Revving up the revolution: challenges for the UK EV charging industry in 2024
With 2023 behind now well us, and as we rev up for the year ahead, the landscape of electric vehicle (EV) charging is poised for a transformative journey in 2024.
There are a multitude of challenges and opportunities awaiting the EV charging sector – in partnership with charging locations, landlords, and destination businesses – from power demands and funding hurdles to reshaping public perceptions.
This 2024 outlook takes a forward-looking ride as we anticipate the twists and turns that will define the electrifying future of EV charging in the coming year. Fasten your seatbelt – 2024 is gearing up to be a pivotal chapter in the evolution of sustainable transportation.
Power play: overcoming energy challenges for the EV chargepoint rollout
There were a record number of public EV chargepoints installed across the UK in 2023, with 16,000 public chargers rolled out over the course of year, pushing the total above 53,000, according to ZapMap. Whilst this is a sign of considerable progress for the EV charging industry, it comes with a slight caveat. The UK government fell some way short of its pledge for there to be a minimum of six rapid EV chargepoints installed at every motorway service station (in England) by the end of 2023.
This represents just a fraction of the broader initiative, with the original pledge aiming for the installation of 6,000 ultra-rapid EV chargers on motorways and A-Roads across the country by 2035 – now little over a decade away.
The primary objective of this mid-term target is to effectively replicate the familiar experience of “petrol and diesel refuelling” for UK drivers, mitigating concerns related to range or charge anxiety. Recent research conducted by SMS among UK EV drivers indicates that 40% currently rely on motorway service stations for charging, and 68% find it stressful to constantly consider public charging availability during long journeys.
Notably, at COP28, the UK government announced an additional investment of £70 million into EV chargepoint infrastructure at motorway services. While funding is crucial, the real challenge lies in ensuring the availability of energy required to power these 6,000 EV chargepoints.
Meeting the 2023 objective (of six high-powered chargepoints at every motorway service station) alone demanded approximately 900kW to 1800kW of additional energy at each site, a substantial power requirement.
As EV charging infrastructure sector looks ahead to 2024 and beyond, collaboration between the government, National Grid, Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), and the broader EV industry becomes imperative to guarantee sufficient power for motorway service stations, especially in rural areas.
Charging ahead: bridging the gap in funding and infrastructure
To ensure a more equitable EV charging landscape and prevent the emergence of an “EV chargepoint divide,” significantly more investment will also be required as the industry drives installations forward. The UK government, in tandem with local authorities and Charge Point Operators (CPO) aims to address this challenge.
However, reaching the UK government’s overall long-term goal of 300,000 public chargepoints by 2050 necessitates an estimated £20 billion investment, according to the Green Finance Institute, with the government committing £1.6 billion in grants, including support for local authorities and the Local EV Infrastructure (LEVI) fund.
That still leaves a potential shortfall of £12.4bn and will still need to be found, whether that comes from additional public, private (or other forms of) investment. Either way, CPOs are expected to have to up the ante significantly when it comes to providing the capital required to fulfil our longer-term rollout targets.
Driving affordability: dispelling myths around EV ownership costs and charging expenses
Addressing the common misconception about EV ownership costs is crucial to shifting consumer perception. While upfront costs may be higher, the lower maintenance expenses make EVs more affordable in the long run.
While home charging remains a preferred option, public charging is essential for those without off-street parking. In 2024, collaboration among technology partners, software companies, payment solutions, and energy providers will likely increase, offering EV drivers convenient and cost-effective charging options through smartphone and web apps.
Efforts toward fairer pricing, decoupling electricity prices from gas, and reducing VAT on public charging are also crucial for the transition. Organisations like FairCharge advocate for such changes to promote fair treatment and boost EV adoption.
A guiding philosophy of quality over quantity should also be the focus in 2024 to avoid substandard EV charging solutions. Due diligence in installation, ensuring easy access, and offering the right speed of chargepoints are essential to meeting drivers’ needs seamlessly and avoiding a public backlash.
Sustainability in action: redefining public EV charging spaces for the future
In the pursuit of sustainable public EV charging, the industry aims to move away from visually dominant petrol forecourt designs, prioritising clear signage, secure locations, reduced light pollution, and improved air quality.
Whilst this is a responsibility that will clearly fall on the UK’s leading CPOs – like SMS – who are taking it upon themselves to fund and deliver the chargepoint rollout, the landlords and businesses who own the strategically located public locations (i.e. roadside, retail, leisure and hospitality sites) where these chargepoints will be hosted also have a huge opportunity to seize this respect. They will equally be expected to take onsite EV charging more seriously in 2024 as they look to future-proof the attractiveness of their sites through accommodating the public’s increased appetite – and need – for EV charging infrastructure.
In short, for these host businesses, creating convenient and accessible charging experiences in partnership with their chosen CPO will be crucial for retaining guests and encouraging longer stays. After all, poor charging experience, such as limited availability or payment options, may prompt EV-driving guests to seek alternative charging solutions elsewhere.
And a little bit about SMS...
Delivering essential public energy infrastructure is what we do, and what we do best. From our work with leading telecoms companies designing, installing, and managing the electrical infrastructure that connects the UK’s 4G and 5G networks, to the national smart meter rollout where we fit more than 40,000 devices in homes and businesses each month. Our scale, engineering expertise, and agile approach to technology and tailored solutions is why our customers are now choosing us to help them navigate the infrastructural challenges and growth opportunities of public EV chargepoints.
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Read our guide for developers, landowners and local authorities on the effective rollout of national public EV charging infrastructure and the importance of the three Rs: Right location. Right time. Right speed.