The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) believes that the British car market is booming with the surge in EV options available to buyers, but there isn’t an adequate number of public chargers to keep up with the rising number of electric cars on the road.
According to the trade association’s latest data, there are 36 electric cars for every standard public charger on average across the entire country. While this is up from 31 last year, there are still parts of the country, such as North West England, with just one public charging point for every 85 EVs.
For perspective on the electric car-to-charger rise, North West England had around 49 EVs for every public charger a year and a half ago.
On the other hand, London was rather unsurprisingly the region most well-equipped to aid drivers in charging their cars, with one charger for every 11 EVs, up by one since last year.
Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the SMMT, told The Times that electric car owners would see their experience “get worse before it gets better”.
And that’s because now drivers have more options to buy EVs than ever before, with every class of vehicle available as a battery electric vehicle (BEV). SMMT says that there are now around 80 ‘electric picks’ available across every vehicle segment – compared with just 21 in 2018 – ranging from super-small urban commuter vehicles to multipurpose people carriers, and everything in between.
The vast variety of options has inspired more than three-quarters of a million drivers to make the switch, with new BEV registrations up by more than a quarter from this time last year.
Manufacturers are continuing to invest billions in both bringing new EVs to market and building them in Britain, with the choice available in showrooms today the outcome of long-term commitments, and delivered despite the dramatic global economic challenges of the past three years.
On top of the huge number of available BEV models, drivers looking to cut their carbon while on the move can also choose from 94 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and 42 hybrid (HEV) models – meaning electrified vehicles comprise almost two-thirds of all models available.
Not just cars, but other vehicles are making the switch too, thus helping in the overall decarbonisation of transport. There are now 23 models of electric van, 14 models of zero-emission buses powered by electric or hydrogen, and even 20 models of electric trucks now available in the UK as 2035 creeps closer, and with it, the end of sale of all non-zero emission vehicles weighing less than 26 tonnes.
SMMT said: “To ensure all drivers can benefit from the electric switch, no matter where they live, the huge choice of vehicles needs to be matched with a choice of affordable, reliable charging options, particularly for those unable to access home charging.
“The UK government has already committed more than £2 billion towards increasing public charge point provision. However, binding targets on charge point rollout, in line with targets on vehicle sales due to be set by the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, would accelerate infrastructure growth and inspire more to move to electric.
“Equally as important will be to make going electric more equitable. This can be supported by the implementation of a fair and forward-thinking Vehicle Excise Duty regime, a fiscal framework that supports company drivers and other incentives for private purchasers and, not least, by making it fair for all – reducing the VAT at public charge points so that it is the same as charging at home.”
Mike Hawkes also called for a framework to ensure every British driver can benefit from zero-emission mobility. He said: “These vehicles already offer an outstanding driving experience but motorists should have lower total running costs, no matter where they live or work, with fair taxation that inspires instead of impedes.
“With infrastructure provision accelerated ahead of need, the UK can have a healthy, vibrant market, with ever more model choices to keep the UK as a world leader in net zero transport.
However, while most EV owners are charging at home to save money, Ben Nelmes, chief executive of New AutoMotive, said, “we need to see the UK’s charging network expand so that public charging is convenient for all EV drivers”.
He said: “Market certainty is crucial for businesses investing in EV infrastructure. The forthcoming ZEV mandate will provide security by driving the uptake of electric vehicles in the UK, ensuring a rapid expansion of the charging network.”
A consultation was launched earlier this year to analyse how the ZEV mandate will work, including how it will affect businesses and whether any exemptions are required.
Nelmes said: “The ZEV Mandate is key to the rollout of more infrastructure across the country. This is why New AutoMotive supports implementing an ambitious ZEV Mandate in 2024. We want to ensure that EV drivers are able to charge their vehicles wherever and whenever they want.”