- Entirely market-led with no binding targets or commitments mandated by the government
- Sprinkled with wishful world-beating figures such as 99% charge point reliability, 300,000 charge points by 2030 etc. without any logic
- £500m Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) fund is an interesting idea. However, only £10m is committed initially for pilot projects which may not cover many charge points
- Lack of any data analytics and modelling strategy with a nascent discovery project called Geospatial commission project announced
- Includes a PR for BP Pulse, a network with the lowest customer satisfaction and reliability
The UK charging infrastructure strategy is announced this Friday with much fanfare. In publishing the strategy, the government has accepted all the recommendations from the 2021 CMA market study into UK Electric Vehicle Charging. Here are all the things we found interesting:
What's the problem?
The below video from SMMT provides a quick summary. With growing EV sales (one in six new cars registered), the availability of sufficient public rapid charging capacity has become a significant bottleneck. Research by SMMT reveals that the ratio of public standard chargers to electric vehicles has rapidly deteriorated, with just one charger for every 32 plug-ins across the UK compared with one for every 16 just 12 months ago and significant regional variations.
So far, we have had disjointed council-led initiatives to incentivise, improve, and maintain charging infrastructure rollout. A centralised UK comprehensive strategy would help tap more investment and resources, including the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 legislation.
While SMMT calls for a "regulated national plan", we believe there would be less regulation and targets from the government. The official vision calls this a "market-led" rollout, or we don't want to get involved.
Analysis by SMMT and Frost and Sullivan in 2020 suggested the UK will need 2.5 million on-street chargers by 2035 for a complete transition at an eye-watering cost of £16.7 billion. A recent poll by Connected Kerb/YouGov 2021 found that most people prefer charging outside their home and are willing to walk up to 5 minutes.
This finding mirrored a similar observation from a TFL study in 2019. Given that those city dwellers are currently driving the bulk of the EV adoption, it is fair to assume that the infrastructure strategy would substantially emphasise the rollout of on-street chargers at a significant scale.
We believe the government would nudge and incentivise rapid charging in the new strategy away from the current policy to stimulate more workplace charging adoption.
Workplace charging is a benefit that usually aided people who already had provisions for home charging. Supporting rapid public charging, especially the open-access ones (Non-Tesla Superchargers), is in line with the prerogative of the EV community.
As per BP, one superfast charger, which can offer dozens of miles of range within minutes, will do the work of about 60 overnight chargers located on residential streets. Rapid charging, however, is known to be an expensive investment depending on the available grid infrastructure.
CMA market study recommended using Ofgem / Uregni price controls to lower new connection charges by removing the charge for any reinforcement costs.
The document talks about ensuring minimum reliability of 99% at rapid public chargers, and there is absolutely no detail on how this could be achieved or even monitored. To support high reliability requires strong collaboration and commitment from the grid infrastructure providers, charging point operators, hardware, and software providers, including payment gateways. How we could accomplish such a number without active involvement from the government is unclear.
Ease of use
Best rated charging networks such as Tesla Superchargers, Ionity, and Osprey have great hardware and software that are easy to use to improve the EV ownership experience.
A national plan would ensure consistency and quality of service through assured standards such as open access, support for contactless payments, and transparent pricing.
Innovation, Intervention, Information
As elegantly summarised by Dr Andy Palmer, we need 3 i's to succeed.
OZEV has demonstrated commitment to fund innovative projects such as DoorSTEP Project to simplify charging for private and fleet owners.
We would also include 3 m's (Money, Management and Marketing) from an operator perspective to this mix.
Data analytics strategy
Merely spending money to increase chargers is naive to solve the complex infrastructure problem. To better understand who needs to charge, when, how and why, we need a detailed strategy around data analytics. Collaboration among the government, the manufacturers, and operators could ensure data is collected, anonymised, and shared to better model the driver behaviours, infrastructure needs and support. We should also consider the supply chain and logistics involved in supporting the infrastructure.
The newly announced Geospatial commission project is a developing discovery project led by ten different councils. It is unclear what this project aims to achieve and whether any researchers and academics are involved.
What about Taxis, Buses and Trucks?
EV charging options for Taxis, Buses and Trucks are quite sparse in the UK. As Volvo put it, we don't even have sufficient grid capacity to support 1000 trucks.
The strategy has few generic references to supporting fleets and commercial vehicles without enough details.