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Electric car charging: Do you know where your nearest public point is?

Half of electric car buyers don’t know where the nearest public charge point is suggesting they are being snapped up by those with off-street parking

  • Some 47% of EV buyers don’t know where the closest charger is to home or work
  • It suggests the majority of EV purchasers have off-street parking to charge cars
  • Those living in a third of UK homes without off-street parking will rely on the public charging infrastructure
  • Report adds to claims that the majority of EV buyers are relatively affluent


Nearly half of drivers considering an electric vehicle as their next car purchase say they don’t know where the closest public charge point is, suggesting most buyers are those in a position to boost batteries almost exclusively at home.

Some 47 per cent of in-market EV buyers polled by What Car? said they were not aware of the nearest publicly-accessible charger to their house or place of work despite preparing to pay premium prices to own a zero-emission model.

With a third of households not having off-street parking and therefore reliant on public charging infrastructure, the study hints at yet another example of expensive electric cars predominantly being bought by the wealthy.

Are EVs the preserve of the rich? A new study found half of EV buyers do not know where their nearest public charge point is, suggesting most will have off-street provisions to charge cars

The report comes a week after the Government revealed an ‘iconic’ new public charger design that it hopes will be easy to identify and make EVs more accessible to a greater number of motorists. 

In last month’s Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak also promised a £620million investment in electric vehicles, a portion of which will be dedicated to improving public charging infrastructure, which currently consists of 24,000 devices up and down the country.

However, industry insiders say this would be just the tip of the iceberg, with MPs needing to pump huge funding into the charging network if it is to prepare the UK for widespread EV ownership. 

Previous research by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders estimated that the UK needs to invest up to £16.7billion towards public charging stations by 2035 if it is to support mass EV adoption when it bans the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid car sales from that date.

By the SMMT’s calculations, the Government needs to up installations of new public chargers to more than 500 devices per day.

Latest figures show that just 27 are being added to the network daily. 

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, pictured 10 November, unveiling the new car charging point designed by the Royal College of Art with PA Consulting

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, pictured 10 November, unveiling the new car charging point designed by the Royal College of Art with PA Consulting 

The Royal College of Art was handed a £200k grant by the DfT to pen a design that would become an iconic piece of roadside furniture that can be installed up and down the country

The Royal College of Art was handed a £200k grant by the DfT to pen a design that would become an iconic piece of roadside furniture that can be installed up and down the country

What Car?’s report highlighted the widespread lack of confidence in the existing electric car charging infrastructure in the UK. 

The research found that just 9 per cent of 1,483 vehicles buyers surveyed believe the UK’s public charging network is currently good enough for them to make the switch to an EV. 

Can I run an electric car cable across the pavement?

Electric car sales are booming in 2021 and, with the ban on petrol and diesel cars due in the next decade or so, an increasing number of people are going to own battery-powered vehicle in the coming years.

But while there might be plenty of benefits of EV ownership, charging one of these cars is not ideal if you live in a flat, terraced house or any property that has no off-street parking.

Already, many owners in this scenario use a variety of ingenious methods to plug zero-emission vehicles parked on the road into the mains inside their homes, which usually means running a cable across a footpath.

What are the legal implications of doing this? Would you be liable if someone injured themselves tripping over the charging cable? Can you safely charge a plug-in model with extension cables and would a insurer pay out if you it caused damage to your vehicle?

> Read our in-depth report to find out more 

Likewise, just 14 per cent of fully electric vehicle buyers told What Car? the public charging network alone could support them in making the switch, with the majority set to rely on home charging.

This suggests many new owners will rely extensively on home charging when using their electric vehicle, with public charging limited to a reserve role.

Yet only two thirds of homes in Britain have off-street parking provisions that allow for home charging – the majority of those properties owned by the relatively well off.

AutoTrader reported in the last week that ministers need to go much further to make EVs accessible to all, saying it will ‘remain the preserve of the rich’ unless more grants and investments are made.

Its own data on electric car purchases shows that demand is coming almost exclusively from wealthier postcodes.

It says six of the top 10 hotspots for EV ownership are affluent areas of London, including Putney and Kensington.

Across the UK the pattern is the same, with higher interest in towns and cities such as Harrogate, Bath and the wealthy areas south of Manchester.

In fact, compared with the car buying average, those registered the biggest interest in making the switch are twice as likely to have a household income of £75,000 or more. 

Steve Huntingford, What Car? editor, said: ‘While manufacturers are working on reducing costs and increasing range, the public charging infrastructure will need significant investment in the coming years. 

‘Most EV buyers tell us they are not confident enough in the public network supporting their electric vehicle, and will have to rely on home charging – a luxury many potential EV buyers do not have, especially in urban areas.’

CMA promises fair pricing for charging at motorway services

Drivers who have filled up with petrol or diesel at a motorway services fuel stations – especially since prices have been at record highs from the end of last month – will know that the cost is far higher than if you brim your vehicle at a supermarket forecourt.

Yet despite the huge premiums paid for fuels, the Competitions and Markets Authority has announced new action to make the price of EV charging at motorway services fairer by opening up competition in the charging sector.

Gridserve, which has been responsible for the Electric Highway – the network of charging devices at motorway services – since this summer has offered a number of legally-binding assurances to keep prices competitive.

Gridserve acquired the Electric Highway from Ecotricity in June 2021 and promised big investment in the network so it can be relied on by EV drivers covering long distances

Gridserve acquired the Electric Highway from Ecotricity in June 2021 and promised big investment in the network so it can be relied on by EV drivers covering long distances

It will not enforce exclusive rights in contracts with Extra, MOTO or Roadchef, after 2026, which currently cover around two-thirds of motorway service stations. 

In doing so, Gridserve has committed to reducing the length of the exclusive rights in the current contracts with MOTO by around two years and Roadchef by around four years (the contract with the third operator, Extra, is due to end in 2026).

It will also not enforce exclusive rights at any Extra, MOTO or Roadchef sites that have been granted funding under the UK government’s Rapid Charging Fund (RCF). This means that, where funding has been granted, competitor charge point operators will be able to install charge points regardless of the exclusive element of the Electric Highway’s contracts.

Each of the motorway service station operators – Extra, MOTO and Roadchef – and Gridserve have also offered commitments not to take any action that would undermine these commitments.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA Chief Executive, said: ‘Healthy competition is key to ensuring that drivers have a greater choice of charge points where they need them, and for a fair price.

‘We believe that opening up competition on motorways, while ensuring the sector has greater investment, is the right direction of travel – and good news for current drivers of electric cars and for people thinking of buying one.’ 

 

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