Electric car charging ‘postcode lottery’ under fire

The availability of electric vehicle charge points has turned into a “postcode lottery”, competition regulators have warned.

“Red wall” areas in Yorkshire and the Humber have a quarter of the number of charge points per head compared with London, new analysis found.

The Competition and Markets Authority has studied the market for electric vehicle charging points as fears grow that the UK will not be prepared ahead of a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030.

The lack of charging points risks preventing people from switching to electric vehicles, the CMA study found.

Andrea Coscelli, its chief executive, said: “Electric vehicles play a critical role in meeting net zero but the challenges with creating an entirely new charging network should not be underestimated. Some areas of the roll-out are going well and the UK’s network is growing – but it’s clear that other parts, like charging at motorway service stations and on-street, have much bigger hurdles to overcome.

“There needs to be action now to address the postcode lottery in electric vehicle charging as we approach the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.”

The CMA said the Government needs to set out a “National Strategy” for rolling out electric vehicle charging points and local authorities need to devolve power to ram through changes allowing charging points to be built. 

Meanwhile, a £950m fund to build charging points at motorway service stations should come with strings attached – including the promise of greater competition between providers.

Which parts of the UK have the best access to charge points?

The study comes little more than a week after Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, unveiled the Government’s plan to “decarbonise” transport.

The long-awaiting proposals were criticised for lacking detail on the specific steps needed to achieve the Government’s vow to ban petrol and diesel vehicles, electrify the railways, and promote more cycling and walking.

Jack Cousens at the AA said: “Concerns regarding the availability and reliability of the public charging network continue to be one of the top three barriers to electric vehicle adoption. Boosting confidence here will go a long way to accelerate the uptake of electric cars.

“Drivers want charge points to be as simple as possible to use. Having multiple membership cards and apps makes the process of recharging needlessly complex and confusing. While new charge points will allow people to use a credit or debit card, we desperately need the existing network to be upgraded to allow drivers to easily use as many charge points as possible."

Sue Davies of consumer group Which said the car charging network was confusing, disjointed and in dire need of reform and welcomed the CMA’s call for a national strategy.

"To ensure electric cars are a choice for most consumers, the Government should take these recommendations seriously and take the necessary steps to make the public charging network larger, simpler and more accessible than it is today," she added.

On Thursday Shell announced a plan to install up to 800 charging points at 100 Waitrose stores by 2025. 

Each site will have six 22kW and two 50kW rapid charging points so that drivers can charge while they shop, rather than making a special stop.

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