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A robust EV charging infrastructure, does the UK have what it takes?

With the government pressing on with plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 the need to rapidly expand the Electric Vehicle (EV) charging network is urgent as it is estimated there will be over 9 million EVs on British roads by 2030

The increasing demand for electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK, means the need for a robust diverse EV charging infrastructure is now. The UK government has set an ambitious target of installing 300,000 public EV charging stations by 2030, in order to meet the growing demand and to help achieve the country's green targets.

Currently, the UK boasts over 45,000 EV charging stations scattered across 26,000 charging locations, with a significant proportion located in London. However, this is still not enough to cater to the rising number of EV owners, especially those without home charging stations. Car manufacturers are calling for a rapid increase in public charging facilities to ensure that the green targets are met and to encourage more people to switch to electric vehicles.

In a bid to tackle the shortfall in electric vehicle chargers, BT Group has announced plans to convert street cabinets into EV charging stations. The first converted cabinet will be installed in Scotland as part of a pilot program, with the aim of eventually converting up to 60,000 cabinets across the country. This innovative solution would utilise the existing infrastructure to provide EV charging points, helping to overcome the challenge of creating new power connections.

Although the rollout rates of EV charging stations are improving, the UK still ranks mid-table in international comparisons of charging infrastructure. This is primarily due to the ratio of plug-in vehicles on the road, including hybrids, to standard chargers. Despite this,  with the annual increase of EV charging stations at a rate of 45 per cent, the UK is on track to surpass the target of 300,000 charging stations by the end of 2028.

The retrofitting of street cabinets presents an efficient and cost-effective solution to electrify Britain's streets. By leveraging the existing broadband infrastructure, renewable energy can be shared to a charge point without the need for creating new power connections. BT Group's pilot programme aims to explore various considerations such as cabinet location, power availability, customer accessibility, and the overall digital customer experience. This initiative demonstrates a collaborative effort between BT Group and local councils in Scotland and across the UK to tackle the issue of inadequate EV charging infrastructure.

Despite the predicted success of the retrofitting programme, there is still resistance to the strategy. An RSC survey revealed that 63 per cent of UK drivers lack confidence in the government's ability to create a suitable and fit-for-purpose infrastructure by 2035. Additionally, 34 per cent of people have no intention of purchasing a fully electric vehicle in the next decade, largely due to the inconvenience of not being able to charge an electric vehicle conveniently. These findings highlight the importance of addressing the concerns of the public and ensuring that the charging infrastructure is reliable, accessible, and user-friendly.

Additionally to the retrofitting programme, the introduction of charging hubs is on the rise. The surge in the number of UK EV charging hubs, boasting more than six rapid or ultra-rapid devices, has more than doubled year-on-year. These charging hubs have appeared in various public locations, ranging from retail outlets, car parks, and fuel stations to dedicated charging areas that offer convenient amenities for EV drivers.

Members of ChargeUK, a body that acts as the voice of the EV charging industry, have committed to invest more than £6 billion into the UK’s public charging infrastructure by 2030. That’s with the aim of “ensuring that drivers have access to a high-quality charging solution, when and where they need it, right across the UK.”

This rapid growth in the number of ultra-rapid chargers and high-power charging hubs across the country is indicative of the significant strides the UK is making towards establishing a robust and comprehensive EV charging infrastructure. 

These charging hubs, strategically placed in various locations, not only provide an increased number of charging points but also offer convenience and accessibility to EV drivers. Whether it's a quick top-up while shopping at a retail outlet, a longer charge at a dedicated charging area, or a pit stop at a fuel station, these hubs cater to the diverse needs of EV drivers. 

Looking ahead to the future, the growth in the number of ultra-rapid chargers and high-power charging hubs has the potential to become the defining characteristic of 2024. 

To establish a robust EV charging infrastructure, it is imperative for the UK to continue investing in and expanding its charging network on a national scale,  encouraging more to transition to electric vehicles while simultaneously addressing concerns about the availability and convenience of charging facilities.

For our part, our new products focused on the relevant exposures to EV charging hub operators (and other renewable energy development) allowing schemes to proceed without delay.

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