22 August 2023 EV Charging, Net Zero

300,000 public EV chargers in the UK by 2030: How will we achieve it?

Public EV chargers

As the UK Government moves forward with its plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, the need to rapidly expand the electric vehicle (EV) charging network becomes increasingly urgent.

That’s because it’s estimated that there will be over 9 million EVs on British roads by 2030. Consequently, developing the chargepoint requirements around the country to meet this soaring demand is shaping up to be one of the greatest infrastructural challenges of our time.

To satisfy the growing demand, the UK government has set an ambitious target of installing 300,000 public EV chargers by the same deadline. Currently, the UK boasts 45,737 electric vehicle charging points scattered across 26,805 charging locations, as reported by ZapMap in July 2023. While home charging is an ideal solution for many, our new research found that only 5 percent of UK EV drivers rely solely on charging at home. Therefore, substantial efforts are needed to develop a robust public charging infrastructure and achieve the government’s target.

Indeed, most will be aware that the existing public charging network faces many challenges, as reported by drivers who express significant concerns about the insufficient availability of reliable, accessible, and affordable public EV chargers in the UK. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that our research found that 80 percent of UK EV drivers find public charging to be a challenging aspect of EV ownership. In fact, 70 percent of these drivers face limited public EV charging options where they live. As the EV market grows, its success lies not only in producing cutting-edge EVs but also in fostering a robust and widespread charging infrastructure.

Let’s start by taking a look at who is responsible for building the EV charging network and explore how we can ensure its successful implementation.

Who is responsible for investing in EV infrastructure?

The responsibility for investing in EV infrastructure in the UK is shared between both public and private sectors. While there is no single entity solely responsible, the successful rollout of the public EV charging network requires collaborative efforts from various stakeholders.

Securing sufficient funding is critical to achieving the government’s targets for EV infrastructure expansion. According to the Green Finance Institute, an estimated £20 billion is needed to deploy approximately 300,000 EV charge points. Within this estimate, the UK Government has already committed to invest £1.6 billion, leaving an estimated £18.4 billion to be sourced from private investment or other funding sources.

The UK government is actively involved in the expansion of the national EV charging network, working closely with local authorities, organisations, and individual landowners or property developers. This includes the introduction of grants and incentives to encourage the growth of EV infrastructure and to help bridge the so-called ‘EV chargepoint divide,’ ensuring that all regions have equitable access to charging points.

To meet the nation’s increasing demand for electric vehicles, it is evident that property developers, landowners, as well as the retail, hospitality, and leisure industries must also play a vital role in the infrastructure rollout. In addition to complying with the UK government’s planning and building regulations, the EV charging market presents a lucrative opportunity for developers and landowners to generate a new revenue stream and enhance the value of their site(s).

How do we achieve it?

Quality not quantity

The race to install 300,000 public chargers by 2030 should not be achieved at the compromise of quality. Our research found that 88% of EV drivers think public EV charging needs to improve to encourage the transition to electric vehicles. To secure the successful implementation of the EV transition, the national rollout of EV charging infrastructure must go beyond simply reaching the UK’s target.

Instead, it is crucial to prioritise deploying and installing the right infrastructure that caters to the specific needs of drivers at that location. Our research found that 68% of EV drivers say it is stressful to always have to think about public charging availability when they take a long journey and 77% of EV drivers have at some point been unable to access a public EV charging point.

When planning EV infrastructure, it is essential to keep in mind the three Rs: the right time, location, and speed. By focusing on these aspects, we can ensure that the EV charging network is efficient, effective, and tailored to meet the demands of drivers across the country.

Incentives for EV adoption

Alongside building public EV charging infrastructure, the government should offer more incentives to drivers to encourage EV adoption. This may include tax credits, reduced registration fees, and subsidies for purchasing electric vehicles.

A larger EV user base will bolster the demand for public chargers and reinforce the business case for private investors. This would also help remove some of the major friction points preventing new adopters, such as public EV charging wait time, as our research shows that 81% of EV drivers have had to wait for an EV charging point – typically 30 mins to an hour (30%).

Smart grid integration

EV charging infrastructure requires a stable and sufficient power supply. Therefore, to secure the successful rapid expansion of public EV charging infrastructure, smart charging is pivotal. These intelligent systems can optimise electricity consumption, alleviate peak loads, and enhance overall grid stability.

By offering incentives for activities such as off-peak charging and implementing time-of-use tariffs, we can motivate EV owners to charge their vehicles during periods of lower electricity demand. This approach helps to lighten the grid’s burden during peak hours, promoting a stable energy supply and minimising potential disruptions.

A stable grid is fundamental to support the increasing demand for EV charging without straining the grid or leading to power shortages. By prioritising grid integration and incentivising sustainable charging behaviour, we can create a reliable and efficient EV charging network that complements and strengthens our existing energy infrastructure.

The right planning

Prioritising comprehensive infrastructure planning is of utmost importance when it comes to facilitating the widespread adoption of EVs. To achieve this, it is essential to conduct a thorough assessment of the existing EV charging infrastructure and demand patterns to identify areas with high traffic and pinpoint locations where EV chargers are most needed and convenient.

Our survey revealed that 70% say there are limited public EV charging options where they live. Local authorities and stakeholders must work together to ensure the balanced distribution of chargers across regions, including rural and less developed areas. This balanced approach will help bridge the charging accessibility gap and make electric vehicle ownership more feasible and attractive for a broader population.

Industry collaboration

Fostering strong public-private partnerships is essential to expedite the deployment of public EV chargers. Collaborative efforts between governments, local councils, EV charging infrastructure providers, and car manufacturers can pool resources, expertise, and funding, helping make EV charging more accessible and convenient for all. Additional government incentives such as tax breaks, grants, and streamlined regulations would also encourage private entities to invest and enter the EV market, helping grow the public EV charging network.

Mark Winn, Head of EV Strategy, says:

“As we strive to achieve the UK government’s ambitious target of installing 300,000 public EV chargers by 2030, collaboration is key. Another crucial aspect of this journey is finding a trusted and reliable partner – one with the right experience and a deep understanding of electrical infrastructure. With a united effort and the right expertise, we can create an accessible charging network that paves the way for a future of sustainable transportation.

At SMS, we are committed to driving the acceleration of the UK-wide public charging network. Our vision is to deliver over 30,000 high-quality, fit-for-purpose, and reliable charge points, including 6,000 rapid and ultra-rapid EV chargers, thereby propelling the nation towards net zero.”

Download the Whitepaper

A 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.