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How the UK is charging up its electric vehicle networks

As interest grows around electric vehicles, charging point networks across the UK are expanding and evolving to cater for demand. Electric vehicle charging networks in the UK are increasingly gearing up for the shift away from petrol and diesel amid UK plans to become net zero on carbon emissions by 2050.

Dutch company Fastned has just opened the UK’s first electric vehicle fast-charging station in Sunderland, which will shortly be joined by a new rapid-charge network from IONITY and Extra across eight motorway services areas in the UK. These have the potential to repower cars in as little as 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, Google Maps has just added some electric charging points, so drivers can see where they are and if they’re occupied.

Such developments are essential as drivers start to get on board with the idea of electric vehicles, says Paul Gallagher, JLL UK’s automotive consultant: “We’ll see more of these EV stations opening, while fast-charging points will become commonplace on motorways and main roads.”

JLL forecasts there will be around 240,000 plug-in electric vehicles on the road by the end of the year and that’s predicted to increase to 540,000 by 2022.

“The tipping point, where electric vehicles are expected to be the same price to buy as petrol and diesel vehicles, is expected to happen around 2022 or 2023,” says Gallagher. “Things will change quite quickly when this is reached, because for many drivers at present price is a factor.”

Yet much more still needs to be done to build a comprehensive network of charging points amid driver concerns over battery length and range and charging point availability. Last year, a report by Emu Analytics predicted the number of EV charging points needed to increase by 83 percent by 2020 to meet growing demand.

Kathryn Pitts, JLL UK alternatives director, agrees: “For me the game changer is electric vehicle charging points. We need to have the infrastructure in place to support these electric vehicles and when they start to become more commonplace motorists will get on board.

“At present, there is an average of nine EV cars to every public charging point – and in some local authority areas the ratio is far higher.”

Moving into second gear

It’s not just motorway service areas joining a growing network of public charging points; leisure centres, retail centres and car parking operators are all starting to see the environmental value in installing them.

Retailers like Tesco, and pub and restaurant chain Mitchells & Butlers have already unveiled plans to install more charging points for customers to leave their electric vehicles to charge while they visit.

Gallagher believes demand is going to grow for more public and private charging points at leisure facilities, retail parks and at workplaces to enable people to conveniently recharge their cars while they’re not in use. They could also be a requirement in all new-build homes in the UK.

Service providers are gearing up for this shift. Engineering firm, Integral, recently joined forceswith Rolec EV, one of Europe’s largest EV charge point manufacturers, to deliver large scale installation projects as well as maintenance.

“Change is definitely on the way. Once private landlords start to realise the need to put the infrastructure in place, the pace of change will happen much quicker and we’ll all be as used to EV charging points as we are petrol stations,” says Gallagher.

An electric future

Changing consumer attitudes and crucially Government policy will be key drivers of how quickly the popularity of electric vehicles – and their charging networks – can grow. Local authorities are introducing Clean Air Zones, which will place restrictions on the type of vehicles able to enter city centres in a bid to control pollution levels. London, for example, recently launched an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

“This is being driven by the younger generation, who are much more conscious about what we are doing to the environment and want change,” says Pitts.

Institutional investors are also getting involved as their strategies become more environmentally friendly in line with appetite for sustainable development among their stakeholders.

“Big investment funds want to invest in socially responsible, sustainable projects,” adds Gallagher. “They are looking at renewables and are starting to look at electric vehicles. As they become more involved, it will only accelerate change.”

Read time: 3:45 min.

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