A damning new report from consumer watchdog Which? stressed the need for “urgent improvements” to the UK’s electric car charging infrastructure if ministers are to convince more motorists to go green.
Nearly half (48%) of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle owners surveyed said they struggled to find a public charging station in good working order.
Who? says the UK government needs to “deal quickly” with various issues including low reliability, difficulty making payments and low availability in some parts of the country or it will jeopardize the country’s switch to low-emission vehicles.
Connection problems: half of EV drivers surveyed by Which? said they struggled to find a public charging station in good working order. Watchdog says ‘urgent improvements’ are needed
A survey of nearly 1,500 Which one? Members who own an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid found that three-quarters (74%) are dissatisfied with the current state of public charging infrastructure.
Two in five said they had driven to a device only to find it wasn’t working, while 43% said they had experienced “technical issues” that prevented them from being able to charge as they intended.
As well as encountering faulty chargers, three in five of the panel (61%) said they had encountered difficulties when trying to make payments – and this discourages many from accessing the network.
One in six (18%) who said which? that they now charge their car exclusively at home or at work, due to the lack of convenient payment options. This is despite a government directive for all newly installed public charging points to accept contactless card payments from 2020.
Another major issue highlighted by electric vehicle owners is the disproportionate availability of the 32,000 public devices across the country.
As official government records show, for every 100,000 people living in London, there are 116 charging stations in the capital. That compares to just 17 per 100,000 people in Northern Ireland, 27 in the North East and 29 in Yorkshire and the Humber, according to Department for Transport figures for the end of July.
Although there are over 32,000 public charging stations in the UK, they are not evenly distributed regionally, as this table shows.
The survey found that nearly half of electric and plug-in hybrid car owners said their nearest public charging station was more than a 20-minute walk from their home.
Half of plug-in car owners surveyed by Which? said there was insufficient access to devices where they lived, with 45% believing the nearest charger was more than 20 minutes’ walk from their home – a serious issue if you don’t have off-street parking street and access to a home charger, which is the case for a third of properties in the UK.
Charging must be simple, reliable and transparent to support people who switch to electric cars
A fifth said a lack of devices where they needed them was the main reason they chose to ditch the public charging network altogether, while the same proportion of electric vehicle drivers said they had never used public networks because there were simply not enough of them.
The report comes a day after charging operators joined forces to sign a letter sent to the Chancellor calling for reduced VAT for the public network, with taxation four times higher than domestic charging. This, in turn along with escalating wholesale electricity prices, means that charging using the public grid is getting more and more expensive – and in some cases making using an EV more expensive. expensive than a gas-powered car.
FairCharge, which has campaigned for VAT to be reduced from 20% to 5%, says the government’s failure to act quickly to reduce charging costs could strangle demand for low-emission vehicles.
In addition to reliability issues, three in five electric vehicle owners said they had experienced difficulties when trying to make payments on public devices – and that discourages many from using the network
One who separated? A survey of car owners in general found that a fifth (39%) said they would not consider buying an electric vehicle because there were not enough charging stations.
The watchdog is calling on the government to extend the reliability standard planned for fast-charging fast devices to cover all public charging points of varying speeds.
This “reliability standard” means that networks of charging stations must be in working order on average 99% of the time.
Who? is also urging ministers to ensure that its ‘payment roaming’ proposals mean that consumers will no longer need to navigate multiple apps and cards to pay for recharging.
Sue Davies, which one? The head of consumer protection policy said: “Our research shows that public electric vehicle charging infrastructure is insufficient, as many drivers struggle to find reliable charging points in good working order, have to navigate confusing payment systems or cannot rely on adequate top-up near home or to accompany them on a long journey.
“The government must act quickly to implement its plans to improve the consumer experience of using public charging networks by extending reliability standards across the network and ensuring that charging proposals Payment roaming greatly simplify payment.
“Charging needs to be simple, reliable and seamless to help people transition to an electric car.”
Commenting on the who? report, RAC spokesman Simon Williams said quality charging infrastructure will be a “key factor” in helping more people switch from conventional to electric vehicles.
“It is vitally important that chargers are reliable, easy to use and accessible, so we need to quickly move from an era where it is common to find a dead charger to an era when it is scarce,” he added.
“At the same time, public charging needs to be priced more competitively, which is why the RAC, together with FairCharge, is campaigning to reduce VAT on public charging stations from 20% to 5%, bringing it into line with charging domestic.
“We need to ensure that those without a driveway are not penalized with higher charging costs, otherwise there is a very real risk that the government’s entire net zero transport strategy will be undermined.”
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