric car? What are your main concerns? We’d love to hear from you!

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