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New reports focus on need for charging infrastructure to support EV uptake

Thu 28 September 2017 | Back to news list

A new report from the RAC Foundation says that although 80% of EV owners are now able to charge at home, a robust public charging network is critical for enticing people to 'go electric'. Meanwhile, a report from Energy UK says that the whole country can benefit from the move to EVs but an acceleration in the availability of infrastructure and support will allow the roll out to go further and faster. In a position paper, the Renewable Energy Association offers a similar message, saying that a rapid shift to electric vehicles is possible but that a clear Government strategy on charging roll-out is needed.

The RAC Foundation says that potential purchasers of electric cars tempted by the benefits of quickly-improving battery capacity might still hesitate if the public charge point network doesn’t keep pace with changing technology.

Its report says that without widespread, reliable and simple-to-use charge points the practicalities of ‘filling up’ electric cars could limit their mass-market appeal and potentially hamper the government’s plan to end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars from 2040.

The report says that the charging network currently suffers from poor reliability - currently about 13% - one in eight – of charge points are out of action at any one time. There is also a lack of standardisation of connectors and charging protocols which has resulted in "a bewildering array of types of charge point, connectors and tariffs which is poorly presented to the public".

The RAC Foundation also notes that high performance batteries previously used in electric vehicles will start becoming available in volume from about 2020. These will be ideal to provide local energy storage at charge points to ease pressure on the grid.

As of June 2017, the report says, there were 4,476 public EV recharging sites with a total of 6,913 devices and 12,849 individual connectors.This compares with about 8,500 petrol stations.

Meanwhile, a new report from Energy UK says the whole country can benefit from the move to electric vehicles but that the UK must now speed up progress.

The report calls for the introduction of a regulatory framework to provide certainty for future investment through the forthcoming Electric and Autonomous Vehicle Bill and Clean Growth Plan. It calls for more support for innovation and the ability to share usage data to assist with future infrastructure planning. 

The report highlights the potential for developing smart charging arrangements to manage demand through, for example, time of use tariffs.

Energy UK's chief executive Lawrence Slade said: “Electric vehicles are the perfect catalyst for a smarter grid that cuts carbon emissions and empowers consumers. Car owners could benefit financially from EVs’ ability to store and supply power back to the grid which shows how the way we all use energy in the future could be transformed.    

“However, the full integration of electric vehicles into UK’s energy infrastructure is a challenge that demands a ‘whole system’ approach. It requires ambition, close cooperation across several sectors and a vision that is based around empowering and benefitting the consumer." 

Energy UK says there are now over 105,000 EVs now on UK roads and that approximately 600 million UK vehicle miles per year are now powered by electricity. It highlights that EVs are cleaner than ever before – now emitting around half of the C02 of the cleanest non-electric cars.  

In a new position paper - Jobs, infrastructure, and a vision for the growth of Electric Vehicles in the UK - the Renewable Energy Association also anticipates that a rapid shift to electric vehicles is possible in the UK, also calling for a clear Government strategy on charging roll-out.

REA calls for the introduction of three-phase electricity supply in new homes, smart tariffs that allow for charging at different speeds, and the delivery of the Government’s Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan

It also calls for Government to intervene and ensure consistent minimum quantity and specification for EV charging at all new supermarkets, car parks, and other retail outlets over a certain size. Such sites should have a minimum level of EV charging installed, with the planning to add further capacity later

If such changes are implemented the REA says that electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could make up 50 per cent of new vehicle sales in the UK by 2025.

Note:  As a part of Energy 2017, the LowCVP will be running a series of seminars during the afternoon of October 11, preceding the LowCVP Low Carbon Champions Awards celebration dinner. Entitled ‘The EV revolution: managing impacts on the powergrid’ the drop-in seminars include speakers from National Grid, EA Technology, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, UK Power Networks and Drive Electric. (More information here.)

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