22 February 2024 EV Charging

Opinion: One million EVs on UK roads, but there’s still a long road ahead…

An electric vehicle bathed in sunlight being powered with electricity by an EV charger

With the one millionth electric vehicle recently sold in the UK, a closer look at the stats underlines the need for greater accessibility and affordability to further stimulate private EV ownership. Accelerated investment in a widespread public charging infrastructure network could be the game-changer needed to rapidly grow EV uptake among consumers, argues Mark Winn, Head of Site Acquisitions at SMS.

The United Kingdom recently achieved a remarkable milestone: surpassing one million electric vehicles registered since 2002. This achievement, spanning over two decades, is undoubtedly a commendable step towards a more sustainable future.

And while it’s worth stopping momentarily to celebrate this accomplishment and its positive impact on the environment, it’s essential to dissect the underlying nuances of this feat.

Despite the milestone, a closer examination reveals a significant discrepancy: fleet buyers have been the primary drivers behind the surge in electric vehicle registrations, far outpacing private buyer sales. This highlights a crucial issue regarding the accessibility and affordability of electric vehicles for individual consumers.

To truly accelerate the uptake of EVs among the general public, we must address these roadblocks head-on, including the evident need for targeted interventions to stimulate private EV ownership.

EV tax cuts: the catalyst for greater EV adoption?

One oft-proposed solution is the implementation of greater tax cuts aimed at incentivising electric vehicle purchases among private buyers. By reducing the financial barriers associated with transitioning to electric vehicles, such measures could potentially broaden the demographic of electric car owners and accelerate the adoption rate. However, addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach that goes beyond fiscal incentives.

Fair and equitable treatment in the transition to electric vehicles is also essential. The campaign group FairCharge advocates for decoupling electricity prices from gas and reducing the high VAT rate on EV charging in public spaces, which currently stands at four times the rate for domestic energy. Aligning VAT rates for public charging with home electricity rates would not only result in fairer costs, but also help stimulate EV adoption.

EV charging infrastructure provides the backbone for EV uptake

Affordability is just half of the story, however, when it comes to electric vehicles. Accessibility and availability are also key, particularly as regards our public EV charging infrastructure.

Picture this: charging stations strategically placed in urban centres, suburban neighbourhoods, countryside villages, and along major highways, making it convenient and hassle-free for everyone to charge up their electric vehicles. With a robust charging network in place, anxieties around range and chargepoint availability can becomes a thing of the distant past, and drivers can confidently make the switch to electric.

Like the one million EV sales milestone for car manufacturers, recently the UK EV charging industry hit a similarly significant landmark in the journey toward EV utopia, reaching more than 55,000 chargepoints in what was a record-breaking year for installations across the public charging network.

Yet, this milestone comes with a caveat too: less than 20% of the network is made up of rapid or ultra-rapid chargers. The British car-driving public is going to demand a huge amount more of these pivotal rapid-charge facilities in coming years if it is to be persuaded to make the transition (something backed up by findings from recent consumer research commissioned by SMS).

A large part of the responsibility for making that happen will of course come down to private-sector Charge Point Operators (CPOs), like SMS.

Petrol/diesel car ban delay signals time for reflection

Sensible policymaking, though, will continue to play a crucial role in shaping the overall trajectory of electric vehicle adoption. While the recent decision to postpone the deadline for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2035 has attracted much criticism from the industry and public alike, it also presents an opportunity to re-evaluate and take stock.

On one hand, many of us would pose that a reversal of the petrol/diesel car ban, bringing it forward to 2030 or sooner, would only aid the transport decarbonisation transition. On the other hand, some argue – including the current Government – that a more gradual transition, coupled with targeted investments in charging infrastructure and incentives, can provide the clarity and support needed to accelerate the shift towards electric transportation more seamlessly.

Driving change: collaboration can pave the way for a greener future

One thing is for sure: achieving widespread adoption of electric vehicles requires a collaborative and joined up effort from policymakers, industry stakeholders, and consumers alike.

It’s not just about embracing a new technology; it’s about building a cleaner, more sustainable future for generations to come.

By addressing the barriers to EV adoption and investing in the infrastructure needed to support it, we can pave the way for a greener tomorrow. As we celebrate the milestone of one million electric vehicles on UK roads, let’s also recognise the work that lies ahead.

By seizing this momentum and implementing targeted, well-thought out interventions and investments, we can propel the transition towards a cleaner, more resilient transportation system—one that benefits both current and future generations.

Committed to more accessible public EV charging

Joining the UK’s ChargeSafe scheme demonstrates our commitment to providing accessible and easy-to-use public electric vehicle (EV) charging locations for all.