There is a major roadblock facing the government’s push towards electric vehicles

August 2, 2017
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This week, the government has confirmed its plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars across the country from 2040 – the same year all vehicles are required to be electric. The ruling forms part of the government’s air quality report, and it will force electric cars into popularity, which is a good thing for our environment, obviously. But there’s still one main issue the government, and EVs, have to face: infrastructure.

Battery technology, and therefore EV range, is improving every year, but that’s only half the equation. Without the infrastructure to charge electric vehicles, longer journeys will still require a great deal of planning – and range anxiety will never truly disappear.

Right now it’s impossible to predict just how many chargers will be on UK roads by 2040, so it’s hard to say if the government has pushed things through prematurely. But we can look at the amount of car chargers in the UK right now.

Zap Maps is one of the most popular charging maps for hybrid and electric car users, and features statistics on the number of chargers in the UK, to the type of chargers installed.

According to Zap Maps, there are currently 4,572 charging stations for electric cars in the UK (at the time of writing), with 13,134 physical connectors in total. Zap Maps says 255 of these connectors have been introduced in the past 30 days.

Longer term, the data shows how the amount of EV chargers throughout the country has increased. In 2011, there were around 1,500 chargers in the UK. That figure grew to just under 12,000 by 2016.

Coverage

Zap Map’s 2016 figures show a huge increase in the number of chargers in the UK, and it’s likely that, with the government’s help, that rate will increase rapidly by 2040. However, there’s two crucial factors: distribution and charger type.

Most of the chargers you’ll find in the UK are centered around cities. That’s great for those of us who want to make trips around town, but it means more rural areas, and particularly those in between cities, are often lacking in chargers.

That’s a huge problem and makes the idea of longer journeys in an EV somewhat unsettling. It’s still logically possible to do them, but if a charger is down, or a stop is missed, it might be a while before another appears.

Secondly, the type of charger is a huge factor. Just like pretty much every new technology nowadays, the EV market is involved in something of a format war. And just like pretty much every new technology with a format war, the customer isn’t really benefitting from it.

Types of electric charger

Chargers can be split into Slow, Fast, Rapid DC and Rapid AC types, and although fast chargers make up around 7,000 of the 12,000 chargers in the UK, they still take three to four hours to fully charge an empty battery. Rapid DC and Rapid AC chargers can offer 80% of charge in around 30 minutes but only account for around 2,000 of the 12,000 chargers in the UK.

If the government is to make electric cars more popular by 2040, it’ll need to provide an up to date, infrastructure with nationwide coverage for the UK’s new EV users.

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