As EV adoption continues to gather pace, we talk to key representatives from Actuate UK to find out why the ‘electric revolution’ could grind to a halt if the correct infrastructure, equipment, skills and incentives are not in place.
In November 2020, the UK government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution said that all new vehicles must be zero emitters by 2035. This summer the Transport Committee highlighted the need for a clear policy framework to deliver this ambition.
According to nextgreencar.com, last year saw 175,000 electric vehicles (EVs) registered – that’s a growth of 66% on 2019. There’s no doubt that the UK is about to undergo an electric revolution. Just as the combustion engine revolutionised our roads in the 20th century, so our landscape is set to change again to accommodate a new breed of vehicles.
EV prices are becoming more affordable all the time, but for the whole of the UK to shift to EVs a coordinated network of public charging points is vital. Indeed, one of the biggest considerations for individuals who might be considering purchasing an EV is ‘range anxiety’, which describes the feeling of concern as to where they’ll charge up.
The dream of a net-zero future essentially hinges on the charging network.
Ofgem recently approved £300 million of upgrades for EV chargers, including 1,800 ultra-rapid points at motorway services. But, Steve Bratt of Actuate UK says new hardware must be reinforced by joined-up thinking.
He says: “Without an integrated plan to install a comprehensive charging network, customers will not make the necessary switch to EVs. Drivers are understandably worried about being stranded without fuel so we must make the EV charging network a priority in the shift to fossil-free motoring.”
Alan Wilson, also of Actuate UK, adds: “Scotland currently has a joined-up approach through Transport Scotland, but without a similar network across the whole of the UK, customers won’t make the necessary switch to EVs.
“Having an integrated plan is crucial if we are to create an attractive electric future for motorists, so it’s vital to provide the right infrastructure UK-wide to help influence consumer choice”.
Scotland has a public network of charging points. However, drive elsewhere in the UK and you’ll find a plethora of providers, with varying payment systems. This can be frustrating, even for the committed EV owner.
Getting into the fast lane
With an uptake in EVs and other initiatives, the UK aims to reach its net-zero target by 2050 – but other countries are already in the fast lane.
Steve Bratt, who is also CEO of electrical trade association, ECA, says: “Germany has already committed to spend nearly £5 billion during the next three years to provide EV charging points at every service station to boost consumer demand for EVs. The UK must step up to provide a similar infrastructure to demonstrate to the world that we’re serious about the switch to EVs.”
Actuate UK is also concerned about the many aspects of large-scale charging installation yet to be considered.
Alan Wilson comments: “While businesses may provide the charging stations, the surge in demand for electricity needs forethought. Scottish Renewables 2019 figures show that renewable energy provides 97% of Scotland’s gross energy consumption. In the UK, that figure is around half, but more is needed. The solution to the charging surge is collective thinking about energy storage.”
Closing the gap
The gap between EVs and traditional vehicles is closing. New vehicles have a 400-mile range before needing a recharge, plus they’re getting faster to charge. It’s also vitally important that they’re installed by a qualified electrician.
Paul Reeve, Director of CSR at ECA, adds: “Sufficient, functional and customer friendly EV charging is an essential element of the UK drive to net zero. We welcome the Transport Committee’s recognition of what must happen to enable successful and cost-effective EV charging – not just on homeowner’s driveways but, crucially, right across the UK”.
Finally, Steve Bratt has a message for world leaders meeting at the upcoming COP26 summit in November: “Give us a plan, not just promises. At ECA, we believe the future is electric, but individuls need incentives to start switching to that future now.”
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