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Call for independent regulator to level up UK EV charging network

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The UK automotive industry has published a new seven-point plan to ensure every driver in Britain can benefit from an electric vehicle (EV) charging network that is affordable, available and accessible to all. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) plan calls for mandated targets for infrastructure roll-out, backed by an independent regulator to keep consumers at the heart of planning.

Since 2011, government, local authorities and the charging infrastructure sector have delivered a 3,000% increase in the number of standard public chargepoints, reports the SMMT. Furthermore, it says that analysis of data from the International Energy Agency’s
Global EV Outlook 2021, indicates that the UK’s provision of one rapid charger per 32 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is the best in the Western world, behind only China (1:11), South Korea (1:12) and Japan (1:17).

However, as demand for electric vehicles has surged – accounting for more than one in six new cars in 2021 – standard public charging infrastructure has struggled to keep pace. Plug-in cars on the road grew by 280.3% between 2019 and 2021, but standard chargepoints increased by just 70% in the same period. Meanwhile, BEVs in the parc rose by a staggering 587%, whereas rapid/ultra-rapid charger stock grew by only 82%, according to analysis of recent
data from the UK Department for Transport and SMMT registration and parc data.

This is undermining consumer confidence to make the switch, with range anxiety now replaced by charging anxiety.

Although most current plug-in car users charge at home, public chargers remain critical to consumer confidence and are still relied upon by many commercial fleets, as well as the third of UK households that do not have designated off-street parking. Furthermore, drivers face a growing regional divide in chargepoint availability. At the end of 2020, the ratio of EVs to standard public chargers was 1:37 in the north of England, compared with 1:26 in the south – and in 2021, the ratio deteriorated significantly in the north to 1:52, compared with 1:30 in the south.

To give all drivers the confidence they will be able to charge as easily as they refuel, wherever they live or work, the sector is proposing a nationally coordinated and locally delivered infrastructure plan that puts the needs of consumers first.

The industry is also calling for the creation of a new regulatory body, ‘Ofcharge’ (the Office of Charging), to monitor the market, including charging price levels and affordability, and to enforce regulated minimum standards. This would keep the consumer at the heart of infrastructure planning and rollout to ensure every region of the UK is in readiness for the end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030.

With car makers having already invested billions of pounds to bring more than 140 models of plug-in car to market in the UK and 55 more to be launched this year, a guarantee on infrastructure provision will give consumers the confidence to make the switch in even greater numbers, says the SMMT.

The SMMT recommends seven steps to deliver consumer-centric charging infrastructure for zero emission mobility:

  • Embed consumer-centricity in policy and a national plan on charging infrastructure.
  • Develop and implement a nationally coordinated but locally delivered infrastructure plan.
  • Invest significantly to uplift all types of charging infrastructure, particularly public chargers, ahead of need.
  • Set binding targets to ensure adequate public chargepoint provision and social equity.
  • Enact proportionate regulation to deliver the best outcomes for consumer experience and expansion of provision.
  • Provide adequate enabling support to incentivise and facilitate delivery of charging infrastructure.
  • Ensure electricity networks are future-proofed and fit-for-purpose for zero emission mobility.

 Ofcharge could regulate UK charging network
Photo: Shutterstock

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