A new report has revealed the recent surge in ownership of pure electric vehicles in the UK but also highlights a regional divide in uptake, which is far higher in affluent areas.
The number of battery electric vehicles (or BEVs) owned privately rather than by businesses and fleets has risen by nearly 30,000 cars in the last year – an increase of 53 per cent, says research by RAC.
However, analysis of Government data shows there is a growing North-South divide when it comes to who can afford them, with a third of all EVs being in the South East and London while motorists in regions further up the country, like the North East, appearing more reluctant – or unable – to make the switch.
Using the interactive map below, you can see how many zero emission electric cars are in private hands where you live.
RAC’s data is based on registrations of electric cars at the end of Q3 2020, comparing the figures to those for Q3 2019. The motoring organisation says almost half of all BEVs in the UK – 86,130 vehicles – are owned privately, with the remaining 86,387 licensed by companies.
However, regional analysis of the data shows that it’s the UK’s richest areas where EV ownership is highest.
Some 17,820 of the UK’s 86,130 privately-owned battery electric cars are registered to drivers in the South East, with a 52 per cent increase in uptake over the 12-month period reviewed.
It means more than one in five (21 per cent) of all privately-owned BEVs in the UK are located in the region.
Second in the list is London, with 13,605 EVs owned by locals, with a 60 per cent rise year-on-year. It means that 16 per cent of all privately-owned electric cars are in the capital.
This data correlates with figures related to wealth. A recent study by estate agent Savills claims there are 1.45million UK households with an income of more than £100,000, which accounts for 5.7 per cent of the UK population.
Of these, three in five (60 per cent) were located in London and the South East.
Some 17,820 of the UK’s 86,130 privately-owned battery electric cars are registered to drivers in the South East – that’s 21% of all BEVs registered to members of the public
|Nation or region||Privately licensed BEVs as of Q3 2019||Privately licensed BEVs as of Q3 2020||% increase year-on-year||Share of all BEVs licensed in the UK as of Q3 2020|
|East of England||6,256||9,555||52.70%||11.10%|
|Yorkshire & Humber||3,026||4,725||56.10%||5.50%|
|Source: RAC analysis of Government data for Q3 2019 to Q3 2020|
*Totals include additional small numbers of vehicles listed as ‘region/country unknown’ or ‘vehicle under disposal’
At the opposite end of the EV-ownership spectrum, there were just 1,219 electric vehicles registered to private keepers in Norther Ireland – that’s despite a 23 per cent uptake over the course of the year reviewed.
Also at the bottom of the table is the North East, with just 2.292 BEVs registered there. Uptake rose 37 per cent in the last year, though, and sees the area account for almost 3 per cent of all electric models in the country.
Despite the general increase in demand for new electric cars – up a massive 186 per cent in 2020, according to sales figures – one of the biggest hurdles preventing drivers from making the switch is the premium cost of most zero-emission models.
Even the smallest of EVs, like the new Fiat 500, cost from around £20,000. And drivers wanting the latest technology from brands like Tesla will need to fork out in the region of £50,000 and £100,000 for one.
Other common reasons for drivers’ reluctance to switch is range anxiety and lacking infrastructure.
However, technology is extending the driving distances of the latest zero-emission cars, and a recent report by the Department for Transport shows it isn’t necessarily the locations with the most EVs registered that access to the most public charge points.
DfT figures claim Scotland is ahead of the rest of the UK in terms of availability of public devices, with 40 devices per 100,000 living there. That compares to 31 devices per 100,000 in England.
In contrast, the South East has just 31 charger per 100,000 locals – though London does have the most, with 62 per 100,000 people.
Recently released data by the RAC shows that there are 62 public charge points per 100,000 people living in London, giving those in the capital the best access to devices compared to the rest of the country
The darker blue parts of the map show the highest availability of EV chargers (left) and rapid EV chargers (right). Scotland is miles ahead of other UK nations
The DfT maps show the huge rise in EV charger installations across the UK since 2015, though experts warn it needs to accelerate much faster
These tables show the huge disparity in public charger availability per population across the UK. Left: London has the most chargers in total. Right: Scotland is steaks ahead for rapid device
Four of the top 10 local authority areas with the greatest number of privately licensed BEVs are in London, with Barnet having the most (1,235 vehicles). Wiltshire has the second highest number (1,075 vehicles), followed by Westminster (919 vehicles), Cornwall (899 vehicles) and Camden (781 vehicles).
