The UK automotive industry’s trade body has called on the government to set binding targets for EV infrastructure and to set up an independent regulator for the sector.
The SMMT has published a new seven-point plan aimed at addressing the issue of “charge anxiety” for EV buyers. The plan is designed to ensure that every UK driver can benefit from an affordable, available and accessible EV charging network.
Since 2011, charging point connectors in the UK have risen from just 1,537 to 48,770 by the end of 2021. The UK now has one rapid charger per 32 battery electric vehicles – the best in the Western world, but well behind China (1:11), South Korea (1:12) and Japan (1:17).
But despite the 3,000% rise in the past decade, the SMMT claims standard public charging infrastructure has struggled to keep pace with demand for electric vehicles. PHEVs and EVs accounted for more than one in six new cars in 2021, while plug-in cars on the road grew by a phenomenal 280.3% between 2019 and 2021.
But standard charge points increased by just 69.8% in the same period. Meanwhile, battery electric cars in the parc rose by a staggering 586.8%, whereas the rapid/ultra-rapid charger stock grew by only 82.3%.
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 British households that do not have designated off-street parking.
Furthermore, drivers face a growing regional divide in charge point availability. At the end of 2020, the ratio of electric cars 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.
The SMMT is proposing a nationally coordinated and locally delivered infrastructure plan across the UK. This would be overseen by 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.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The automotive industry is up for the challenge of a zero emission new car and van market by 2035. Delivering this ambition – an ambition that would put the UK ahead of every major market in the world – needs more than automotive investment. It needs the commensurate commitment of all other stakeholders, especially the charging industry, as surveys show that range anxiety has been replaced by charging anxiety.”
“Our plan puts the consumer at the heart of this transition, assuring them of the best possible experience backed by an independent regulator. With clear, equivalent targets and support for operators and local authorities that match consumer needs, government can ensure the UK has a charge point network that makes electric mobility a reality for all, cutting emissions, driving growth and supporting consumers across the UK.”
If action is taken, SMMT forecasts the new plug-in car market will continue to grow rapidly, resulting in a UK car parc including 9.3m plug-in cars by 2030 (27.0%) and 18.4m by 2035 (54.8%), of which 6.9m (20.1%) and 15.3m (45.6%) respectively would be zero-emission vehicles, ensuring road transport delivers its part in the UK becoming the first major nation to be net zero.
Seven steps to delivering consumer-centric charging infrastructure for zero emission mobility.
SMMT’s 7-point plan for EV infrastructure
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 charge point 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