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Keeping up with the UK's EV charging demand

Updated: Feb 9



Electric vehicles are increasingly popular, but can the UK charging network keep up?


Sales of electric vehicles (EV) in the UK are booming but the national charging network is struggling to expand rapidly enough to cope with demand, according to Citi Logik’s new UK Battery Electric Vehicle Insights report.


EV sales rose 40 per cent year on year in the third quarter of 2021, with petrol sales being down almost the same amount at 41 per cent. Meanwhile, diesel sales tumbled by two thirds (66 per cent) due to concerns about air quality and tougher emissions regulations


(Source: Department for Transport).


The rate of growth of battery electric vehicles has been on a rising trend since 2015, as might be expected for a new innovation. Although two national lockdowns in Q2 2020 and Q1 2021 impacted sales, they began to recover immediately afterwards (Source: DfT).


Differing EV growth patterns


However, this growth pattern has not been evenly spread across the country. The South East is the clear leader with a total of 63,245 registrations. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland languishes at the bottom of the league table with just 3,560, reinforcing claims by the Competition and Markets Authority last year that access to chargers in the UK remains a postcode lottery. The South East, South West and North West have seen the greatest growth, with the number of battery electric vehicles tripling in a year.


Consumers view on EV


Consumer attitudes towards electric vehicles are mostly favourable, with an Office of National Statistics survey showing that people were more likely to switch to an EV than not, with 44 per cent being very or fairly likely to make the transition.


However, differences can be seen across the generations. Older people are less likely to switch and the only age group more “unlikely” than “likely” to move. However, half (50 per cent) of respondents under the age of 70 were “very likely” or “fairly likely” to switch. People in the 30-49 age group had the highest “very likely” total, possibly because they find EVs more affordable.


Popular perceptions continue to act as barriers preventing some people from adopting EVs. Seven out of 10 (70 per cent) of respondents cited the cost of EVs as the biggest barrier to switching, while the second biggest barrier was the lack of charging infrastructure, cited by 52 per cent of respondents.


The availability of EV charging


Against the backdrop of exponential growth in the number of vehicles to over 400,000 in the UK, the charging network is growing at an alarmingly glacial pace given the impending ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.


This means that the number of chargers per battery electric vehicle has declined, potentially leading to long queues and delays at charging stations. Chargers per vehicle have fallen by 58 per cent since their 2019 peak, with the number of these vehicles sharing each public charger more than doubling from seven to 16. A similar pattern can be seen with rapid chargers. At present, a staggering 84 battery electric vehicles are expected to share each rapid charger (Source: DfT).


All this means that the UK charging network has a huge amount of ground to make up by 2030. A total of 1.7 million public charge points are required by that stage, rising to 2.8 million by 2035, and achieving this is expected to cost an eye-watering £16.7 billion, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.


The role of Mobile Network Data


Citi Logik works with organisations in the EV industry to help them decide where to install new chargers and maximise their return on investment.


It does this by providing and analysing mobile network data (MND) and combining it with other data sources. MND can identify the origin, destination and length of journeys, dwell times, mode of transport and more, generating insights into the type of customers likely to visit charge points as well as how often they are likely to visit.


More about Citi Logik’s EV capabilities.


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