29th October 2017
Scotland performs strongly as addressing regional PHEV charging disparities remains a key aim for 2018 and beyond
With significant focus increasingly being placed on reducing emissions and boosting public health in the capital and a passionate Mayor at the helm, it’s unsurprising that London tops Zap-Map’s latest charging connector figures published this month, with a smidgen short of 3,000 charging points throughout the city equating to a 21.8% share of the UK total1.
Encompassing the Highlands, Hebrides, Trossachs and plenty of other sparsely-populated areas along with relatively small cities such as Inverness and Perth, it surprised us that Scotland is the second strongest PHEV charging connector region in the UK, but with over 2,000 connectors, it accounts for 14.8% of the network.
A report was released in 2013 called ‘Switched on Scotland: a roadmap to widespread adoption of plug-in vehicles’, outlining strategies for freeing Scotland from internal combustion engines by 2050. Phase Two of the vision saw an additional £8.2 million of funding being provided by Transport Scotland earlier this year to assist individuals and businesses with embracing plug-in and pure electric vehicles. A key component of the second phase is to bolster the country’s charging infrastructure so that availability, or lack of, doesn’t hinder people’s and organisations’ appetites for such perceived cleaner vehicles3.
During 2016, the use of charging points in Scotland more than doubled and electric cars and vans leapt from 2,050 in the previous year to 3,575. In Glasgow, 68 of the city’s 76 chargers were used in the month placed under the microscope by ChargePlace Scotland and the RAC Foundation, and it may not come as a surprise that just 8 of Dumfries and Galloway’s 20 chargers were used, but oddly only 67% of Edinburgh’s saw any activity4.
Nevertheless, Scotland is showing clear enthusiasm for all things hybrid and electric, which is brilliant to see, whereas Zap-Map’s figures reveal that the North West of England hosts 7% of charge points, Yorkshire and the Humber contains 4.9% and Wales has just 3.2%, highlighting the substantial regional differences that still exist, even in densely populated areas5.
A survey by Click4Reg has found that 77% of motorists are deterred from choosing an electric vehicle simply because of the common unreliability of public connectors, 74% say that charging locations impact their parking habits, while a hefty 82% perceive that the government isn’t doing enough to ensure that the UK’s network meets demand. It’s unsurprising to us that more traditionally-minded drivers are deterred by plugging in taking considerably longer than rocking up at a petrol or diesel pump, but battery and recharging technology is continuously improving to reduce this admitted inconvenience.
“Almost every day companies are announcing their latest foray into the electric car market, but the charging network threatens to be the weak link”, comments the RAC’s Steve Gooding. “A robust public charging network is critical for enticing people to go electric. Step-changes in vehicle technology must be matched by equally big strides in our recharging infrastructure”, he adds.
A recent report entitled ‘Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure – What Can Be Done’ is fascinating reading, not least because it was written by Harold Dermott who played a key role in the development of McLaren’s F1 supercar6. His research identified that 93% of EV drivers use public points even though four-fifths have some kind of chargers at home, and the report recommends that the bewildering range of protocols, cables and connectors needs simplifying to prevent alienating future adoption7. Quality not quantity also needs to be a key aim of authorities, Mr Dermott believes, to combat EV drivers’ poor experiences, with 13% of public points found to be out of action.
The Automated and Electric Vehicle Bill incorporated into the Queen’s Speech earlier this year certainly provides some promises that we would welcome for potential EV adopters. It proposes to ensure that three normal chargers are installed alongside each new rapid charge point, that shared payment methods should be agreed by the different operators, and that time limits should be placed on them for fixing faulty equipment8.
With forerunners like the i3, Leaf, Prius and Golf GTE having proved themselves on the scene, to mouth-watering prospects such as Audi’s Q8 SUV and BMW’s I Vision Dynamics saloon on the horizon, we would certainly welcome strides made in expanding and refining the UK’s charging network, penalising ineligible drivers who disingenuously use designated parking spaces, and giving more attention to patchily-served regions. Whether up in the breath-taking Scottish Highlands or in the heart of Birmingham, the environment and public would definitely welcome such improvements, too.
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