In November, Boris Johnson announced his ambitious plans to bring forward the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 to 2030 to spearhead his “green industrial revolution”. While this comes as fantastic news for existing and soon-to-be EV owners, it may have left those who aren’t as experienced or versed on the topic a little unsure and questioning the plan’s feasibility. EV charging locations in the UK remain one of the most debated topics on the subject.
Historically, there have been a few barriers of entry to EV adoption—notably, initial cost, range anxiety and the lack of charging infrastructure. Although still relevant, these issues are consistently being addressed by manufacturers, government, and private companies. For example, the new Mini-E is cheaper to purchase than its fossil fuel equivalent (when including the OLEV grant), and Tesla’s Model S can go for 304 miles on a single charge. With every new model, car manufacturers are levelling production costs and increasing range to further distances (pun intended).
In this article, we’re going to take a quick overview of the UK’s infrastructure developments and detail your charging options as an EV driver.
UK’s Charging Infrastructure
The state of the UK’s charging network has accelerated dramatically over the past few years. In 2016 there were 6546 charging devices across the UK; as of early March 2021, there are 22,401. In addition to the physical developments, service providers such as Zap-Map have made locating chargers and planning journeys seamless. With more than 35,000 charge point connectors across the country, there are now more places to charge an EV than petrol stations. To locate your nearest public charge-point or plan a route, check out zap-map.com.
In terms of regional development, Greater London, South East and Scotland are taking the lead. North East and Northern Ireland are lagging, suggesting those living and travelling to these regions will need to plan ahead for the time being. Nevertheless, areas across the country are picking up the pace, and we can expect to see additional investments alongside the increasing uptake of EV’s.
Domestic vs Public Charging
It’s worth noting that most EV charging is undertaken at home, at work or a combination of the two. The average vehicle is parked 95% of the time; this affords ample opportunities to charge your EV. Every hour spent using a smart 7kW charging unit will provide on average 30 miles of range, making charging overnight or for a few hours at work a great way to navigate your charging schedule and a strategy that most EV owners readily adopt.
Nonetheless, public options are essential and charging outside the home/workplace can be split into destination charging and on-route charging.
The concept here is the same as home/workplace schedules – utilise idle time by charging the battery. Supermarkets such as Asda and Morrison’s have led the way in this area, implementing multiple charging stations in store car parks. Retailers, shopping centres, gyms, zoo’s, leisure centres (we could go on) are following suit. The point is, EV charging is not only becoming more readily accessible but far easier to plan.
Day-to-day charging for your regular commute is well-catered to with home, workplace and destination charging, but what about those long trips? While they may not be as frequent, being able to charge along the way is vital. In this instance, on-route charge points located along motorways and main roads become incredibly important. It is in this instance that rapid chargers will offer the most convenient option.
Types of Chargers and Costs
There are three types of charging points, and they often vary by location.
3-pin plugs to a 3.7kW charge point. These chargers are typically used at home and are more appropriate for smaller battery sizes given the length of time it takes to charge. The costs associated with these types of chargers are meagre and determined entirely by your energy tariffs. For more information on how to work out the costs related to charging an EV, check out macXcharging’s guide to EV Charging Costs.
EV chargers across the UK from 7kW to 22kW chargers. As battery sizes dramatically increased over the past decade to accommodate robust ranges, 7kW chargers have since become the most popular choice for home chargers. 22kW’s, on the other hand, are more frequently found in commercial settings, outside workplaces and shopping centres, serving multiple EVs in a day.
The cost of public charge points can vary from free to 15-20p/kWh. In the earlier days of EV’s, when usage was still niche, the concept of free charging was commonplace; however, with growing popularity, that has diminished somewhat but not entirely. According to Zap-Map, more than one in five publicly available charge points are still free to use.
Free charge points are typically located in supermarkets, retail parks or shopping centres. Anywhere your time is valuable, companies are increasingly leveraging free charge points to entice consumers to visit.
The UK’s rapid charger network is what many future EV-owners focus on and frequently generates calls for additional investment. Despite being the most infrequently used charging option, it remains fundamental to the progress of EV ownership.
40kW to 150kW. Rapid chargers are increasingly being implemented in high traffic areas, from city centres to motorways. High speed and on-route are your most convenient options while travelling; however, they are also the most expensive to use. Costs per kW average around 30p, depending on the supplier.
The network of rapid chargers up and down the UK looks somewhat different from one another because they are manufactured and installed by a range of companies. Many EV owners who use these chargers regularly choose to subscribe to a specific network provider based on locations and financial incentives, but this isn’t necessary to get going. In 2019, the UK government requested all rapid chargers incorporate contactless payment, removing the red tape around accounts and loyalty card schemes.
Additionally, you can still find free-to-use rapid chargers up and down the country. While scarcer than a free 7kW charge point, they do exist, although it probably won’t be for long. Energy companies such as Engie are investing in rapid charge points and offering the service for free to stimulate the uptake of EV’s.
Until now, charging an EV mid-journey has been envisioned as hour-long stops at dreary service stations, mindlessly staring at the charging gauge while sipping a cup of lukewarm tea. The development of rapid and ultra-rapid (150kW to 350kW) charge points has transformed on-route charging with 100+ miles added in around 15 minutes.
Boris Johnson pledged £1.3bn towards EV charging infrastructure over the next four years, alongside the aim of having 2,500 rapid chargers installed along major roads by 2030 and 6,000 by 2035. There is no denying that we still have a long way to go, but the outlook is promising, and the appeal of driving electric is only set to increase.