Designing our infrastructure for electric vehicles: An end to charging anxiety?

WSP hosted an interesting breakfast seminar on 11 July looking at Designing our Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles. The Electric Vehicles (EVs) market is growing and will only continue to do so as we get closer to the Government’s target of no new petrol and diesel cars being for sale from 2040.

However, with just under 220,000 EVs registered in the UK up to June 2019, they make up only a fraction of the number of cars on UK roads. Anecdotally, consumers are reluctant to purchase an EV because they don’t believe the car has sufficient range on one charge and they have anxiety about when/where they will be able to charge it when needed.

Such anxiety may in fact be misplaced – there are over 24,000 charging points in over 8,471 locations around the UK. Interestingly, there are only 8,400 petrol stations in the UK and nobody has “fuel anxiety” when buying a standard car. EV charging is mostly carried out at home over night (although this is not necessarily the quickest or cheapest method of charging). There are other charging options at the workplace; at destinations (eg shopping centres; station car parks etc.) and on the street at a variety of speeds/costs.

Housing developers are taking consumer requirements seriously, looking to ensure new build developments have adequate EV charging facilities. It is becoming an essential service – like fibre broadband or (going back a bit) water have been previously. But should developers provide just the necessary infrastructure or should they also ensure the necessary capacity is available? The latter may add an unsustainable level of cost to the development and installing infrastructure which may soon be obsolete must be avoided.

The technology is evolving quickly – and it has to. The pace of change, however, means it is very difficult to develop masterplans for developments 20 + years down the line. What will EV requirements be? What about electric buildings, which have the potential to have a much greater impact on infrastructure requirements?  Technology developments and investment in infrastructure will eventually allay range and charging anxiety. However, with the biggest EV infrastructure providers currently running at a loss, greater buy in from consumers is required to maximise return from the obvious scope in the technology.  

With the possibility of selling electricity back to the grid, via V2G and V2H schemes, or by charging a fee to other drivers to use your home’s charging point, consumers may also be able to make money. We wait to see how long it will take for the majority of consumers to be sufficiently convinced to take the plunge and plug in to EVs.

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