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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

The gap between number of public charging points and electric cars on the road more than doubles

Drivers of electric vehicles on Britain's roads are facing a shortage of public charging points after the gap between the two more than doubled in parts of the UK.

Industry figures revealed today that overall there were 36 electric cars on UK roads per standard public charger at the end of last year, up from 31 at the close of 2021.

But the worst area was North West England where there were a whopping 85 electric vehicles to every charger last year – up from 49 in 2021, a rise of nearly 75 per cent.

Following behind was the South West at 78:1 then the South East at 66:1, according to the data compiled by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The next worst regions were Yorkshire and the Humber at 61:1 and the East at 56:1. However the best areas were London at 11:1, the North East at 18:1 and Wales at 19:1.

Electric drivers endured lengthy queues at motorway charging stations over the bank holiday weekend, echoing chaos that ensued over the Christmas period.

But the clock is ticking on government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 - with new hybrid cars set to be banned by 2035.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes warned drivers of electric vehicles (EVs) that they should expect their experience to get 'worse before it gets better'.

He added that he is now hearing of EV drivers switching back to traditional fuels because the charging points infrastructure was not keeping pace.

Mr Hawes said: 'These ratios need to improve. I used to say 'No one who has driven an EV goes back to petrol car or diesel as the driving experience is fantastic'.

'Now I'm beginning to hear people saying, 'I just can't live with the anxiety around where I am going to charge'.'

Ian Plummer, commercial director at Auto Trader, told MailOnline today: 'The number of EVs on Britain's roads is increasing and, while growing, the number of charging points simply cannot keep up.

We now have a mandate on manufacturers for EV sales, but potentially we need a similar approach on delivering charging infrastructure to reassure would-be switchers and ensure the mass adoption of EVs.'

He said a £380million investment in charging infrastructure announced in March was 'much needed' but should be 'actioned quickly to tackle the growing wealth divide that's already apparent in EV ownership'.

Mr Plummer continued: 'For people that don't have the luxury of a driveway, EVs feel like a distant dream, so plenty of affordable on street public charging is vital for the mass adoption of EVs – reducing VAT on public charging to match private charging would also be a great help.

'However, the Government will need to work harder at removing all the other barriers to infrastructure growth, notably protracted planning processes with local authorities, that don't enable the scaling of services at the kind of accelerated pace we need to see.'

And RAC electric vehicles spokesman Simon Williams told MailOnline: 'While many electric car drivers can charge up either entirely or predominantly at home, it's still vital we have sufficient chargers available for those going on trips beyond the range of their car – as well as for the estimated third of drivers for whom off-street parking, and therefore charging, isn't ever going to be an option.

'But it's not just about having enough chargers. We'd like to see a large expansion in rapid and ultra-rapid chargers available that mean drivers don't have to wait a long time to get the charge they need.'

He said that RAC analysis released two weeks ago highlighted the progress the Government still has to make to hit its own target of each motorway service area having six high-powered chargers before the end of this year.

Mr Williams continued: 'We understand there is considerable complexity involved in getting the right electricity grid connections for the fastest chargers but surely this is something the Government can help expedite.

What's more, given the Government has already imposed a mandate for zero-emission vehicle sales on car manufacturers, it would make sense that this is matched by targets for local authorities and charging networks to install a target number of chargers to meet demand.'

And Edmund King, president of The AA, told MailOnline: 'There is no doubt that for the electric vehicle revolution to really take off we need more charge points on the road network.

'However, most EV drivers do the vast majority of their charging at home at night. It is more challenging for those without off-street parking but advances are being made in community charging.

'A key necessity for convincing car owners to switch to electric is sufficient charging points to remove the anxiety that they may run out of juice on longer journeys, when they get beyond the local network they are familiar with.'

He said the main focus should now be ensuring the UK has the right speed chargers in the right locations and avoids any blackspots, adding that 'great progress is being made on the motorway network'.

Mr King pointed out that availability on the motorway network is on the rise, with Gridserve committing to delivering at least six high-power chargers at all Moto and Roadchef motorway service stations by the end of this year.

He continued: 'Car owners usually research how they will manage if they switch to an electric vehicle and, if they perceive there are gaps in the charging infrastructure this could deter them.

'And once they have decided to stick with petrol and diesel for their next car, they are lost as a potential EV convert for three or more years.

'Having said that, there are some stunning deals for nearly-new EVs with less than 5,000 miles on the clock that make them cheaper than buying a brand new petrol version of the same model.

'The Government and local authorities need to step up and give more incentives for increased charging infrastructure because, like in the Hollywood movie, 'if you build it they will come'.

'It is not surprising that the ratio of chargers to the number of EVs on the road has decreased as sales are on the up but what is important is that we have the right, reliable, accessible chargers in the right places.'

Mr King also pointed out that the number of breakdowns for AA EV drivers running out of charge has reduced dramatically over the last few years and now accounts for just 2.2 per cent of EV breakdowns - down from 8 per cent four years ago.

A spokesman for ChargeUK, the industry body, insisted today that its members have invested billions of pounds in EV charging infrastructure.

'The beginning of this year has seen record numbers of chargers installed.

'We are working closely with government and others to break down barriers to installing new infrastructure and continue to ensure Britain is the best place in the world to drive and charge an EV.'

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