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Leading the charge?

Electric cars are taking off in the UK. But the necessary chargepoints are struggling to keep pace. Pressure is mounting on the government, on business investors and the electricity networks to put the big money in. But will it happen before the whole e-bandwagon short circuits and grinds to a halt?


The government has decreed that new petrol and diesel vehicles will be phased out by 2035 and that by 2030, 80% of cars and 70% of vans will be ‘zero emission’. Last year there were 2.3 million EVs on UK roads – and the number is rising exponentially. About 60% of these are hybrids – but fully electric battery EVs (BEVs) are catching up fast. In 2022, sales of BEVs in the UK were up 40% on the year before. Altogether, last year, EVs saved 8.4 million tonnes of CO2e emissions – a huge contribution to net zero.

But all this adds up to an accelerating demand for electric car charging points the length and breadth of the country. Can the infrastructure keep pace?


The average all-electric car has a range of about 180 miles on full charge, although the latest models stretch up to 300 miles or more. Colder weather, faster speeds, stronger headwinds, heavier loads, flatter tyres, hotter heater or cooler aircon and an older battery all shorten range. Also, for good battery health, drivers are advised to keep the batteries charged between 20-80% capacity – so the effective ‘real-world’ range is rather less.


Most e-car owners have their own electric charger at home and keep their car topped up overnight. But many living in flats or terraces don’t have that convenience and rely on public chargepoints. So too do e-car drivers travelling long distances. Easy access to public chargepoints is becoming more and more of a challenge.


Unlike filling up with fossil fuel, a minute or two, charging up an electric car can take anything between about 30 minutes with a rapid 50 kW charger to a few hours with a standard 7 kW charger. The more e-cars there are needing a top-up, the more likely it is that the existing chargepoints are occupied. Answer: more chargepoints, especially the faster ones.


According to the Department of Transport, as of July this year, there are 44,020 public chargepoints in the UK, about one in five of which are rapid chargers. That’s one charger to every 17 or so EVs. Nowhere near enough. Not to mention at least four different cable connectors and a plethora of providers requiring individual sign-in to add to the confusion.


Fortunately, several big players are starting to get seriously involved in beefing up the charging infrastructure. Tesla is in the lead with multiple installations mainly at motorway service areas – now also available to non-Tesla cars. And recently, BP Pulse announced a multi-million-pound project at the NEC Birmingham capable of charging 180 cars simultaneously, 30 of which will be ultrafast. This kind of mega-commitment is bound to stimulate further large-scale investment by rival companies. And, on top of these initiatives, local authorities up and down the country are steadily setting up more on-street chargepoints for those who can’t top up at home.


There’s a long way to go – but it’s beginning to look quite encouraging. For the latest picture, you can download the free ZapMap app. Amazingly, you’ll see that Tisbury has three public chargepoints – with a few more in Shaftesbury and Salisbury. And don’t forget, you can always savour the electric experience by joining the Tisbury Electric Car Club (www.tisburyelectriccarclub.co.uk).


Alan Maryon-Davis



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