Conversely, the smallest numbers of privately run BEVs, aside from those on some island communities and the square mile that is the City of London, are to be found in South Wales – in Merthyr Tydfil (21 vehicles) and Blaenau Gwent (27 vehicles).
RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis said: ‘While starting from very small beginnings when you consider there are around 32million cars licensed for use in the entire United Kingdom, the growth in pure electric vehicles is extremely promising.
‘There is a long way to go, not least as only half of these vehicles are in private hands, compared to nine-in-10 of all cars, but it’s clear that the numbers are only going one way.
‘The biggest annual rise in the numbers of vehicles are among those licensed by companies, which suggests the clear tax benefits given to company car drivers are beginning to stoke demand. It’s vital this continues, as in many cases the new company vehicles of today will be the ones appearing on the second-hand consumer market in three or more years from now.’
On average, there are 31 public chargers per 100,000 people in the UK, the DfT stats up to January 2021 show
Best and worst public charging networks ranked
Zap-Map, the UK’s leading electric vehicle mapping service, earlier this year revealed the results of its annual network satisfaction study, surveying 1,500 plug-in car owners about their experience using 16 different suppliers.
The research found that Tesla had retained its top spot as the country’s most appreciated EV charging provider, described by one driver as ‘the standard all networks should aspire to’.
In second place overall, and the top place for multi-brand networks, is InstaVolt, which retains its second spot for the third year running while Osprey (formerly Engenie) posted the best improvement in performance since the 2019 results to be ranked third overall, scoring highly for reliability and ease of use.
At the opposite end of the scale, Ecotricity was again the worst rated.
This is not only disappointing but a serious concern for EV drivers, given that Ecotricity has monopolised the motorway services network but is proving unreliable.
Dr Ben Lane, co-founder and chief technical officer at Zap-Map, said: ‘This year’s network rankings should focus the minds of all EV charging providers.
‘As the survey demonstrates, EV drivers are very clear about the factors that make for a good charging experience, with reliability and ease of use being key priorities.
‘A new generation of drivers want to arrive at a charge point and be confident that it will be simple to use and a trouble-free experience.
‘They are quick to pick up that different networks offer varying levels of service, and will actively visit networks that provide a reliable and easy-to-use experience.’
He adds: ‘The Zap-Map user rankings also highlight which networks urgently need to improve their charging services.
‘As the EV market moves from early adopters to the mass market, EV drivers just want to be able to charge without any fuss.
‘Poor-performing networks will need to take a long, hard look at the quality of the services they offer if they want to retain their customers as the EV market grows apace.’
Left: Tesla’s Supercharger network leads the way in the driver survey. Right: Ecotricity chargers, which are located across the UK’s motorway network, were ranked the worst
Grants of £350 for installations of devices at homes extended
The Government last month announced a £50million boost for the installation of electric vehicle chargepoints at homes and businesses.
The DfT rubber-stamped the extension of the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), which provides up to £350 towards a chargepoint, for another 12 months and has also expanded the grant to target people in rented and leasehold accommodation.
At the same time, the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) will be opened up to SMEs and the charity sector, providing a boost as staff return to work.
The changes will also mean that small accommodation businesses, such as B&Bs, can apply for funding to install devices at their locations.
The decision to extend the grants comes as a result of a consultation on improving the charging experience for EV owners.
This includes simplifying payments and increasing reliability, which ministers say will ‘take us a step closer to delivering on the commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030’.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the nation ‘urgently needs more charging points to accelerate the transition to electric motoring’.
‘An electric vehicle revolution will need the home and workplace installations this announcement will encourage, but also a massive increase in on-street public charging and rapid charge points on our strategic road network’, he said.
‘This will give drivers the confidence that recharging will become as easy as refuelling.’
RAC’s EV spokesman Simon Williams commented: ‘More money to improve the UK’s growing charging network is very welcome.
‘The top priority for the Government should be making it as cheap and easy for as many people as possible to be able to charge an EV where they live so they can always start out with a full charge.’
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, added: ‘We will also need a mixture of locations to come forward. As well as charging at work and home, more destination charging will be needed such as; supermarkets, leisure centres, shopping centres and sports grounds.
‘It would also be an opportune moment to consider the experience for disabled drivers and those with physical limitations. Chargepoints can be difficult to use with some existing spaces too small for wheelchair users, heavy cables and connectors as well as payment systems set at heights mainly focused on able bodied drivers.
‘To truly level up, we need to think of everyone who will use the network and ensure they can keep moving.’
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