Electric car sales accelerating faster than charge point installations

Published at: 06/12/2021

Demand for electrified cars is not being matched by the growth of the public charging network, according to a new report out this week.

The nation's infrastructure is failing to keep pace with EV sales a decade before the Government bans the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, analysis by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows.

So far this year (to the end of September), a total of 4,109 new standard public charge points have been installed - that compares to 212,181 plug-in car registrations - including both fully-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

It means just one device is being installed for every 52 new electric cars entering the road, a rate the SMMT says is 'insufficient to improve the user experience' for EV buyers.

The trade body says Britain's public charging infrastructure was already falling behind EV demand before this year.

Historical data shows that at the end of 2019, 11 plug-in vehicles - either full electric or plug-in hybrid - shared one standard public charging device.

However, by the end of 2020, the ratio had extended to one charger for every 16 plug-in models in what industry bosses called a 'drain in confidence' in mass adoption of electric cars.

Various reports claim that most current EV buyers are relatively affluent individuals and households, who can both afford expensive electric models and likely live in properties with off-street parking, meaning they can charge at home either in a garage, driveway or designated bay.

However, in order for a greater population of motorists to migrate to electric models, the SMMT there needs to be improved solutions for those without designated parking, which accounts for a third of homes in England. 

On average, plug-in vehicles have accounted for one in every six new cars registered in the UK so far this year, with demand said to surge with increased uptake as manufacturers add more EVs to their ranges.

Already, the nation is lagging behind the charging vehicle infrastructures being implemented around the world.

In fact, Britain’s ratio of plug-in vehicles on the road to standard public chargers has deteriorated to become one of the worst among the top 10 global electric vehicle markets at 16:1 in 2020. 

South Korea (3:1), the Netherlands (5:1), China (9:1), France (10:1), Belgium and Japan (both 13:1) all offer their EV drivers better coverage, although the UK does marginally outperform Germany (17:1).

There are also significant regional disparities in the current provision of standard public charging points. 

London has the best ratio of cars to chargers at 10:1 – although this in itself fell from 5:1 in 2019. 

Meanwhile, the East of England has the lowest availability, with just one standard public charger for every 49 plug-in vehicles. 

Wales beats the national average with a ratio of 12:1, while Scotland weighs in at 17:1. 

'If not addressed, these disparities will hamstring vast sections of the country in their ability to deliver zero emission motoring with all the air quality and carbon saving benefits this delivers, not to mention the benefits drivers can enjoy via lower EV running costs,' the trade body says.

The Government has promised a number of funds and law changes to help improve the network in recent months.

It has allocated a Rapid Charging Fund of £950million for the installation of the fastest charging devices, a further £620million for 'targeted' zero-emission vehicle grants and infrastructure announced in the Net Zero Strategy, and last week's commitment that all new build homes will include an electric vehicle charging point.

Yet the SMMT says this is still insufficient to keep up with consumer demand for EVs and called on the government to take regulatory action to boost public charge point provision, with binding targets for delivery, commensurate with the targets for vehicle manufacturers to deliver products, to ensure installation rates accelerate.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: ''Those who can’t have their own home charge point need the confidence that they can still charge as conveniently as they can refuel. 

'A deteriorating ratio of public charge points to cars will drain that confidence.

'Recent Government funding for infrastructure was welcome but more private sector investment in public charge points is needed across the country.'

He added: 'Decarbonising road transport is essential if we are to address climate change but it needs a framework that compels all sectors to match the investment already being made by automotive to help consumers decarbonise their lives.'