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UK Government plans to improve slow progress in EV charging infrastructure

2 November, 2023

UK Government plans to improve slow progress in EV charging infrastructure

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UK has been one of the countries showing an ever increasing acceptance of EVs, only to be delayed by the development of its charging infrastructure.

Why is adoption of EVs so far behind in the UK?

There are several reasons.

First of all, the regulations on trade between the EU and UK post Brexit have become a serious obstacle. If there’s no agreement between the UK and the EU on tariffs after Brexit, electric cars in Britain could become between £3,400 – £6,000 more expensive. UK car manufacturers are concerned about a potential price war that could harm the electric vehicle market and the UK’s climate goals. The government is trying to delay these new rules, but the EU hasn’t shown any willingness to compromise.

Brexit rules require 45% of an electric car’s value (including the batteries) to come from the UK or the EU to avoid tariffs. British carmakers are asking for a delay of this regulation until 2027, as they lack the necessary domestic batteries. This situation may negatively impact the government’s goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 as British drivers won’t be happy to buy a car that’s £6,000 more expensive than the same car across the Channel. This means the Jaguar Land Rover EV battery factory in Somerset UK we wrote about a few weeks ago was indeed a great step for the UK, as it will help sarisfy the Brexit rule mentioned earlier (provided that the batteries produced there will indeed be used in the UK market and not sent abroad). Additionally, according to an article from Autocar, Nissan’s battery factory near Sunderland has the potential eventually to pump out more than a third of the 100GWh battery capacity the entire UK will need in 2030.

EU Publicly accessible EV charging points 2022

EU Publicly accessible EV charging points 2022 – Credit ChargeUp Europe

Secondly, the charging network is seriously lacking, compared to other countries’ infrastructure. For example, according to a recent study from Euronews, and ChargeUp Europe, the Netherlands are championing the EU list with 5 times the average of all other EU countries.Germany and France have the largest total number of EVs (55% of all EVs in the EU). It’s good to keep in mind that the Netherlands is the most bicycle-friendly country possibly on the planet, so their investment in EV charging infrastructure must tell the UK they are doing something wrong.

EV Charging infrastructure per country

EV Charging infrastructure per country – Credit ChargeUp Europe

A noteworthy effort that can also be seen in the chart above was made by Spain They achieved the largest single year jump due to Royal Decree-Law 29/2021 of December 21, which set urgent measures for the promotion of emobility. Simply put, if you legislate in favour of EV technology and ensure that the prices to obtain an EV are not astronomical, people will buy electric cars.

Another reason is the charging costs. In the UK, electricity prices are pegged to wholesale gas costs, which is why they are particularly high (especially fast charging stations). Of course, those lucky enough to have a driveway and an charger installed at home can get access to very competitive tarriffs, but the rest who can only charge using the publicly available charging points are looking at very high prices. This makes sense as public chargers aren’t cheap to build and, despite record sales, the companies building them don’t have enormous amounts of users, so they have to increase the charging prices to re-coup their investment.

A newly discovered reason is the decision of several insurers to stop insuring electric cars. Amid fears over the cost of repairs, insurers such as John Lewis have now stopped insuring EVs as they are unable to cover their costs and make profit. From what we read on the net, this is not only due to the repair costs involved though. Parts availability and the delays due to supply issues have sometimes forced insurers to write off perfectly repairable cars. This may be only a temporary obstacle and supply issues will eventually be sorted, but it’s an obstacle nonetheless.

Lastly, there seems to be a reluctance (in lack of a better word) from the government to push forward to achieve the initially set carbon neutrality goals. For example, the ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel cars which was set to come into force in 2030 now has been moved to 2035, even though the 2030 date has been government policy since 2020. This is not the only push back the government has done, (see this BBC article for more), but it is the one most related to the EV world. This website will not speculate on the reasons behind this reluctance, we are only pinpointing it.

What the new UK law says

On October 24, 2023, Members of Parliament (MPs) approved new laws to make it easier and more reliable for millions of electric vehicle (EV) drivers to charge their cars in public.

These new regulations bring several improvements:

  1. Prices for using charging stations will be clear and easy to compare.
  2. Many new charging stations will offer contactless payment options.
  3. Charging providers must share their data, making it simple for drivers to find available charging stations. This data will be accessible through apps, online maps, and in-car software, making it easier for drivers to locate stations, check their charging speeds, and see if they are working and available for use.

These changes are coming at a time when the country is rapidly expanding its public charging infrastructure, with a 42% annual increase.

What the new regulations can achieve

These regulations will make it much more convenient for EV drivers to find charging stations, compare prices and pay for charging, which will make the transition to electric vehicles easier and help the UK achieve its 2035 environmental goals. Once these regulations are in place, drivers will also have access to 24/7 helplines for any issues with public charging. Chargepoint operators will also have to share data about their charging stations, making it easier for people to find available chargers.

James Court, CEO of the Electric Vehicle Association England, praised these changes, saying that they will provide better reliability, clear pricing, and easier payment methods. He believes this will make the UK one of the best places in the world to charge electric vehicles.

These new regulations follow the government’s recent announcement of measures to speed up the installation of charging stations as part of the Plan for Drivers. This includes reviewing the process for connecting charging stations to the electrical grid and extending grants for charging stations in schools.

The government is also actively supporting the expansion of charging infrastructure in local areas. They are offering funding to local authorities through the Local EV Infrastructure fund, aiming to deliver many more charging stations and improve access for drivers without private parking. Additionally, the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS) is available to all UK local authorities.

The government’s ambitious goal is to have 80% of new cars and 70% of new vans sold in Great Britain be zero emission vehicles by 2030. These regulations will help support drivers as they make the switch to electric vehicles.

Furthermore, the government has also announced its intention to introduce laws requiring local transport authorities to create local charging plans if they haven’t already done so as part of their transport plans. This will ensure that every part of the country has a plan for EV charging infrastructure.

Is that enough?

While this law is a great first step, we aren’t confident it is enough to increase the adoption. Adoption mainly comes from making the lives of everyone involved easier. and this means giving incentives to importers, manufacturers, insurers, energy providers and end buyers. Electric car sales increased by 40% in 2022 in the UK, and this happened with so many issues present. How high will the increase be if the right attention is given, remains to be seen, but there is no doubt