On 4th February 2020, the UK Government brought forward the date of the ban on the sale of all petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles from 2040 to 2035 – with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps following this on 12th February by suggesting the date could move to 2032 instead.

Whatever date is finally decided upon, the time to create an electrical infrastructure that can handle the rise in electric car sales is now very much shorter than initially thought.

The current state of the electric vehicle infrastructure

One of the biggest issues facing EV car owners is the availability of charging stations. While there are currently 24,000 individual charging points across the country, if you consider there are approximately 8,385 petrol stations in the UK with an average of 4-6 pumps per station, by comparison, there are between 33,540 and 50,310 points available to ‘top-up’ petrol or diesel vehicles.

That’s not to say there is a lack of EV charge points, in fact there are many available at current petrol stations, with more in places like:

  • Supermarkets
  • Gyms
  • Cinemas
  • Retail parks
  • Town centre car parks

 
However, these aren’t always convenient, especially for ‘out-of-town’ drivers who may not readily know where the nearest petrol station, supermarket or retail park is.  So, what’s the answer?

One would be to install charge points at the EV owners property, but the major flaw here is approximately one-third of householders don’t have a driveway or garage and have little to no space to install a charge point outside their home.

Another would be to install charge points on pavements, but with many roadsides taken up with signs, post boxes, lamp posts, feeder pillars and bike racks, space is an issue.

One possible answer is to adapt current ‘street furniture’ to include charging points by installing sockets into:

  • Lamp posts
  • Bollards
  • Feeder pillars

 
By repurposing current street furniture, it would cut down on the addition of separate charging points clogging up the nation’s pavements.  However, all this comes at a cost, something the UK Government is well aware of.

Building the electric vehicle infrastructure of the future.

The UK Government’s Department for Transport (DfT) recently announced it plans to double its EV charger funding from £5million to £10 million. The main focus of the funding will be on residential charging stations, as they look to encourage those living in urban areas to switch to electric cars.

The latest cash injection will also go towards installing around 3,600 chargers across the UK to add to the current 24,000 already installed, as well as fund the development of a charger monitoring system which would detect when an individual charging point needs maintenance or is out of order.

However, the extra funding only came about following a wave of criticism from industry leaders, including Rawdon Glover of Jaguar Land Rover UK, who said:

“I’d like to see a faster roll-out of infrastructure in terms of scale, of course, especially in light of the Government’s stated Road to Zero ambitions, but I also think there need to be steps to make what we have today more usable.”

And concerns have been raised with there only being 2,400 rapid-chargers currently installed, prompting DfT minister of state George Freeman to make a statement about the need to promote electric vehicles and invest in its infrastructure:

By 2024, I’d like to more than double the number of rapid charge points to over 5,000. That would give more people across the country the chance to drive electric vehicles. We also need to think about a balance between where the uptake of electric cars is and reassuring tomorrow’s purchasers we’re building [the infrastructure] for them.

Regardless of what the future holds, some organisations are already cutting emissions by investing in energy-efficient vehicles for their ‘last mile’ deliveries.

Electric vehicles that go the extra last mile.

One such organisation is DPD, who in 2018 opened their first all-electric depot in London, and have since launched two more while adding electric scooters and the latest electric Mercedes-Benz eVito van to their fleet.

Retail giants, IKEA, aim to have 25% of its ‘last-mile’ deliveries made by electric vehicles by 2025, while Royal Mail is trialling three-wheel trikes in small cities to cut congestion and help postal workers deliver letters and parcels in an environmentally friendly way.

And with the cost of investing in electric vehicles decreasing, more organisations are sure to follow – making it vitally important charging points, and the overall infrastructure is in place and ready to cope with future demand.

There are many obstacles to overcome in getting the infrastructure in place to handle the changeover to electric vehicles. Still, the investment is there to make it happen, and pretty soon electric vehicle charging stations could be as regular a street side feature as the classic British red post box.