The UK government has set a new goal of increasing the number of electric vehicle chargers more than tenfold to 300,000 by 2030, which is too slow to match the rapid growth of public infrastructure rollout sales after widespread criticism.
The Department for Transportation (DFT) says it will invest an additional £ 450 million to do this, in addition to a hefty sum of private capital. Sales of new cars and vans, including petrol and diesel engines, will be banned from 2030.
There were 420,000 pure-electric cars on UK roads at the end of February, according to the comparison website Next Green Car. However, according to data company Zap-Map, there were only 29,600 public charge points in the UK as of March 1.
The £ 450m local electric vehicle infrastructure funding will focus on charger hubs and on-street chargers, DfT said.
BP has also confirmed that it will spend £ 1bn on new charger infrastructure in the UK as part of its revenue diversification plan. The company relies heavily on fossil fuels for its profits, and is under pressure from investors and workers to show how it can reach net zero carbon emissions.
Boris Johnson has linked the electric car move to the pressure to reduce dependence on foreign fossil fuel supplies. Fuel prices have risen to record highs as global dependence on oil and gas exports is expected to exacerbate the crisis over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Clean transport is not only good for the environment, it is another way we can reduce our dependence on external energy supply,” she said.
The car industry has repeatedly complained that the government is not doing enough to provide chargers, which means many consumers have been reluctant to buy battery-powered electric cars for fear of being unable to top up.
According to the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a lobby group, electric car sales accounted for 18% of new-car registrations in February.
Public chargers have better access than the poorer parts of the UK in the south-east of London and England, although many electric car owners can rely on personal chargers in their homes.
Automotive industry officials responded with relief to the government’s promise, adding to earlier plans to invest £ 950m in fast chargers. However, SMMT chief executive Mike House said he wanted a mandatory goal in the charger rollout.
“The charging infrastructure needs to keep pace with the rapid growth of sales of these vehicles,” he said. “Deployed nationally and at speed, this expansion will give drivers confidence that they will be able to charge as easily as they refuel wherever they are.”
Edmund King, president of AA, said: “While great progress has been made, there is still much to be done to understand the number of drivers, and most importantly the reliability of charge posts.”
He said urgent steps were also needed to address issues with the ease of use of chargers, which may require separate accounts, and that more work needs to be done in rural areas to make isolated charging stations feel safe. Access to disabled drivers was also a problem, he said.